My Boyfriend Was a Shopaholic—Here’s What Helped

Money problems were wrecking our relationship, but with some expert help, we found solutions. Here’s what we learned.

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Late one October night, my boyfriend and I were driving down a road when another car sent us careening off-road. We went through a guardrail and into a ditch. The car was smoking and clearly totaled, yet somehow we survived. We grabbed what we could before the car went up in flames and waited in the bitter cold for help to arrive. But the most upsetting thing about this ordeal was yet to come: The next day I found out that my boyfriend didn’t have enough money or room on his credit cards to rent a car.

There’s history here: He had an established shopping addiction, but he had promised me the problem was behind him and that he was saving up for our future together. Instead, his salary was going to concert tickets, records, dining out, and various other forms of entertainment.

We had an issue, so I solicited the advice of LA-based psychotherapist Foojan Zeine, PsyD, author of the self-help book Life Reset and renowned expert in addiction, relationship, and anxiety counseling. Zeine was able to give me an easy-to-follow guide for getting my guy (and my relationship) on the right track. Learn more about the best ways to stop bickering about money with your significant other.

Instead of lecturing him about the need to change, Dr. Zeine said, we needed to make budgeting a collaborative experience. “This isn’t just for you,” I told him, “it’s for both of us.” I also took Dr. Zeine’s advice to frame this as the next step in our relationship. “In order to truly combine our lives,” I said, “we need to be transparent about everything, and that includes money. It’s definitely not the most romantic part of a relationship, but it’s a necessary one.”

Dr. Zeine also recommended that we work to find a way to replace the rush he got from buying things. “A shopaholic can try to look into different types of rushes which could be safer,” Dr. Zeine advised me. “Some people get a rush from exercise. Some people get it through creating projects. It’s the surge of dopamine…They can pursue different types of hobbies so that they feel balanced.”

As part of his retail therapy, we went on long hikes up nearby mountains. He wasn’t too excited at first, but soon the physical activity began to replace the high he got from shopping. Overall, things are better—he checks in before making purchases. He still battles temptation, but at least we have an open dialogue—and our relationship is stronger than ever. Next, learn the signs your shopping habits are out of control.

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