"I'm a compulsive shopper"

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He says


Rick: I don't think I've ever been so angry in my life. We talked for hours and, at 3 a.m., I told Kelly I wanted a divorce. I don't want to go through this again. By morning, I realized I should at least give counseling a try. I do love her. I've always loved her. But I feel completely betrayed. I can't understand how she could do this. This is a nightmare for me; everything that happened to my Dad is happening to me.

Greer: Rich is understandably furious, but instead of seeing his wife's actions as a cry for help, he takes them as a deeply personal insult.

Rich: My mother, like Kelly's, struggled with psychological problems. She's manic-depressive and, for long periods of time when I was growing up, I had to live with my grandparents since she couldn't take care of my brothers or me. Mother was never physically violent, but when she was having one of her episodes, she'd scream, throw things, curse us out. It was very frightening. Dad did the best he could, but I know he was miserable. He owned his own dry-cleaning business and he tried to be both mother and father to us. My parents fought constantly, and when I was 15, they finally divorced. Mother moved to Oregon, and my brothers and I stayed here in Colorado with Dad. Though Mother and I talk from time to time, I rarely see her.

I think money was the main reason my parents split. My dad worked very hard to build up his business--and my mother worked very hard to spend every penny he earned. She wasted money on junk--ugly artwork, knickknacks for the house, funky furniture. Dad would freak out every time he opened the credit card bill. Once, when I was about seven, Mother took off on a three-week vacation to Hawaii without telling Dad she was going. She sent us a postcard. So you can see why Kelly's total disregard for my feelings and our future hurts so much.

Greer: In many ways, Rich's background is strikingly similar to Kelly's and it's not hard to see why financial security looms so large for him. Rich's mother destroyed his father and the family by overspending. Now, despite all his careful financial planning, Rich is afraid that he and Kelly are facing the same dismal future. What's more, having watched his mother, a manic depressive, swing from a loving mood to an abusive one, Rich learned to compensate by pulling inward when he feels emotionally threatened. That's exactly what he started to do when his marital problems began. Instead of addressing the issue of Kelly's spending directly, or his own anger and unhappiness about giving up his idyllic country life to return to the city, Rich sensed a problem but ignored it and hoped he was wrong. At the same time, he unwittingly shut Kelly out of his life, refusing to talk or engage in any of the activities that had brought them so much happiness early on. Feeling hurt, angry and unloved, Kelly sought comfort in her credit cards.

Rich: Frankly, Kelly's behavior is baffling. I'm so utterly disappointed, it's difficult to put my feelings into words. In the beginning, our relationship was so special. Kelly and I could talk about anything and everything and we had so much fun! She was interested in so many things--things that didn't involve money. But over the years, she's changed. She's become almost single-minded in her determination to buy whatever she wants when she wants it. It's almost as if she thinks that if she wants something bad enough, she can will the money to be there. She's stopped caring about what's important to me--our future financial security. I don't think I should have to apologize for that.

As Kelly said, I hate the city. I hate traffic jams and waiting in line for an hour to eat in even an ordinary restaurant on a Tuesday night. I loved everything about our lifestyle in the mountains. My job--I'm an environmental engineer and I was working on state projects--was challenging, stable and provided great benefits. I knew I'd have that position for life if I wanted it--how many people can say that these days? We'd discussed at great length what the move up there would mean for both us--but before we'd even been there a month, it was clear Kelly was unhappy. When she started talking about going back to Denver, the quarreling began. Luckily, I didn't have trouble finding another position, though I'm not particularly thrilled with my work or the benefits. I try to roll with the punches.

When we first married, I assumed Kelly and I were on the same wavelength about money. It's sort of ironic now: When Kelly first told me she didn't want a joint checking account, I was actually relieved. I thought that meant she'd be spending only her money and I didn't have to worry that she'd fritter away mine. I've certainly tried to discuss a budget and savings plan with her over the years, but whenever I brought it up, she'd get testy and we'd end up in a fight.

When I found out what she'd done that first time, I went into a near panic. Fortunately, we were able to get a loan and Kelly swore she'd never be so profligate again. Of course, I was worried and suspicious. Many times, I bit my tongue when she came home with a new dress, or ordered new pillows for the couch. I'm not an idiot. She asked me to trust her, and I did. That's why I didn't tell her to rip up her credit cards the first time. She'd promised she'd be careful, and I assumed that if she assured me she had the money, she was good to her word. Besides, when I questioned her, she always had a sound, reasonable answer. I knew she was making a decent salary, though to be honest, I don't know exactly how much a women's dress or couch pillows cost. I never checked because I assumed I could trust her.

Greer: Although Rich's M.O. of playing turtle may have worked to protect him when he was younger, it's not working now. In fact, it's exacerbating this couple's problems, and in this sense, he shares some responsibility for the marital rift. Placing all the blame on Kelly is obvious and easy. The better way: Rich should address the issue of Kelly's spending directly. He needs to vent his anger and unhappiness, and insist that his wife discuss what is important to him, even though speaking up about difficult topics is tough for him.

Rich: It's obvious I can't trust her at all. I'm pretty old-fashioned. In my family, you never asked anyone else to help you solve your problems; you did it yourself. So I'm not very keen on being here. But the truth is, I want to save my marriage. I'm sure some of the problems we're having are my fault as much as hers. Besides, what else do I have to lose?

Continued on page 3:  And then


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