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Ask Amy: Husband blames car buys on disorder

Dear Amy: My husband is a compulsive spender. He buys vehicles and will hide them and never drive them.

For many years, he has blamed bipolar disorder as the cause of his behavior.

I understand that bipolar disorder can lead to impulsive spending. However, I think there’s a problem more than bipolar, because he lies so much about his behavior.

Things get out of control, then he will admit what’s going on, and then within a year he will do it again.

He now has a truck and has purchased another one. I drive a leased SUV, and he is currently hiding a Camaro.

Does bipolar disorder cause the spending and the lies? I would love to know.

— Concerned Wife

Dear Concerned: I cannot provide a definitive answer regarding bipolar disorder. Most important, I’m not a qualified mental health practitioner. Aside from that, I don’t know whether your husband has bipolar disorder. Has he been diagnosed?

I do know that symptoms of bipolar can be (but are not confined to): spending, hoarding and other behaviors that can be described as compulsive or manic. Along with those anxiety-driven behaviors, people with bipolar also commonly experience periods of deep depression.

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Generally, people hide things because they don’t want to be found out. And they don’t want to be found out because they are ashamed, embarrassed, avoidant or denying or they simply want to continue the behavior without getting caught. People lie because they fear the consequences of facing up to their actions; they are trying to delay the inevitable.

Lying about these huge purchases also seems somewhat irrational (as well as hostile).

Given that your husband makes these purchases and manages to hide them (perhaps by renting storage units) and never uses them, I’d say that he has a very real problem, which he seems to cycle in and out of.

Now what? Let’s say that bipolar disorder is driving this behavior. Will he seek treatment? A new Camaro costs over $60,000. Committing to treatment would be a much better investment.

It is no doubt frustrating for you to cope with this. Urge your husband to seek a diagnosis and treatment, and to stick with the treatment.

After that, turn your attention away from shaming and blaming (it doesn’t change anything) and toward protecting your own health and financial security.

You should see a lawyer and financial planner to learn about strategies to perhaps build a partial financial firewall between you and your husband. Educate yourself about your financial rights and responsibilities. He may never seek treatment. He may never change. You should concentrate on developing effective coping skills in order to minimize the negative consequences of his behavior on you.

Dear Amy: All my life I have been told that if someone hurt me or did something terrible to me, that I was to get over it, to get a life, and to forgive and forget.

But at the same time, I have heard that obtaining or getting closure was very important in the healing process.

How can one get closure when there is no means for closure? And how can one heal without some closure?

— Open Wounds

Dear Open Wounds: First of all, I tend to believe that the whole “closure” concept is either widely misinterpreted or overall basically a crock.

It might help if you stopped thinking of closure as an end to something (your bad feelings or your grief, for instance).

Certainly, some situations can eventually work out neatly, but generally, life is too messy to tie all of your hurts or trauma into a closed circle. The path toward healing is to learn to dwell in that messy, raw and real space. You have to learn to sit with your own discomfort, to accept your own powerlessness over some events in your past, and to see your life as a story with many twists and teachable moments.

Rather than “closure,” it might help for you to think about “reconciliation.” Reconciliation involves acceptance, strength and oftentimes forgiveness. It is not necessary to forget. It is necessary to find ways to move forward.

Dear Amy: In response to “Anxious Anniversary” and others who forget their wedding anniversaries, I was a late bride, marrying for the first time at age 57.

My husband was a widower and 12 years older.

We decided that we wanted a date that was easy to remember. We picked 9/10/11 at 12 noon.

— Thinking Ahead

Dear Thinking Ahead: Genius. Of course, each year you still need to remember the 9/10 part.

(You can contact Amy Dickinson via email: askamy@amydickinson.com. Readers may send postal mail to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or “like” her on Facebook.)

Copyright 2019 by Amy Dickinson

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency

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