Coming Clean About Spending With My Husband
By Outlaw Mama on September 06, 2012
I will not spend needlessly in Nordstrom Rack.
Thankfully, this was not one of my wedding vows. Because it would have been a lie.
I don’t fully understand it, but once I step into a Nordstrom Rack, I become convinced that if only I had that purse or those jeans, I would be closer to fulfilling my potential as a mother, a writer, a wife, and a person. Losing myself among the racks, I actually believe that it's best for all humankind that I spend my way to self-actualization.
A distant version of myself knows it doesn’t work like that and that this way of thinking is a problem. So every time I head downtown, I repeat, “I will not go in Nordstrom Rack.” But before the train stops, I can feel my mantra losing its power, destined to be as laughable as when I declare, "I'm never eating chocolate again.”
Two weeks ago, I found myself in Nordstrom Rack with time to kill before seeing my therapist. As usual, I was quickly seduced.
First, there was a Tory Burch tunic. I couldn’t possibly leave it hanging there by itself all flowy and designer-y. I was worried that other shoppers might not appreciate it like I would, so I gently lifted it from the obscurity of the "Designer Fashions" rack.
Then, from the corner of my eye, I saw denim -— expensive denim -- that was more than half off! I rationalized grabbing a pair, because I owed it to the people who look at my ass to buy jeans that would make it look its perkiest.
By the time I arrived at the dressing room, my arms ached from carrying the items I couldn’t leave behind. I shepherded my prospective new clothes with reverence to the dressing room. I uttered a half-assed prayer that the garish lights would make everything look so unbecoming on me that I would be forced to walk away in disgust. Unfortunately, the lights weren’t an issue, and I fell in love with everything I tried on. Tory's tunic was made for me. Those jeans? They fit in my most aspirational size, so there was no way I was leaving without them.
I also tried on a cocktail dress in my favorite color. As I checked out my reflection, I swear the dress hugged me like an old lover. “Welcome back," I whispered to it.
I tallied the damage of my unplanned shopping trip. "Not too bad," I assured myself, fully immersed in my own magical thinking.
A tiny, atrophied voice deep inside me spoke up: "What are you doing? You don't need any of this." As I snaked through the check-out line, I paused to consider that voice warning me that I might regret these purchases.
Sure enough, immediately after checking out, I felt the familiar rush of guilt. I thought about my husband, Jeff, working hard to support our family, while I was here doing this.
Jittery with remorse, I slumped in my chair in front of my therapist and eventually confessed that my relationship with shopping was "a little off." I told him about the “must haves” I’ve stuffed in closets, as well as the pattern of buying, remorseful returning, followed by still more buying. I disclosed all of my justifications for succumbing to the siren call of Nordstrom Rack, T.J. Maxx and other discount stores.
My therapist and I agreed that the real damage, beyond our bank account, is to my marriage and my self-esteem. Each purchase surreptitiously tucked away stands between me and Jeff, quietly creating distance.
And here’s what kills me about this: I have never known anyone as good with money as my husband. It’s like living with Suze Orman. His spending is totally transparent, and he maddeningly only buys things he needs.
Jeff is also not stupid, so I am pretty sure he is on to me. But he doesn’t know everything, and I hate keeping secrets. I also, however, loathe the prospect of showing him how messy this area of my life is. When I was single and had a generous bi-weekly paycheck, I had no regrets about shopping, because I felt entitled to spend my hard-earned money. But now my husband brings in the money, and I don’t feel quite so cavalier about my Nordstrom Rack escapades.
My therapist told me that the only way to saner behavior around shopping was to stop hiding it. I begged, "Can't I just stop going to the stores?" Glancing at my Nordstrom Rack bag, he answered, "Doesn't look like it."
I vowed to be honest with Jeff about my “secret” spending, knowing that it might be the only road to the kind of honest relationship I want.
image via shutterstock.com
I kept my word and had an incredible conversation with Jeff. We both revealed hidden facets of our thoughts about spending: I told him about my secrets and guilt. In turn, Jeff explained that he does not object to shopping per se, though he admitted he detests the idea of wasteful spending. We both agreed that my compulsion to hide purchases was not the healthiest behavior.
Since my disclosure, I have felt closer to Jeff and saner around spending. I’ve only had one relapse trip to Nordstrom Rack, where I bought a work-out t-shirt. I’m not exactly hiding it from Jeff, but I haven’t shown it to him, either. Some habits are hard to break.
Have you ever hidden purchases from your partner? If so, do you eventually disclose them or do you operate in a “don’t ask, don’t tell” system? Do you feel guilty about your spending because you are not the breadwinner?
Christie O. Tate, http://outlawmama.com
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