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How to Handle Your Husband's Gambling Problem

by Erica Loop

He spends late nights at the race track, sneaks off to the casino or is constantly betting on the "big game." A gambling addiction -- or compulsive gambling -- is an illness that has no cure. If your husband can't control himself when it comes to betting, knowing how to handle his addiction can make the difference between helping him to arrest his illness and feeding his compulsion.

Learn about compulsive gambling. When family members understand that gambling addiction is a real illness, they are better able to support their troubled loved ones. This can lead to positive outcomes for the addict, notes associate professor of psychiatry Timothy Fong in the article "Seeking Help for Gambling Addiction" on the New York Times website. Aside from reading up on the subject, you can consult a mental health professional or community support group for information on what to expect.

Help him to admit that he has a problem. The first step that your husband needs to take is accepting that he has a real problem, according to Gamblers Anonymous. If he's not willing to do this on his own, you may need to show him the facts. Get concrete and prepare yourself for a serious discussion with specifics. For example, keep a log of the times when he is out gambling or show him the bank statements that detail his ATM withdrawals and financial loses.

Take care of yourself. Don't lose track of the fact that your husband's addiction affects you, too. Even though your spouse is the addict, you can help yourself to help him by seeking out the support of a professional. For example, Gam-Anon is a 12-step support group for family members of compulsive gamblers.

Insist that your husband take financial responsibility for his gambling addiction. Make him accountable for his actions. Instead of offering to bail him out with creditors, let him figure out how he can make repayments. Even though this may seem like a challenge -- especially if you have a joint bank account -- the family support organization Gam-Anon suggests that you let your loved one take responsibility for his financial follies. Rushing in to the rescue enables your husband, and won't facilitate his recovery. Suggest that he get a second job or take on extra hours at work to earn the money that he needs.

Take over full control of your family's finances. It's unlikely that your husband will have the ability to handle these tasks while he is in the addiction recovery process. Sit down with him and explain that you're now responsible for writing checks and paying bills. Create a family budget that details what both of you can spend money on.

Encourage your husband to get professional help or join a regular 12-step support group such as Gambler's Anonymous. Keep in mind, encouraging and forcing are two separate things. While it's acceptable to coax your spouse to go to his first few meetings or provide encouragement if he is nervous, avoid forcing him to go or giving him ultimatums. Recovery programs only work if he wants to help himself. If he's just going to a therapist or support group because you say that he has to, he may not make a recovery.

Limit your husband's access to credit cards, your bank account and the Internet. If he has money in his hands or the ability to gamble at the click of a mouse, he may not have the strength to stop himself.

Separate from or leave your husband if he absolutely refuses to get help. This doesn't mean that you threaten to leave unless he gets help. You have to actually act on your words. Leaving is part of taking care of yourself when your spouse simply won't make changes. If you're considering this option, consult a legal professional about financial separation, responsibilities and liabilities when it comes to money owed or taxes.

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.

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