A husband’s appeal for divorce over his wife’s seemingly random but pervasive purchasing habits was granted by the Taichung branch of the High Court earlier last month.The court added that the marriage was defunct after a separation of 10 years.
The husband, surnamed Liu (劉), and his wife, surnamed Lin (林), were married 26 years ago, and since the wedding Lin had not taken a job, leaving Liu to support the family.
A decade ago, Lin began to develop odd purchasing habits, frequently buying large quantities of soap and toothpaste, throwing them on the floor and then buying the same products again, the court heard.
Unable to stand her seemingly random habits, Liu lived separately from Lin since 2002.
However, dissatisfied with Liu’s decision to live separately, Lin frequently harassed him, either by going to his residence and making a scene or calling him repeatedly, the court heard.
Growing increasingly exasperated by her behavior, Liu filed for divorce with the court, and after reviewing the case, the Taichung District Court approved his request.
Lin appealed the ruling, claiming that although she did not have any kind of psychiatric disorder, she had been seeing a doctor and was cured of her habits, adding that she did not purchase the large quantities of household goods for no reason.
When the High Court reviewed the case, it sent for the couple’s son to make a witness statement.
According to the son, Lin often bought items that were never used, citing for example that she had accumulated over 20 boxes of clothing, wigs and other miscellaneous items in the past decade.
“I’m of the opinion that my parents should be divorced and I am willing to provide for the basic expenses of my mother,” the son was quoted as saying.
On July 17, the High Court ruled that as Liu and his wife had been living separately for 10 years, the marriage was defunct and that both sides had contributed to the break-up of the marriage.
The ruling said Liu had not actively encouraged his wife to pursue medical or psychiatric treatment after discovering her symptoms and that Lin herself had contributed to the break-up of the marriage by verbally abusing and harassing her husband.
The High Court ruling sustained that of the district court, approving Liu’s appeal for divorce.
Commenting on the case, Hsu Ching-chi (許景琦), the superintendent of Wizcare Hospital, a facility specializing in the treatment of psychiatric disorders and mental illnesses, said Lin’s odd shopping habits indicated a personality disorder that might have started before she was 18 years old.
The disorder could stem from financial hardship during her youth, which caused her to feel insecure when she was not able to buy things, Hsu said.
This type of personality disorder must have existed before her marriage to Liu, and as Lin became increasingly impulsive, she would not have been able to keep her disorder in check, Hsu said, adding that Liu only found out about her habits during their marriage because she might have been able to restrain her actions before the couple got married or because she felt more at ease spending money that she had not herself earned.
It is impossible for the symptoms to only have developed during the marriage, Hsu said, adding that the treatment of the disorder would involve both medication and long-term, in-depth psychiatric therapy.
Doctor Hsu Hung-ming (徐宏銘) of the Shin Ching Clinic said Lin’s purchasing habits might be a symptom of a manic depressive disorder whereby the afflicted person may at any given time feel the need to go on a purchasing spree, during several months in a year or after a certain amount of time has elapsed, Hsu Hung-ming said, adding that if family members criticize the purchasing spree the patient may become confrontational toward them.
However, Hsu Hung-ming also said that while manic depressive disorders can be brought under control or cured with medication, continuous compulsive buying over a period of 10 years might be an indication of a compulsive-obsessive purchasing disorder that stems from problems with social interaction.
It could be that Lin does not get along well with others or has problems getting along with her husband and sees buying items as a way to express negative emotions, Hsu Hung-ming said.
This kind of disorder is about human interaction and can not be cured with just medication, Hsu Hung-ming said, adding that in addition to taking medication, Lin should undergo psychiatric therapy.
Lin Pen-tang (林本堂), a doctor at the Taichung Veteran’s General Hospital, said Lin’s actions exhibit partial symptoms of impulsive purchasing, indicating that she is a shopaholic and exhibits symptoms of manic depressive disorder.
Long-term therapy is needed to find the root cause, Lin Pen-tang said, adding that some psychiatric disorders do not manifest themselves until a patient is 20 or 30 years old and that the patient should have sought medical help as soon as the symptoms started to manifest themselves.
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