Retail therapy is self care.

By Gabrielle Kassel
July 19, 2018
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“I’m beyond thrilled that the person I’m madly in love with and I are no longer in a relationship,” said no one ever. There’s no denying it: Splitting sucks, even when the breakup is for the best. But getting through the aftermath is the grueling part. Mending a broken heart requires a unique combination of time, distance, support, and—let's be real—retail therapy.

Sure it sounds indulgent, but think of it as self care. There's even some science behind using a splurge to heal: One study published in Psychology & Marketing found that buying things has lasting positive benefits on mood. With this in mind, we asked 12 women to tell us the surprisingly cathartic things they purchased after a breakup that helped them move on—and why they'll never apologize for investing in themselves.


“After my ex broke up with me, I trashed my entire underwear drawer. I thought it would be freeing to get rid of all the underwear my ex of three years had seen and touched me in. I replaced my old underwear with sexy undergarments that they had never seen (but that ideally someone else would). At a time when I was feeling so down on myself, the new panties helped me feel sexy and confident.” —Tony, 26

We like: Fleur Du Mal Crochet Lace Balconette Bra ($128; and Lace Thong ($55;


“I was both heartbroken and feeling guilty after my breakup, since I was the one to officially end the relationship. My friends decided to take me out shopping to try to make me feel better. We stopped at Target and happened to walk by the athleisure section (always a big mistake). Without pause, I decided that I was buying something: a pair of black capri athletic leggings, which I still have. Maybe retail therapy wasn’t a magical cure, but at least I got a new pair of flattering, sweat-resistant leggings.” —Kelsey, 22

We like: C9 Champion Women's Performance High Waist Capri Leggings ($25;

A new vibrator

“I won’t sugarcoat it: Using a vibrator that reminds you of your ex sucks. Two minutes into my first solo session post-breakup, I started weeping remembering the time I’d last used this vibe...with my ex. Goodbye, vibrator! And hello, new upgraded multi-speed, clit-stimulating vibe.” —Liz, 25

We like: Zemalia Doris Remote Control Vibrating Silicone Bullet Egg ($30;

A pet cat

“I’d always wanted a cat, and when my ex and I broke up, I finally got my kitty, Mr. Wiggles. Having another creature to take care of helped me focus on more than just my broken heart. Now I get to wake up next to a furry critter who I love every single day.” —Sam, 29

Poetry classes

“I’ve always loved writing poetry, but when my ex and I started dating, I went from writing on my own to spending my time as a couple. When we split, I suddenly had so much more free time. So when I heard that the community center was offering poetry classes on Tuesday nights, I signed up. Not only did writing help me process that relationship and breakup, but I re-discovered a passion I had left behind when in love. I won’t let myself forget how much I love writing poetry the next time I’m in a relationship.” —Rachel, 22

A tattoo

“When my relationship ended, I spontaneously decided to get a new tattoo. I went in without knowing exactly what I wanted, but I knew it would be something that represented this new chapter in my life of growth. I ended up getting a single red rose on my arm. It's my first color tattoo amid a bunch of black and gray designs, and I love it so much. Every time I look at it I feel empowered to know that I got through something that felt near impossible at the time.” —Rachel, 24

Romance novels

“I thought we were going to get married and live happily ever after. I was wrecked when we broke up. At first I was spending more time on social media, but then I finally shut off the screen and went to the bookstore. I left with 13 books, all from the romance section. It may sound counterintuitive, but reading these lovey-dovey novels helped me escape my reality of heartbreak and into a fantasy world filled with romance, love, and steamy sex scenes. Plus, the books helped me realize how unromantic my last relationship actually was, by showing me super romantic men and couples.” —Allie, 29

We like: Fighting With Honor by K.C. Lynn ($10;

New sheets

“What’s worse than lying in your bed post-breakup and realizing that your sheets and pillowcases still smell like your ex? Sure, I could have just washed them. But instead, I made my way to Bed Bath & Beyond and invested in a new sheets set. I can attest that sleeping in new bedding without anything to remind me of my ex's scent makes for a better nights sleep.” —Holly, 27

We like: Calvin Klein Modern Cotton Jersey Body Solid Bedding Collection (from $35;

Registration fee for a spartan race

“Ten miles of mud and obstacles did my a heart a world of good.” —Abigail, 25

Tarot cards

“I’m not particularly witchy, but when my ex broke up with me I was feeling out of control. When I stumbled on a set of tarot cards at a local shop, I thought that leaning into the cards would help bring me some insight. Truthfully, they just gave me a chance to reflect on my life and realize how important it is to take charge of my own destiny.” —Kayla, 27


“We broke up as I was graduating college. My new job wasn’t starting for a few months, so I went on a solo road trip. I started in Atlanta and drove south to New Orleans, then west through the desert Southwest, up the coast to Portland and Seattle, then through the heartland to Minneapolis. I stayed with friends along the way and spent my entire savings on gas money. But I would do it again 100 times over. At the end of the trip, my heart felt so much more healed.” —Lydia, 23

A nipple piercing

“I’d always wanted to get my nipple pierced, but my ex was really really against it. When we broke up, I hit up the tattoo parlor and got that baby pierced! I love it; I think it looks really badass and sexy. Take that, [insert ex's name here]."
—Molly, 23