“Lina said she saved Rs 1000 as she bought it on 50% discount sale. Itwould have otherwise cost her Rs 2000. It made no sense to me, as she didn’t need this 30th pair of sandals. How come she doesn’t understand that she actually lost Rs 1000 in the process? There is always a justification for her purchases, but most of the things are unwanted. I am a frugal husband and need to keep our finances in check. Our budgeting strategies are clear and open, but she doesn’t stick to our spending rules that we made together. She is a financially free spirited person and I am an economic conservative. Her policy is live for the moment, while I save for the rainy days also.”
“After five altercations, four discussions, three weekends away and two friends’ involvement, we laid out our values and financial priorities crystal clear. We developed a budget that worked for us both fairly well. I hate to check on her credit cards to figure out what all she purchases in a month, but my phone started getting beeps, as she does a lot of online shopping also. She works six days a week, so she has no time to wear the things she buys, yet she’s always on a buying spree,” was Mahesh’s issue in marriage.
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A basic difference of attitude
Financial differences are a big reason for couple disputes, but this dimension of marital discord is totally different. Men do have a problem with women shopping, but this problem being a point of breaking a marriage is rare. ‘Men are from Mars women are from Venus’ is a book, but as much a life reality, too. Shopping is an indispensible and integral part of Venus culture; for the Mars inhabitants it’s only a necessity. This is one reason why men don’t understand the retail therapy women need, especially when the men have to pay the financial damages.
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“Our vacations are all about shopping. Lina spends more on shopping at destinations than we spend on the hotel reservations. Now we only go to places where shopping isn’t a lure. I shop only for things that are needed, but she shops for assumed needs in the next five years as well. Therefore outings and vacations become a bore when I am only a spectator to her retail therapy,” Mahesh described their togetherness.
Related reading: The secret of how retail therapy helps couples stay in love
The roots in evolution
Women, regardless of season and irrespective of economic situations, are drawn to shopping, while most men have to be compelled into shopping even for basics. Women’s attraction towards shopping is expressed as a female drive just as men have sports drive, men being the hunters and women the gatherers from cave days. Gathering is social while hunting is solitary; that’s why women shop, while men buy.
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“I know she is invested in the shopping experience on many dimensions, while for me it is merely a targeted outing, as I want to come back and do more productive things. She doesn’t need any advertisement to lure her into shopping; she does it all the time. Now I have reached a point where I dislike her shopping spree as she is spending beyond our financial means and indulging in an activity in which she is alone,” complained Mahesh.
Mahesh feels the financial burden and also the fact that Lina is spending a lot of their couple time all alone. Couples have to get into one accord about their financial deals and the extra amount earned should be towards investment.
Related reading: Achieving financial harmony as a couple
It’s a disorder
We all enjoy a reasonable amount of shopping, but the irresistible desire to shop is known as compulsive buying disorder or oniomania. Shopaholics are not just women who love to hoard clothes and footwear. They have greater issues to resolve. They normally have low self-esteem and suffer from emotional turmoil. Positive encouragement is very crucial by making them realise that self-worth is not proportionate to what they buy. I asked Mahesh to tell her they should save towards an international trip and she has to equally contribute. This might help her curb her compulsion. I also asked him to indulge her in some romance to keep her occupied while they were out.
After three months Mahesh came back with some more issues. “She lies a lot these days to keep her shopping going. She hides from me things that she shops. The transparency in our relationship has been compromised because of these clandestine activities. I feel it weighing on the marriage.” Mahesh had started feeling a gap in their relationship by now.
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I asked Mahesh to help Lina control her urge by controlling her in shopping binge situations. Shopaholics have trouble controlling impulsive behaviour, because normally shopping is only an emotional outlet for some mental disturbance which can be addressed by dealing with the underlying issues. Finally, the shopaholic often has a profound sense of materialism, with the assumption that affection and admiration can also be bought. Love and care can burst this bubble for the shopaholics.