It’s perfectly natural to want to make a cheating spouse pay. And the word “pay” can have all sorts of connotations. It can mean that you want him to pay financially. It can mean that you want him to pay emotionally. Some people are very obvious about this. We’ve all known the furious wife who has gone on trips or bought new cars after their spouse cheats. It’s really hard to blame them.
Someone might explain: “I fully admit that I have made my husband pull out his wallet since I caught him cheating on me. I feel that he more than deserves it. He’s begged me not to leave him. And in truth, I don’t know that I want to leave him. But I do want him to pay. And I don’t shy away when it comes to this. I took my mother on a cruise. No expense was spared. I bought a whole new wardrobe. If I go to the mall and I pass a jewelry store with some nice trinkets, then I don’t hesitate to buy them. I feel that I deserve it. At first, my husband tolerated this. I could tell that he did not like it, but he didn’t really say anything. Lately, he has started showing me bills and telling me that we can’t keep going this way and that I can’t keep spending with wild abandon. I don’t know if he is telling me the truth, but I feel that he just needs to find a way to pay for it all. Because I feel justified in spending a little longer. In truth, I am really not a materialistic person. Material things usually don’t mean too much to me. But I honestly feel completely justified in this because I don’t know any other way to even the score. My husband is so cheap and stingy with money that I know that this is hitting him where it hurts.”
I can certainly understand why you would feel this way. And I fully admit that my husband’s income was part of the joint pool that paid for my going back to school, fixing my smile, and updating my appearance after his affair. I do not believe that I wracked up these expenses solely to punish him, though. My motivation, at least in part, was to better myself so that I would feel more confident.
And make no mistake. That is what you want when you spend – you want to feel better. You want to feel worthy. You are trying to boost your self-esteem. I am not sure that it is realistic to think that endless shopping and spending are going to give you these things, although I completely understand why many of us try this.
But from my own experience, I came to learn that no material thing could give me happiness. This can only come from within yourself and from interacting with people who you love and with things that give you joy. My foray into spending was, thankfully, quite short. We also went to counseling and that was pricey also. I figured that of the things we were spending on, that was the one that was going to give us the greatest return on our investment.
And I learned to look inside for my happiness. I picked up hobbies that I thought I no longer had time for. I started doing thread work again and crafts again. I kept my hands busy and this lowered my stress and gave me something else to do because ruminate about my problems. I walked and biked. I started rollerblading again. I discovered yoga with weights, which honestly left me feeling wonderful – like I’d had a massage. After I would finish a yoga session, I realized just how much tension I was holding in my shoulders. And frankly, these things that cost so little kept my mind off of my problems and didn’t cost me a dime.
I am not going to lecture you about overspending. You are obviously aware of it. And I completely understand why you are doing it. But I do think, at least from my own experience, that in the long run, spending doesn’t buy you happiness unless you are spending it on something that will really and truly enhance your life and your self-esteem. Education can do that. A nice new hairstyle can do that. But a piece of jewelry or a cruise probably can’t. Yet another piece of clothing for an already full closet isn’t likely to do it, either.
I often find that when I’m overshopping, I’m just trying to keep busy because I’m trying to avoid something. Ask yourself if this is the case. Because if it is, the best thing to do is get quiet, be brave, and face whatever it is you’re avoiding. And the reason is that you can keep right on spending, but it’s not going to erase whatever it is you’re avoiding. It’s only going to put bills in your mailbox and stress into your heart. And even with all of this, the problem is still going to be there.
But yes, I partook in some retail therapy, but it was pretty short-lived. I did spend a lot on my education and on counseling, but both were worthwhile investments.
Katie Lersch enjoys helping other women save their marriages or heal from the pain of an affair. You can read more at http://surviving-the-affair.com.