For a month, after a breakup at the beginning of June, I oscillated between the almost maniacal resolution to take charge of myself and the idea of ​​abandoning myself to anguish like in the novel Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë. If I had had access to the Scottish moors, I would have wandered there every night like the tormented hero of the book, wild hair, haggard eye and rumpled tie. But I was in Austin, Texas, where there’s not a bit of heath and it’s too hot to roam.

So, as I had done after other breakups… I went shopping.

I paid $100 for a wooden gorilla. Later, I bought a philodendron which has since spread throughout my house, which looks like a jungle. (If you’re hoping to forget a lover, then choose a less invasive plant.)

I had used shopping therapy before (so to speak), but after my last breakup, I became downright addicted to spending. Alas, the only thing I found too expensive was talking to a psychologist. I bought a ticket to Mexico and joined my sister in an overpriced hotel. I applied for a credit card with a travel loyalty program ($550 annual fee, awesome perks), thinking it would get me more trips to Mexico.

I spent $165 on a deep massage, $130 on a MasterClass membership, $173 on a sale bra at La Perla.

After months of applying the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous to DoorDash, I started getting meals delivered again. My ex and I cooked together: cooking alone depressed me too much.

Financial advisors recommend setting aside a reserve for unexpected expenses (car damage, home repairs, etc.). But the idea of ​​making a budget when you separate is less widespread. Yet the tendency to spend to ease a broken heart is well documented.

Scott Rick, a behavioral psychologist from the University of Michigan, published a study in 2014 showing that shopping can reduce residual sadness by restoring a sense of mastery. “Therapeutic shopping” provides some relief even with simulated purchases.

“Shopping is choosing. It’s deciding “I want A, not B”. It is exercising control over simple issues such as what we decide to take home. »

A pleasant purchase (like the pretty floral throw I bought after my breakup) is probably more relief than an unpleasant expense like getting a leaky roof fixed.

“It helps break the negative cycle of regret and sadness. You become master of your destiny again,” says Professor Scott Rick.

According to Amanda Clayman, a financial therapist in Los Angeles, the reflex to process our emotions by consuming has deep roots. Thus, when we were schoolchildren, the nervousness at the approach of the return to class subsided with school shopping.

“We have been conditioned like this. It’s more natural to process and express our emotions by going to use than by saying, “I’m sad. I’m going to lay my butt on a pillow and meditate on it for two weeks,'” Ms. Clayman said.

Instead of trying to totally control yourself (and feel guilty if you succumb to the store), it is better to allow yourself – within reason – to follow your impulses.

The limit of reasonableness is vague. Hence the idea of ​​the breakthrough budget.

At some point in my post-breakup spendthrift orgy, I figured my shopping had stopped being therapeutic and was now just another sadness-born habit, like lying in bed for an hour after my wake up and listen exclusively to Billie Eilish. I thought, then, that a budget could have curbed not only my shopping therapy, but also my general sloppiness.

I talked to Mr. Rick about it, who studies money in relationships. To my surprise, he was not keen on the idea of ​​establishing a “breakthrough budget” – at least as I conceived it, that is, a reserve to be funded from the start and throughout. throughout a relationship.

“If you’re already working on plan B, you’re working less hard on plan A,” he said.

He makes it clear that he is not opposed to breakups or divorce; some relationships have to end, he says. But according to him, a breakup reservation makes sense “if it’s something that you and your friends decide ahead of time, when you’re 18 and not in a long-term relationship, saying, ‘Oh, see you. In the future, we should do this in case of a breakup. “”

“But in my opinion, it’s not good to do that three months after the start of a relationship. »