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Retail Therapy

With the holidays approaching, have you found yourself shopping to distract you from emotional pain?  Or have you used shopping and spending money as a form of retaliation?  Some people use shopping as an avoidance of pain or to find comfort in what they purchase.  Others feel a rush from finding a bargain and getting a deal, which may explain why Black Friday is so popular.  Shopping doesn’t have to be a negative; some people make shopping a social event and a way of connection, similar to sharing a meal.  But it is detrimental if you are using it to fill a void, deal with conflict, or cover insecurities.

You may be surprised to find that shopping can be an expression of frustration in your relationship.  A recent study by the Society for Consumer Psychology found that people vent their frustration by choosing opposite retail brands from their partner.  In other words, consumers are making brand choices to deal with relational conflicts. The researchers describe people with less power in a relationship as those who have difficulties confronting their partner with conflict and subconsciously seek other ways to express their emotion by selecting a brand that their partner dislikes.  People higher in relationship power are more inclined to deal with the conflict directly and express their feelings.

What are some other, better ways to deal with relationship stress?  How about talking to the person directly, sharing your thoughts and feelings constructively and being assertive.  If after expressing yourself you do not feel heard, you may need to write it instead of speaking it.  Another option is to substitute shopping with a different activity like exercise, reading, gaming, or spending time in nature.  Happiness is a choice so working to change our thinking and attitude can be healthy ways to deal with conflict.  In addition, identifying our good traits and focusing on ways we positively impact others can be helpful.  Digging a little deeper, we need to learn that passive-aggressive behavior doesn’t change the situation, but keeps us stuck.  As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, conflict that remains in your head will never be resolved; it needs to reach your lips.  Of course we have no control over how it will be received, but can take responsibility for expressing ourselves constructively and directly.  Lastly, finding purpose through volunteering, giving back, forgiveness, and faith can be powerful sources of personal fulfillment and peace.  May you all experience joy and peace during this holiday season and throughout the year.

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