Addiction Abstinence

by Jane
(Arizona)

As someone who has a partner that has a history of gambling addiction, I struggle with how to deal with abstinence. Once a gambling addict becomes self aware of the problem, and even gets treatment, and subsequently stops, we both know that there's no cure. This causes pain for both parties, as well as stress in the relationship. My experience is that my husband often plays the card of "I haven't gambled in years, so stop restricting my access to money. What else do you want me to do to prove myself?" When he was in the throws of gambling, we setup our finances such that he has only limited access to credit cards and cash. As a grown adult who makes a good living, while he understood this necessity when he was gambling constantly, now that he's not, he finds this belittling and even insulting.


We regularly struggle with how to handle this. I can completely understand his point of view. As an adult, not having access to the family money can be infuriating. He still has access to basically buy whatever he wants, however, he can run into issues when he runs low on his credit card limit, or on his low balance bank account. This can be embarrassing when a transaction is declined at a store. Though I usually argue with him that this really should never happen as he can so easily check his card or bank balance on his phone, and even setup daily or weekly alerts. So not knowing how much he has available is really a problem with him not checking, and really his own fault. He usually uses my credit cards, however, some stores that check ID require that he use his own card. While this only happens occasionally, it really upsets him, and he usually ends up letting me know in a very upset and hostile manner.

My struggle is that there's no cure. So even if 5, 10, or even 20 or more years pass without him ever even gambling once, he can relapse at any point of time. Does this thought process create a self-fulfilling prophecy? I don't think so, as I don't believe lack of access to money is really a trigger for his gambling. In fact, that's unlikely the trigger for anyone, for it usually relates to something else as discussed on this website. Though, when you take a step back and think about it, can we maintain this financial setup forever? Does this create unneeded additional strain on him and us? I just know I would find it hard to sleep at night, or even get through each day, knowing that he could deplete our accounts at any moment should he relapse.

He doesn't understand that perspective, and will compare it to him having to live each day feeling as though he's being treated like a child (in terms of access to finances). It's my understanding that with each relapse the addiction is progressive, meaning that it gets worse each time. Thus, if/when he relapses at some point in the future, it could very realistically be devastating to our finances. The last round was bad enough, and took us many years to recover from. I really don't ever want to live through that again. All-in-all, this is an ongoing problem, and, unfortunately, I don't have any solution that would really meet both of our needs.

Comments for Addiction Abstinence

Click here to add your own comments

Nov 02, 2016
I Caved! NEW
by: Jill

My husband didn't gamble for several years, and he kept pressuring me to stop "treating him like a child" when it comes to finances, and give him access to our credit cards and bank accounts. I found it really hard to resist. He doesn't care that there's no cure, and says that him not gambling for so long is evidence enough that he's fine and can be trusted.

I was nervous, but finally caved to avoid the continual arguments. Unfortunately, after about 14 months he began gambling again, and by the time I figured it out, he had lost much of our savings. This was a painful lesson for us.

Anyone thinking of caving in to these requests, I beg you not to. To some degree they're always going to be uncomfortable with the how the household financials are setup, but it's just not worth the pain when/if a relapse happens. No amount of years of abstinence really proves that it won't ever happen again.

Hopefully there's enough trust in the relationship that they can live being restricted, and that you can also live with not being able to fully trust them. It's a sad reality that is not easy for either person to have to live with.

Oct 18, 2016
Dealing With Long Term Abstinence Is Hard!
by: Mark

Thank you for sharing! I can definitely understand your situation, and essentially experience a similar dilemma. If you give in and give him full access to all of the accounts, you're really putting your family (if you have kids?) and your relationship at risk. However, if you don't, you also put the relationship at risk due to the strain. If you tell him that it's the best thing to protect your relationship and family, he could say that you're just trying to protect yourself, and don't understand his perspective. To a certain extent he would be right, as this setup helps to protect your sanity of not having to worry day to day that your accounts could be depleted should he relapse. Realistically, you may not see any signs of relapse before it's too late.

One of the challenges is also that gamblers tend to not appreciate that we don't like to do this. I know for me I always envisioned getting married and having everything combined, and being able to 100% trust my partner with our finances. So having to do this is not something I enjoy or want to do. In fact, shortly after we got engaged we combined our finances. That said, it doesn't remove the pain it causes both parties. My therapist in the past once told me to consider if I need to keep things setup this way forever, could I live with that, and can I still love my partner despite this situation. I definitely don't like having to manage finances this way, however, it's not painful enough to change the way I feel about my wife from a relationship/marriage perspective. Conversely, the gambler needs to ask themselves the same question. If the family finances forever remain this way, can they live with it? Can they still love us, and be in the relationship if it never changes?

I can envision my spouse putting more and more money into her own account, so she truly has access to cash. This would be when we're in a financial situation that doesn't require 100% of both our incomes to keep the household going. That way if there's a relapse, and she depleted that entire account, it wouldn't result in us losing our home, or impacting the kids. Unfortunately, this doesn't really solve the problem of having separate accounts, which is simply part of the pain that the gambler feels (the simple fact of having separate accounts).

Also, unfortunately, I don't have a perfect, or even decent solution to offer you. I feel that having access to more money in their account is a good compromise, however, I don't know that they would feel the same way. What if it were a large amount of money, like $25k or even $50K? That would be more disposable money/savings that we have in our family accounts. Would that help them overcome this pain point? We're not at the point yet to set aside that kind of disposable income, however, hopefully that will be the case eventually, after which point I can report back!

Click here to add your own comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Gambling Addiction Stories.


Subscribe to
Gambling Addiction ezine & Get a FREE eBook!

Enter Your E-mail Address
Enter Your First Name (optional)
Then

Don't worry — your e-mail address is totally secure.
I promise to use it only to send you Gambling Addiction ezine.