We partake in all kinds of "exits" when we feel unsafe. There are lots of reasons that we feel unsafe, and in a marriage, our spouse will often trigger us in ways that make us feel even more unsafe. Addictions are one kind of "exit" that we partake in. Let's gain a lot more clarity about exits and addictions.
More inspiration on exits like addictions and how to handle them:
- How to apologize to your spouse in 5 steps
- Whitney Houston's Last Exit
- How to fix a relationship in 5 steps
I think my marriage is over, and it is almost entirely my fault. I have been with my wife for over twenty years, and all of that time I have been a shopping addict. This wasn't so bad when we made almost no money. Now we make a decent living and because of credit cards, I have amassed a mountain of debt.
She has had enough of this and it is over. I can't blame her. I am surprised she put up with it this long. We have three kids, 12, 4, and nine months. I have been the stay at home dad and she makes most of the money, although I have a part-time job that pays very well, but it is a contract position that has zero job security or benefits.
With all this debt, I have no way of supporting myself, as my job skills are very limited. I am at a complete loss as to what to do. She has been my supporter in everything for so long and now I am forty with nothing to show for my life besides my kids (whom I love very much).
Find a marriage therapist for your shopping addiction.
While it is mature of you to take ownership for your role in contributing to your marriage’s demise, it seems like you have resigned yourself that you can’t change your shopping addiction. While you have done damage in amassing debt and will need to rectify that, it seems that you don’t believe you can rectify your behavior or your marriage. I understand your wife is fed up and wants out but you do have three young kids which you seem to take care of as a stay at home dad, you’ve been together for twenty years. If you were willing to learn how to apologize to your spouse and commit to changing, do you think she would be willing to give you a second chance?
You don’t discuss whether you have sought treatment for the shopping addiction, but if you haven’t, why don’t you think getting help could make her change her mind? Many people in recovery for various addictions are able to have successful lives and relationships.
It is also important to understand the sources of this addiction and the effect it has on your marriage. I don’t know the details of your case so I can’t say whether or not it is a clinical addiction or not, but for many addicts there are reasons to explain their behavior.
While these reasons don’t justify what they are doing, they help give you greater insight into the cause and, thus, a possibility of changing.
Do you notice certain situations that trigger your shopping sprees?
Are they in response to stress in your life, or in your relationship?
Many times when we are under stress or uncomfortable in our relationship, we find other outlets that allow us to avoid dealing with the real issues which are too painful.
For some it could be tv, exercise, or eating. For others it could be drugs, shopping, or infidelity. Try to see if your shopping was a way of exiting out of the relationship. While there are 12 step groups that can help you specifically with the addiction, there may very well be marriage problems, that when worked on, can provide you both new awareness and new tools to employ that will prevent you from going down the path of addiction.
One of the challenges with any of these severe exits like addiction or infidelity is that it breaks the trust in the relationship.
If your wife really loves you, she may be willing to stick it out if you show sincere remorse and sincere motivation to take action and improve the situation.
It won’t get better overnight and you will need time to heal, but slowly the trust will build back.
It may be very uncomfortable for awhile, but if you are able to change and not cause further harm to your family’s finances, there seems to be no reason to break up an intact family that needs both mommy and daddy.
If you don’t want your marriage to be over, it doesn’t need to be over. While you don’t detail your wife’s perspective, I would not give up. It is too important to all of you. Find a marriage therapist that can help either in person or via online marriage counseling.
Contact us if you would like to work together to begin healing the rupture in your marriage. We have find that underneath most marriage problems there is a disconnect and it would benefit you to heal that disconnect and find connection again, even around this difficult shopping addiction.
Thinking of you and wishing you recovery and hope,
Shlomo and Rivka Slatkin