Money Matters: Cindy and Robert

Shopaholic Wife
Dr. Phil talks to Cindy, a confessed shopaholic, and her frustrated husband.

"I actually get a rush from shopping," admits Cindy, a self-confessed shopaholic. "My heart starts beating and I get all excited. I know my husband doesn't want me to spend money. So, it's kind of like I'm doing something naughty."

Cindy's husband, Robert, says his wife's shopping habit is completely out of control. "She's got clothes in three different closets," he says. "My garage is so full right now, I had to go out and buy a shed to put my stuff in."

What upsets Robert is his wife's dishonesty. "She lies to me," he says. "I question her every week about what she's purchased and she'll say, 'Nothing.' I have no idea until I find tags in trashcans, and I get the credit card statement ... I had perfect credit, then my wife took over the check book and my credit rating went down. The way we're going, I'll never be able to retire and my kids will never have an education."

Cindy rationalizes her spending sprees, saying, "I'm a stay-at-home mom with two little kids, chasing them around is just constant work, work, work, work. Shopping is my reward for staying home with the kids. It's a way of making me feel better."

Cindy worries, "I think he's going to divorce me if I don't stop my spending. Dr. Phil, I'm a shopaholic. Can you help me stop?"

The first question Dr. Phil has for Cindy is: "Do you really want to stop?"

Cindy answers, "I really do ... I wouldn't be here if I didn't want to stop. I've kept lists of what I've spent so I could see a total at the end of the month, and I say to myself, 'OK, this has got to stop.'"

Dr. Phil asks Robert, "Why are you putting up with this?"

"It's not like I want to put up with it," answers Robert. "I married her because she's the greatest person I've ever met and ... I like happiness, and she was always happy. Unfortunately, her happiness comes from shopping .... Money causes us conflict in our marriage as far as arguments. Other then that, that's all we have problems with."

Dr. Phil observes, "You've both said the same thing: The only problem in your marriage is Cindy's shopping. Is that really true? Let me just talk about some of the things you guys told me. Number one, you say you are addicted [to shopping]. It's not just you. There are thirteen and a half million women in America that are considered shopaholics. But this is your addiction we're talking about. Two, you said that you were taking mail and hiding it?"

Cindy confesses, "I did that once because the bills came on Friday and I didn't want to argue over the weekend."

"And did I hear you say you could fold clothes up really small and hide them?" asks Dr. Phil.

"Yes," Cindy admits.

"So you now have dishonesty and deception on your list," says Dr. Phil. "Are you worried about the future?"

" Absolutely," answers Robert.

"So, we have fear and worry introduced into your relationship," says Dr. Phil. "And do you not feel just guilty, and lower than a snake's belly every time you do this?"

Cindy admits, "At the end of the month I feel pretty bad."

"Exactly," says Dr. Phil. "So, it isn't just, 'I shop too much.' There's deception, guilt, dishonesty, worry, fear ... There are all kinds of things that you're introducing into the relationship to go get a high at Target."

Dr. Phil asks Cindy, "Why do you want to stop this?"

"Because it's affecting my marriage," says Cindy. "It's also affecting my future and my kids' college fund. I think I'm trying to fill some kind of void and it's not a helpful way to be content."

"Let's talk about the real need," says Dr. Phil. "In all the research that I read about you, you talked about the fact that you're a stay-at-home mom, you have two kids, and you fear being some frumpy suburban mom. So, you want the right brands and the right fashions, because all of that makes you feel good about who you are."

"Yes, it does," says Cindy. "Being a stay-at-home mom is very, very hard and you don't earn yourself a paycheck at the end of the week. It's completely thankless."

Dr. Phil points out, "There are a lot of women who would say watching their kids grow and blossom and flourish is thanks enough. But the truth is that you need more."


Turning to Robert, Dr. Phil says, "So, you need to perk your ears up and realize that she needs to feel appreciated."

Turning to Cindy, Dr. Phil explains that she's not going to satisfy her need by shopping. "There's some need in you that's not being satisfied. I promise you the best way to fill a hole is to give. Go out and work with animals, with the elderly, volunteer at a hospital. Actively find something else that gives you the self-worth that you're hoping the label on the back of that blouse will give you. Program yourself for success. Don't try to just willpower it, because it is an addiction, and to break the addiction you need programming and alternatives. We do not break habits. You take a bad behavior and replace it with a more acceptable behavior. If you don't, the bad behavior will come back every time."