Approximately 2 million individuals in the U.S. are pathologically problematic gamblers, while an additional 4 to 6 million can be considered problem gamblers, according to licensed clinical social worker Susan Gadoua in her PsychologyToday.com article "So You're Married to An Addict: Is Divorce Inevitable?" In either case, an addiction to this risky pastime can spell financial ruin not only for the gambler, but also for his family. As the spouse of a gambler, you should aim to protect your finances while directing your husband in the right direction. Several strategies can help you keep things together as you and your husband both tackle his gambling addiction.
Don’t Enable His Gambling
You enable your partner's addiction when you remove or lessen the negative consequences of his actions. For example, in the case of gambling, you might supply your husband with the cash to pay off debtors. When you begin enabling, you might have your husband's best interests at heart. However, over time your husband may put in less effort to quit gambling, and you may find yourself putting in more effort to enable him, suggests Darlene Lancer, marriage and family therapist, in her PsychCentral.com article "Are You an Enabler?" This can stir resentment in your family.
Manage Your Finances
As your husband is now unreliable with cash, it's up to you to take control of family finances. Take measures to ensure your own finances are safe from your husband's gambling. For example, create a separate bank account, if you haven't already. If your husband is willing to accept help, work together to restrict the amount of access he has to the family's money. Individuals with gambling addictions develop a knack for begging for money, using everything from blunt threats to subtle emotional manipulation, suggests HelpGuide.org's article "Gambling Addiction & Problem Gambling." Emotionally prepare yourself to deny his requests. For example, remind yourself daily that having money for bills and food is far more important than feeding your husband’s addiction.
From the stress of managing finances to the daily pressure of denying your husband's requests, you might have a lot on your shoulders. However, you don't have to handle all of these responsibilities alone. Schedule therapy sessions to keep yourself in good mental health, suggests HelpGuide.org. Support groups such as Gamblers Anonymous might also point you in the right direction. Be aware that your husband's decision to seek professional help is up to him.
Pathological gambling has strong ties to various other mental health problems. For example, approximately 70 to 76 percent of pathological gamblers suffer from depression, and they are also five to 10 times more likely to exhibit suicidal behavior than those without the addiction, suggests George State University in the article "Depression, Suicide and Problem Gambling." With this in mind, you must be cautious with your interactions and dialogue. This doesn’t mean you have to give into the gambler’s whims, but it is good to keep your temper in check, be patient with his treatment and recovery and to make sure you don't exclude your husband from the family. Don't envision him as the enemy. Envision his addiction as the problem that must be overcome.