Our One Big Fight!: Bill and Jen

An Even Exchange?
Dr. Phil offers Jen and Bill advice on handling Jen's habit for returning items.
Bill complains that his wife Jen returns everything she's dissatisfied with. He's extremely bothered that Jen doesn't ask his permission when she replaces items that are dear to him.

Says Bill, "It's beyond an obsession. She's returned my appliances, my shirts, my socks."

Bill admits that he and Jen fight about her behavior at least three times a week, often slamming doors and storming out of rooms.

"The thing that hurts most of all is that she returned the engagement ring that I gave her," he says. "When she returns things, I feel as if she's taking back my memories."

Dr. Phil asks Bill to explain an incident where Jen returned his favorite watch.

"I went to work that day and didn't have my watch. I came home and was like, 'Have you seen my watch?' Sure enough, it had been taken back."

"You got so upset you went back and got the watch, right?" Dr. Phil asks.

Bill shows off his watch and the audience applauds. Dr. Phil looks at Jen: "Are you here to defend this or are you here to change this?"

"I'm here to change it," she announces.

Dr. Phil asks Jen if she's sure about changing her behavior. When she says yes, he then reads a list of items that she's returned, including wedding gifts, bedding, dish sets, her engagement ring (three times) and a vacuum cleaner (nine times).

"Does that sound normal to you?" Dr. Phil asks.

Dr. Phil gives two theories on Jen's need to return most of her purchases.

"One, it's just a scam," explains Dr. Phil. "You just constantly upgrade things so everything stays new all the time. In fact, haven't you been blacklisted at some stores?"

Bill admits that Jen has been banned from returning items at certain shops.

"Oh, they'll sell it to you, but they won't let you bring it back. Is this just an upgrade scam?" Dr. Phil wonders.

"Maybe to some degree," says Jen, "but not for everything."

"But isn't that dishonest to use something for a long time and go back and get a new one? What do you think they're going to do with the one that they sold you?"

"Fix it," Jen laughs.

Bill jumps in, "What I have the biggest problem with is when you buy something, you buy it to keep it because you like it. It's not a lease-to-own program."

Dr. Phil continues with his second theory for Jen's behavior.

"You don't want to get attached to anything," he explains. "I know there was a time in your life when you were very young and your parents divorced. Things changed, and all of a sudden all of your things were just gone."

"My whole life changed," Jen admits. "One Christmas, we went up to Washington to visit some family. I never came back because my parents divorced and I never really got to say goodbye to anyone."

"Or any thing," Dr. Phil adds. "I tell people that things often start for one reason and then continue for another reason. You might do this because you don't want to get attached to anything, but then it continues out of habit when you get past that. I think you should decide, 'I'm not going to let what happened a long time ago dominate my life today. I'm going to start letting myself be vulnerable enough to care and vulnerable enough to get invested.'"

Dr. Phil then asks Jen to agree that she won't return anything for 30 days.

"I think if you'll do that, you'll break this habit because it'll just become habitual."