Life

Ask Fiona: Can I trust my husband with his gambling problem?

Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine advises a woman whose husband is a gambling addict, and another who dislikes her daughter's boyfriend

Your husband needs to get professional help

Try not to get upset – your boyfriend may just need time to think about things

AF

I'VE been married for six months and I'm being forced to face up to the fact there's a real problem in my marriage. My husband has always been very outgoing and generous with presents and things. I did used to wonder where he got his money from, and why sometimes he'd go ages without getting me anything then I'd get a load of things all at once.

Now I've found the reason. It turns out my husband is a compulsive gambler – and the only reason I found out was after a large chunk of our savings disappeared. He didn't want to tell me at first but eventually he admitted what he'd done with it.

He said he thought he had kicked the habit when he met me – but it's clear he hasn't. I do love him and have forgiven him, but I don't know how I can ever trust him. He has promised it won't happen again, but how can I be sure he means it?

FIONA SAYS

You can't, I'm afraid. Gamblers rarely quit that easily – which is why he needs professional help. He has an addiction and, like all addictions, it needs treatment. That also means it takes hard work and effort – but there is hope. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) has been shown to have good results in treating this condition, but he has got to want to be helped.

You have been faced with a terrible shock, and while your immediate response is to want to 'cure' your husband, the consequences of gambling won't be resolved in a day. All the difficulties you're suddenly faced with seem huge, but I'm afraid it may only be the tip of the iceberg.

It can take time for a person with a gambling problem to face all their debts and losses, and to be open about them with those - like you - who need to know. Give yourself time to deal with issues; encourage him to open up about where his money has come from – obviously, your savings, but you need to know if it's gone further than this. For example, serious problem gamblers have been known to steal from employers to fund their habit.

I don't know how old your husband is, or for how long he has been gambling. For most people, it's a slow loss of control and a change of focus from real life issues to the gambling – ignoring other responsibilities and the people they are affecting.

Your husband may realise he is causing problems for you, but even so, the 'need' to gamble is an urge he's been unable to resist. I suspect he has had a number of wins in the past - hence all the presents - but he then entered a losing streak. Once that happened and he began to lose excessively, he probably reached a point when he had invested so much money, he was desperate to win it back.

The problem is that people never win back what they've lost, and he may not have accepted that yet, even if he has promised to quit. If you can get him to give up hoping for a big win then he'll begin to get back control over his gambling – and of his life.

Please encourage him to contact GamCare (gamcare.org.uk) who can really help him - and you – through this. The organisation offers support, face-to-face counselling and information for problem gamblers, their friends and their families.

Even if you can't get him to do this, do contact them yourself as you'll find them very supportive of the situation you find yourself in. I would also strongly suggest you limit the risks you face by ensuring you have separate bank accounts, or at least by needing joint signatures on any savings accounts.

BT

MY BOYFRIEND GETS SUCH BAD ROAD RAGE

MY boyfriend is a gentle guy – until he's behind the wheel of his car. He then becomes really aggressive and screams at every other road user. I've even known him chase after someone who's upset him so he can give them a piece of his mind.

One day he's going to get himself really hurt by taking on someone who is not going to be so easily intimidated. He says that if people are not told that they are driving badly they'll go on being dangerous. Is he right and should I accept this?

Fiona Says

I don't suppose it has occurred to him that chasing another driver, simply to respond to a slight of some kind, is every bit as stupid and dangerous as the behaviour he is criticising? Driving today is stressful and sometimes it helps to let off a bit if steam, but your boyfriend is coming dangerously close to losing control – and that's just unacceptable.

If someone has genuinely been driving dangerously, it would be better (and safer) if he were to notify the police rather than race around the streets.

Right now, under the social distancing rules, he won't be able to drive around as much anyway, so it might be an idea to try and get him to learn some relaxation techniques. There are lots of useful resources online. They'll help him cope now but will also help him stay a bit calmer behind the wheel in the future.

CN

HE PROPOSED – THEN CHANGED HIS MIND

THREE months ago, I met a man who was, I thought, going to be the love of my life. We made love for the first time a few weeks ago, when admittedly we were a bit drunk after a party.

It was wonderful and afterwards he asked me to marry him. Two days later though, he told me he'd made a mistake and didn't want to see me anymore.

Since then I have been in a complete daze. How can someone offer marriage then just dump you? Do you think I could persuade him to come back?

Fiona Says

I know these are difficult times and perhaps he's not thinking clearly – but do you really want a relationship with someone who is capable of treating you like this?

Three months just isn't long enough to get to know someone, let alone commit to marriage, and I suspect he has realised this.

I know it hurts, but while we're all on lock down, I suggest you wait and see how things between you are looking when things are back to normal. Under normal circumstances, I'd be suggesting you should try and move on, but times are not normal and it could be that he's frightened and worried about the future.

When everything feels a bit more settled, if you still want to of course, I suggest you contact him again and see if he'd like to meet up. If at that point you can rekindle your relationship, then all well and good – but be cautious because, if you've a future together, he needs a good explanation for treating you this way.

TF

I DON'T LIKE MY DAUGHTER'S BOYFRIEND

I DO not trust my daughter's new boyfriend. He says he loves her and wants to be with her – but every chance he gets, he goes off to see his ex-wife and children. This doesn't strike me as the behaviour of someone who is committed to my daughter.

She hasn't said anything to me but she must be worried.

Do you think I should say something to him? I wish she were with someone else.

Fiona Says

Would you really trust a man who could abandon his ex-wife and children without a backward glance? Surely it's better to be in a relationship with someone who accepts his responsibilities, who is prepared to continue being a father and friend.

While I understand you have your daughter's interests at heart, I would strongly advise caution. She has chosen to be in a relationship with someone who has a past that involves a previous marriage and children. Those things are never going to go away, and for her it may not be a problem - or if it is, if she loves him, she will know it's something she's going to have to learn to cope with.

If you ask this man to give up his children for your daughter, you may find he does exactly the opposite! Let your daughter know you love her and care for her, and I'm sure she'll let you know if she needs help.

If you have a problem you need help with, email Fiona by writing to help@askfiona.net for advice. All letters are treated in complete confidence and, to protect this privacy, Fiona is unable to pass on your messages to other readers. Fiona regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence.

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