By Reed Alexander
Can retail therapy heal a broken heart? Moneyish asked relationship Susan Winter for her take on excessive spending after a breakup.
Many of us nurse our broken hearts by going out, buying new clothes, and spending it up in ways we otherwise would avoid. Break-ups don’t just break your heart — they can break the bank, too.
The average relationship now only lasts about two years and nine months, according to one survey — and many people are compelled to revive themselves with a shopping spree or nurse their broken hearts back to health with a much-needed vacation. Amid the pain and sadness, a little personal investment in oneself can be just the remedy to get your mind off an ex and get back out there.
“I would actually encourage it,” said best-selling author and New York relationship expert Susan Winter, speaking about the benefits of retail therapy in the wake of a painful break-up. “Anytime somebody spends money after a breakup, they are denoting an ending, and clarifying a new beginning,” Winter told Moneyish. And research shows that spending can, at least temporarily, boost your mood — just don’t go overboard and keep it going forever.
New York University student Antonella James knows all too well how it feels to turn to spending amid a breakup: After a nine-month relationship with a fellow college student in Manhattan came to an end, James picked herself back up by investing between $1500 and $2000 on a new wardrobe. “I went to Saks and bought this gown for the Moonlight Ball at the Metropolitan Museum of Art,” earlier this year, and then a dress for the annual New York University “Violet Ball,” a black tie affair that took place on the same day her she and her ex-boyfriend parted ways.
“I showed my face
James is not alone. In 2011, when Nina Port, an Australian woman from Sydney, was 23 she found herself studying abroad at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. Prior to arriving there, Port consulted a traditional voodoo witch doctor at an outdoor market in Lomé, Togo, and asked him to grant her one wish: “I’m 23 and I’ve never been in love,” Port told the witch doctor. “I’d like to know what I’ve been missing out on.”
A week later, upon arriving in Cape Town for her first class at the University, Port met her first love, and lived with him for about four months before ultimately breaking up. Devastated, she couldn’t put the memories of him out of her head for three years, until she decided on a whim to return to the original witch doctor three years later. The trip cost her about $4000, but Port says he helped ward off her resilient feelings of love for her ex. Now Port is married to the man she says is the “love of her life,” a fellow Australian whom she has known since 2006.
Others have spent even more: Writing in HuffPost in 2016, Pauline Paquin shared how her last breakup cost her in the realm of $8,000 — a pretty penny incurred for lost romance. Paquin says the costs many of us incur as a result of a breakup can include things like legal fees, counseling, medication, and, of course, the cost of dating.
And, what’s more, those costs can be a deterrent for many people who simply can’t afford them. “I have seen friends stuck with their partners months after a breakup because they can’t afford to get their own places,” Paquin lamented.
Encountering costs like these is quite common, if the data on breakup and divorce rates have anything to say for it. According to law firm McKinley Irvin, one divorce happens in America every 36 seconds — that’s 876,000 divorces each year. The average marriage that ends in divorce lasts for eight years before one or both partners call it quits, and the average cost of a divorce in the United States (the most dramatic breakup of all) ranges between $15,000 and $30,000, Forbes says.
No matter the financial impact a breakup can take, people like Cotilletta believe that time — not money — is the ultimate healer. “It’s such a cliché – you go out, spend money, buy drinks, go to clubs,” James laughed. “But then you’re kind of like, wait, ‘What is this?’ You’re not getting what you wanted out of it.”
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