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Can a person/relationship ever recover from secret gambling debt?

(23 Posts)
CurlsLDN Sun 26-Feb-17 08:22:38


While I was pregnant with dd (4 years ago) my dh confessed that he has about £5k of secret debt through payday loans that had spiralled. It was a huge shock as we both earn well and have senior jobs.
He only told me then as I started to question how he never had any cash and kept borrowing the odd tenner from me.

At the time I got full visibility of his bank accounts, and over a period of a year or two we paid it all off through careful family budgeting.

I now control our savings and bills accounts which he has no access to, and he just has his 'spending money' each month.

Recently i started thinking was up as he's been acting oddly, distant and highly strung. I asked him outright this morning if there were any financial problems. He initially said all was fine but I pushed more and he confessed that he has run up £10k debt through gambling and payday loans.

I don't know what to do. I'm spending the day apart from him and with my family to clear my head, and I am talking to my family about it this time.

I am so scared for the future, I want him to be a part of our family, he's a good dad and a good husband, but this has been pushing a crack between us for longer than I was aware of. This may be the end of our relationship as I don't know how I can trust him again and I am devastasted that he has done this to me and our child, but if we can find a way to continue, can people recover from gambling addiction?
I'd like to think that if he were an alcoholic then with the right help I could stand by him and see him well again, is gambling the same? Or will I never be able to trust him?

Imbroglio Sun 26-Feb-17 08:31:50

Gambling is an invidious addiction because the gambler always thinks that 'just one big win' will sort every out and that this miracle is just around the corner. He needs help. Is he willing to do this? In the meantime you do need to consider your own future with this man because he has deceived you.

tribpot Sun 26-Feb-17 08:40:31

In fact if he were an alcoholic you couldn't 'see him well' again either - he would need to want to change and be prepared to do the work necessary to manage his addiction and repair the damage it had caused to those closest to him.

The way you tried to solve the problem last time, whilst entirely understandable, is also very similar to the way desperate partners of alcoholics attempt to control access to the drug, in the hopes that this will force the addict into recovery. It doesn't. The addict resents the barriers to indulging the addiction and finds ways around it - you've just seen that, unfortunately.

I would say that it's too soon to know whether or not your relationship can survive. At this point it's about whether he now steps up and takes full responsibility for what he has done, and starts the process of his own recovery.

This would include:
- admitting what he has done to friends and family. The power of this disclosure is huge; the addict has to be willing to see themselves as a flawed human being and to have their failings known to those closest to them
- attending Gamblers Anonymous and getting a sponsor, using all the necessary technology to block gambling sites and so on
- coming up with a realistic plan for repaying the debt. It is essential that he repays it, because without that he will always feel there's someone who will bail him out when he 'slips up'
- demonstrating how he can manage some money responsibly over an extended period of time

You may also need to divorce in order to shield yourself from financial liability. That doesn't necessarily have to be the end of the relationship, but I think you should at least be prepared to consider it, and have him know that you are willing to do it.

So the short answer to your question is 'it's too soon to tell'. The burden is on him, now.

CurlsLDN Sun 26-Feb-17 08:42:54

Yes he says he is willing to get help, but until I see it happening and working I can't trust that he will (sort of related, he has a history of being worried about a perceived illness and saying he'll see a dr, but then not following through. I think he may be the same here, or he'll go for the initial consultation but then not commit to whatever therapy might be involved)

I just can't believe that he's been so stupid and put his family life at risk like this. Before he told me what was going on he said he couldn't tell me 'because you'll leave me' so it's not like he just thinks it's ok. He loves us, But you are right he has deceived me. I'm very confused and scared

Imbroglio Sun 26-Feb-17 08:50:07

One thing you must insist on is total honesty. And make sure he knows it's a deal breaker.

Costacoffeeplease Sun 26-Feb-17 08:55:32

I couldn't continue with someone I didn't trust, and I'd never trust him again

HughLauriesStubble Sun 26-Feb-17 09:01:25

Sorry op but I'm not sure you can recover from this. First offence, maybe, but this is the second time he has done this behind your back, knowing what he risked the first time.

Has something triggered this recent spree? How long was it going on? If he isn't willing to agree to a proper course of counselling then it's obvious that he isn't very committed to sorting out his issues and if you forgive him, you'll be sat here in the same situation few years down the line.

junebirthdaygirl Sun 26-Feb-17 09:04:53

I heard a reformed gambler once say when his wife asked him had he any money he said no. He had a roll of bank notes in his pocket but at the time he genuinely felt that was for gambling and not for his wife and children. Its a horrible selfish addiction. Keep all your money safe. GA may help but he will really have to want to and you have to step back and not enable him in any way. You can go to GA yourself even for one visit. Most important thig is you look after yourself and let him take responsibility for himself and his debts.

Ragwort Sun 26-Feb-17 09:07:04

I do know someone who has 'recovered' from a gambling addiction but that was after he lost his wife, child, home and job. He slept rough for a time. He no longer gambles but lives a very different lifestyle from the one he was used to.

I think it will be very, very hard for you to continue living with your DH in the situation you describe.

CurlsLDN Sun 26-Feb-17 09:44:28

Thank you all for your honesty and advice, I need to understand the enormity of the situation. Like most people, I feel that gamblers anonymous, divorce etc are 'for other people' so your words are helping me understand that this really is 'that bad'.

I have spoken to his family, turns out he's been borrowing from them, saying it's for family expenses. So he's drawn everyone into the mess.

Particular thank you to tribpot for the clear potential outcomes.

I think the first step will be to find out the extent of the problem, and see him putting measures in place to fix it - going to GA, setting a plan in place, honesty with everyone. Then I'll see what to do about our relationship. I don't want him out of our lives but I can't trust him, so perhaps living apart will be the way forward for a while. I don't know, that's too scary to think about right now, but at least I know I will have the support of my fantastic parents who live not too far away, so my child and I will be ok one way or another (I also have a full time, senior level job, so I should be able to be self sufficient down the line if needs be)

AttilaTheMeerkat Sun 26-Feb-17 09:54:27


No trust = no relationship.

Why do you call him both a good dad and a good H?. People in poor relationship often write that when they can think of nothing positive themselves to write about their man. He is actually neither because he through his addictive behaviours has now put his family unit in financial hardship. You can only help and protect your own self ultimately. People can recover from gambling addiction but its a long hard road for all concerned. There is always the concern of relapsing; he will always be in recovery even if he did stop gambling. Or he may replace gambling with other addictive behaviours.

Re your comment:-

"I'd like to think that if he were an alcoholic then with the right help I could stand by him and see him well again, is gambling the same? Or will I never be able to trust him"

The 3cs are prescient here:-
You did not cause it
You cannot control it
You cannot cure it

Unfortunately alcoholism does not work like that and nor does gambling. You could lose a lot of years waiting for him to have any sort of epiphany which may never happen. You cannot be the driving force for him to get help; he has to want to seek that of his own accord. Your H could go onto lose everything and still choose to gamble afterwards. You are too close to the situation to be of any real use to him and he does not want your help. Enabling him as you have done has not worked; its only given you a false sense of control. You have not helped him or even yourself here by doing as you have done.

Am glad you are going to talk to your family; addiction thrives on secrecy so it is good to get this more out in the open.

You cannot continue to live like this and your children won't thank you for living with their gambler dad either. This will impact them greatly going forward into adulthood particularly if you do not protect yourself and your children now. What do you want them to remember about their own childhoods?. I would seriously consider getting legal advice now with a view to divorcing him.

AttilaTheMeerkat Sun 26-Feb-17 09:58:07

"I think the first step will be to find out the extent of the problem, and see him putting measures in place to fix it - going to GA, setting a plan in place, honesty with everyone".

You must do nothing to help him re going to GA; he has to do this all himself and with no coercion from you. You need support for your own self; help you first.

The problem here is that he has been dishonest with everyone to date including his own self. He is still very much in denial and I doubt very much he would stick with GA at this time.

If you cannot trust him there is really no relationship here.

Living apart from him would be a very good idea; you need space from him and his all encompassing addictions. You've also been profoundly affected by all this and this will take you a long time to recover from, years even. That process will only fully start when you are completely away from him.

CurlsLDN Sun 26-Feb-17 10:39:37

Thank you Atilla, it is interesting and useful to have my words reflected back to me. I've seen others on these boards going through and saying the same things and never realised I was doing the same.

Kikikaakaa Sun 26-Feb-17 14:26:32

I do know someone who has recovered from this addiction. He is married to a relative of mine. It was an absolutely awful betrayal of trust that put their whole family at risk physically as well as financially. my relative was completely heartbroken and fell apart and he left for a long time. Over the years (yes years) they have managed to rebuild their marriage, he has attended NA and GA counselling, psychotherapy and everything he needed to do. He worked very hard whilst living apart from his family to repay the money and poured all his energy into putting things right, while also supporting th family NOT trying to win her back. She did take him back when she felt he had shown her his intention to change and his dedication to being a better person. As far as I know he's not had a relapse and he still uses therapy to help him. I think the horrible shock he had when he HAD to face up to the terrible things he had done and where this had left his family sank in, I'm always surprised he didn't decide to end his life although I know he thought about it. But he didn't and he is a better stronger person now

Silentplikebath Sun 26-Feb-17 15:06:37

A relative of mine went through a similar situation. The couple divorced after losing their home and both being made bankrupt.

My advice would be to consult a lawyer about divorce as soon as you can rather than trust this man ever again. Be prepared for not knowing the full extent of the money owed yet.

I don't think your marriage can ever recover from this. This man isn't a good husband or father because he's put his family at risk of losing the roof over their head for the sake of a few betting slips. If he was truly remorseful he would have got help the first time it happened.

CurlsLDN Sun 26-Feb-17 16:15:53

I have spent the day at my parents, who are of course being very supportive. I've tried to focus on establishing how much 'danger' I am in, and securing my own position and therefore that of dd.

We've run a credit check on Experian on my name, and my credit score is excellent with no nasty surprises, so that's reassuring. I've also phoned gamcare - a gambling support line, and talked through things with them re what I can/can't do to help.

I am very clear in my mind now that I will continue to keep all finances seperate and I will not be helping him to put a plan in place re the debt - he needs to come to that on his own. I think I'm going to ask him to leave and stay with his parents at least for a few days, and I can't really think beyond that. But I know now that if we do seperate dd and I should be ok financially

abeandhalo Sun 26-Feb-17 16:30:01

Behavioural addiction is very different to substance addiction, but people can recover. It will be hard work, lots of therapy and require a great deal of support & understanding from you if you decide you want to stay together.

As a wife of someone who has overcome a behavioural addiction, it's important to remember that it is behaviour he cannot control. Even though it feels like they should just be able to put you (and your child) first, it's not that easy. The gambling is a reaction to a specific trigger for him, and he will have to work out what that is in order to get better.

HexicanMix Sun 26-Feb-17 21:13:57

You can't "keep finances separate" if you are married!

Unless I am wrong - his debts are your debts.

If you own a house together, and he uses it as security, you could lose it, literally overnight.

He has already outright lied to you twice.

Sorry but if it were me, I would divorce him immediately, to protect myself and my child. Otherwise - I'm sorry - you will never know one day when it could all come crashing down and you will be literally on the street with nothing and possible debts as well.

Paddingtonthebear Sun 26-Feb-17 21:19:10

He needs to want to stop and he needs to see a gambling addiction counsellor. I have been in this situation and the above was my ultimatum, do that or leave and our marriage is over. Thankfully he did see a counsellor and has overcome his addiction.

lemondropcake Sun 26-Feb-17 22:07:45

run for the hills If you ever want happiness and a trusting relationship ever again.
you can't live your life like this and it's not fair on anyone.
there is only one person who can sort this and that's him. You can stand back and support him but you can't arrange it for him or make him do it.

Move on. I gave chance after chance and one day went to do the grocery shopping. He ran, took his passport and got on a train. It turned out he had gambled literally every penny I had in my bank account on betfair. He ran up debt on my overdraft. Left me and my child without any food in the house and no money to buy it.
that was it.
he begged to come back and I stayed strong. I am glad I did because he hasn't changed and dd doesn't get a penny out of him. Not even a Xmas card. He has since stole from others.

lemondropcake Sun 26-Feb-17 22:09:57

And another thing. Gambling addicts are compulsive liars. You will get to the stage where you can't trust a word he says. Even when he's telling the truth you won't know for sure.

GirlElephant Mon 27-Feb-17 00:57:03

Space sounds sensible so you can decide if you want to try to trust him again. You need to do what's best for you & your child. I don't think i could ever trust him again but you have good advice here for whatever you do

Isetan Mon 27-Feb-17 08:00:16

I think you have to deal with the person who stands before you now, not the person you desperately want him to be. He's all the good things you love about him but he's an addict too and you have to understand that for him, his addiction takes priority which includes preserving as much of the status quo that has let the addiction flourish.

Actions speak louder than words and last time, he did a good job of letting you assume responsibility for a behaviour you couldn't control. Protecting the addiction is his priority and he will lie to preserve that self interest, I'd thought you'd leave me" is classic 'all about me' thinking.

In the short term you must start focussing on protecting you and your children's finances because the man you are married to is a threat to them. Your future relationship with your H is dependent on his ability to take responsibility and address his issues and your willingness to stay in a relationship which will always have an undercurrent of mistrust.

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