Written by Preet Banerjee
Tuesday, August 7th, 2018
It wouldn't be unusual to see someone get divorced and then either start driving around town in a fancy new convertible, or perhaps start dropping some serious coin on a new wardrobe.
Based on a model that analyzes the biological, psychological, and social determinants of behaviours and habits, the emotional spending habits following a divorce can be better understood, according to Dr. Ajmal Razmy, a Mississauga, Ontario-based psychiatrist and Service Medical Director of Trillium Health Parnters' Acute Care Mental Health Program. These factors can include genetics, substance use, psychological mindedness, income, and even the neighbourhood you live in.
While not everyone engages in overt emotional spending after a divorce, two response types noted by Dr. Razmy are "Melancholic Responders" and "Single-Again Mania Responders."
"Melancholic Responders are individuals who are emotionally befuddled by the divorce process. Maybe during their everyday lives they cope with stress by employing the "Häagen-Dazs and Chill" principle, one that I enjoy," says Razmy. "However, this compensatory caloric reward for struggles can translate to engaging in financial transactions which are void-filling rather than rational decision-making."
Dr. Razmy has experience calling car dealerships on behalf of newly-divorced patients who have bought very expensive vehicles well beyond their financial capabilities.
Single-Again Mania Responders
"Single-Again Mania Responders reflect that divorce is not also perceived as a bad thing. Especially when the marriage may have been a poor union," Razmy notes. "As such, some individuals are hit with a post-divorce hypomania." Dr. Razmy says an increase in energy coupled with less sleep is a good recipe for poor financial decision making. This can manifest as frequent visits to high-end department stores, or spur-of-the-moment vacation getaways.
"Understanding the biopsychosocial determinants of spending following a divorce can hopefully provide tools to help either of these response types," says Razmy.
What Can You Do to Curb Post-Breakup Spending?
To completely take the emotion out of financial decisions is probably impossible, but just as creating a budget is important before and during a marriage, it may be even more crucial at this emotional stage.
Personally, as someone who travels a lot, I've noticed that I irrationally believe that calories don't count at airports. What normal diet I follow (if you can call it that) goes right out the window when faced with all the tasty options available before boarding a flight. Of course the reality is there is no alternate universe that exists in airports and all those calories show up on the scale a few days later.
It's the same with trying to manage your spending during emotional times: The rules of prudent financial management don't give you a hall pass for a few months after you sign the divorce papers. If anything, you're now going to be working with a tightened belt, since the cost of living as a single person is often more expensive than the lifestyle you were accustomed to in your marriage.
As soon as you see your relationship is ending, it's wise to start thinking about this new reality. That may entail finding a new financial planner, and/or seeking out other professional counselling.