The Bradleys' Emotional Debt
Now that Lisa is coming clean, she says she's having a hard time dealing with some unsupportive—even critical—friends and family members. "I can't get them to accept it, and it hurts," Lisa says.
Oprah isn't surprised some people have had a negative reaction. "We attract to ourselves the mirror of our lives," Oprah says. "When people are looking at you and you are like them, they like that. There's a comfort zone. Then, when you are no longer like that anymore, they're no longer comfortable with you."
Dr. Robin says that when people see the Bradleys confronting their problems, it forces them to take a good, hard look at themselves. "If I'm shopping and spending money and perpetrating a lie, everybody's happy that's doing it," says Dr. Robin. "When I step out of that and I then become real, I condemn without even knowing it. I shine the light on someone without even knowing it—on their addiction, their fakeness, their phoniness."
Instead of buying things, Dr. Robin says Lisa must face her childhood shame head-on and gain control of her emotions. "You were out of control from the very beginning," says Dr. Robin. "[The] child in you—the wounded child that lives in all of us—was driving in the front seat of your adult life. That child needs to be put in the back seat, cared for, nurtured and reminded that there is now an adult who can look out for her."
Dr. Robin says Lisa is not alone—everyone struggling with financial debt is "trying to fill a spiritual wound with a cheap surrogate." "BMW may not sound cheap, but for a child who is aching to feel like she was enough, for a child who was aching to feel the safety and comfort in his own life, a BMW can't ever touch that wound," says Dr. Robin. "What becomes more dangerous is the deeper the wound, the more I go spend."
"Everybody is trying to fill their wound," Oprah adds. "And the wound is the same for everybody when you get down to it. It is: 'Am I enough?'"
Lisa says her girlfriends have been very supportive and call her every day. Steven, on the other hand, says he was upset after the gathering. "[Lisa's] support group was there and mine wasn't," Steven says. When Lisa and her friends went out afterwards, Steven says he felt further excluded. "[Lisa] kind of left me there," Steven says. "Kind of taking this all in on my own."
Dr. Robin says couples can't be mind readers. "When we are at our deepest levels of pain, we need to have an emergency kit which says, 'This is what I need from you.'" By not being open with each other, Lisa and Steven repeatedly set each other up to fail in their marriage.
"[Steven] shuts down—he doesn't talk to [Lisa]," says Jean. "She doesn't want to go home and be not spoken to, so she goes to the mall, which makes him angrier so he doesn't talk. It goes around and around and around!"
Until they mend their relationship, Jean says the Bradleys won't be able to eliminate their debt for good. Dr. Robin agrees with Jean on both points. "The truth is, emotionally both of you are absent from your lives," Dr. Robin tells Lisa and Steven. "You're absent from your marriage and the spending has become the thing you can fight about instead [of talking about your feelings]."
Dr. Robin has a wake-up call for the Bradleys. "You could change your money spending, but if this deep deprivation in communication exists in this marriage, you are going to find one kind of exit or another—spending, drinking, affairs," she says. "So the exits have to be closed and you have to learn, 'How are we going to rebuild this relationship?'"
To bridge their emotional gap, Dr. Robin tells the Bradleys they need to abandon these parent-child roles. "When you show up as her husband and you show up as his wife—not a child—we're now talking about the ability to create real intimacy, real warmth, and real passion and desire," says Dr. Robin. "And I know it is what you want, but it can't happen with this power differential."
As long as the Bradleys deal with these tough issues, Jean guarantees the money problems will be easy to solve. "So often the financial problems, they're the symptom, they are not the underlying problems," says Jean. "These are just habits and behaviors that we picked up along the way because it made it possible for us to continue this facade, this lie that we were carrying out. The whole healing process has to come from deeper, it has to come from within."
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