My partner has a gambling addiction – what should I do?
01 September 2021
We ask Rachel Connor from debt advice charity StepChange to answer the following question.
I’m worried about my husband and I think he may be hiding something from me. He seems to be getting more and more scary looking letters through the door, and they disappear quickly so I can’t see what they are.
When I ask him about them, he gets defensive and says they’re just junk mail. He goes out every evening pretty much, and most of the weekends too and my friend said she keeps seeing him at the local bookies.
When he’s in, he locks himself away in the spare room. He’s always been a bit of a gambler, but it's never been a problem before.
We’ve never been short of money in the past, but things keep going missing. Cash has disappeared from my purse and now my gold bracelet which my mother gave to me has gone.
I’ve searched the house top to bottom for it. I just don’t think I could ask if he’s stealing from me. Has he got us into trouble with money? Will he be truthful?
I have no idea what to do.
I’m really sorry to hear about the stressful situation you’ve been dealing with. From what you’ve described, there’s a chance your husband may be dealing with a gambling addiction.
This can not only be difficult for him, but also for you, his partner. You clearly want to help him, but may be unsure how to support him in his recovery.
Gambling is a powerful addiction, so it’s important that you understand what your partner’s dealing with, and actions you can take.
According to the relationship counselling charity Relate there are several danger signs of a gambling problem to look out for. Some of them seem to match up with what you’ve been witnessing lately. They include:
- Spending a lot of time away from the house and being vague or secretive about it. Some gamblers get up early in the morning to gamble while their partner or family are asleep.
- Becoming defensive whenever money is discussed.
- Hiding bank statements.
- Unexplained payments coming out of your bank account(s).
- Emotional highs and lows.
Even though your partner is the one facing the problem, how you feel is important, too.
Talk to someone
You’ve already mentioned that a friend’s noticed your husband’s behaviour. Do you trust this friend? Can you talk to them in confidence about how you’re feeling, or do you have anyone else you can talk to?
Having someone to share your feelings with can really help your own mental wellbeing.
Your GP can refer you and your partner to local support groups that specialise in gambling recovery. You could also encourage your partner to talk in confidence with their HR department or trade union about what they’re going through.
Is there any way to help your partner avoid the temptation to gamble? According to the Gambling Commission, there are over 8,500 betting shops in the UK. As a result, your partner may have to fight an impulse to gamble every time they walk along the local high street.
Have a think about the different gambling ‘triggers’ that may arise for them. For example:
- Can they take an alternative route to the shops, or to work?
- Are they pressured into gambling by friends or colleagues (during lunch breaks, on nights out etc.)?
- Are there any apps on their phone that encourage gambling?
Finally, tell your partner to get support from a gambling awareness charity such as Gamcare They also offer confidential support and advice for family and friends of those with gambling problems.
You can contact them online or by phone on 0808 8020 133 every day 8am to midnight.
Your partner can even talk in confidence at local meetings held by Gamblers Anonymous Sharing their problem with others who are seeking help with gambling can make them feel less alone.
If you have a mental health assistance scheme through your employer, then please take advantage of it. By giving yourself the support you need, you’ll be in a much better position to help your partner through recovery.
If your partner’s in debt due to gambling, we recommend that they get expert gambling advice as well as free and confidential debt advice.
If they don’t seek help with their addiction, there’s a high chance they may fall back into gambling, which could make their debt problem worse.
Citizens Advice has recently joined forces with GambleAware to offer support to gamblers who are also dealing with a debt problem. At StepChange Debt Charity we also offer free and confidential debt advice over the telephone and online.
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to gambling problems, and different approaches work for different people. However, help is available and neither of you have to face the problem alone.