It’s the little things you notice at first. Little things they say that don’t seem to add up.
My husband would say he was working late then he would come home and say he’d been at the gym. Little things like that.
We trust each other, so I never assumed anything was wrong. So he mixes up details every now and again – who cares? I don’t care if he’s at the gym or at work – I still get to spend the night relaxing with the house to myself.
But after a while the little things turned into bigger things, and you know in the pit of your stomach that something isn’t right.
Just as an FYI, you should know that this post is sponsored by Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation. But all opinions expressed by the author are 100% authentic and written in their own words.
He was constantly stressed. He’d never really had a bad temper, but all of a sudden the tiniest things were setting him off. The tap in the kitchen wouldn’t stop leaking one night and he ended up punching a whole in the wall. That wasn’t the husband I knew.
Then came the secrets. We’ve always had a very trusting, honest relationship, so for him to suddenly start being very vague about his life was strange. He took his phone with him to the bathroom. He would practically pounce on it every time he got a text.
Then I started to notice money missing. We each have our own account, but we also share a joint one that we both contribute savings to. Week by week, I noticed the balance going down. When I asked him about it, he would be very vague and say things like ‘moving money around’ or ‘needed to pay such and such a bill’. I still didn’t really think a lot of it – hey, I’ve dipped into that account on more than a few occasions during sale time.
But it wasn’t until I actually started checking the bills that I realised this was serious. At first, and I laugh about this now, I thought maybe he was having an affair. The secrets, the phone, the money. It all seemed to point to something weird, I just couldn’t quite figure out what it was.
Then I got a notice in the mail saying that our electricity was about to be cut off.
I’ve never felt the need to snoop around on my husband, but that day, I didn’t know what else to do. I looked through his files until I found his online banking password.
I couldn’t believe what I saw when I logged in.
Transaction after transaction after transaction through online gambling websites. Huge amounts of cash withdrawn at places I’d never heard of. Two (TWO!) credit cards I had no idea about, both maxed out. When I saw that each of them had a limit of $5000 I felt sick. His personal account was basically at zero.
After paying the electricity, I started checking up on all the other bills my husband usually takes care of. Nothing had been paid.
I couldn’t believe what I was looking at. But I had figured what was going on.
My husband has a gambling problem.
I knew I had to speak up, but I had no idea how. I was angry with him, but also scared and confused. I did a bunch of research before he came home about the right things to say and do; I had never been in a situation like this and was kind of flying blind.
I tried to be calm and rational. I knew if I flew into a rage or got really emotional he would just freak out. I sat down at the kitchen table with him, and I just said it: “I think you may have a gambling problem.” Then I listed all the reasons why I thought that was the case – the missing money, the bad temper, the secrets.
I half expected him to fly off the handle. To try and defend himself or come up with excuses. But I think all the evidence I laid out in front of him was just too much.
He started to cry. I’ve never seen my husband cry like that before. Then the words came flooding out. He told me that it started with a go on the pokies after work and escalated from there. He had lost a few hundred dollars and tried to win it back. He honestly didn’t seem to know how it happened. He kept saying that the only reason he kept going is because he thought he could fix it by winning it all back.
It was a hard conversation to have, but honestly, he seemed relieved that we’d had it.
And I was too. It was hard, but if I hadn’t spoken up, my husband wouldn’t now be getting the help that he needs. I’m angry and upset, but I also just want him to be healthy and happy. He was becoming a shell of himself, and now I know why.
It hasn’t been easy, and I’ve been angry with him and upset with him and sad and confused and pretty much every other emotion under the sun. But at least confronting him has meant we can try to move forward together.
He is now seeking help. We both know that it isn’t going to be an easy fix. But the fact that he is working on his issues and we are working on bringing trust back into our relationship is the first step. And it gives me some hope for the future.
Free, confidential help and information is available for gamblers and their families, 24/7 through Gambler’s Helpline 1800 858 858 or Gambling Help online gamblinghelponline.org.au
Have you had a family or friend with a gambling problem?
The Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation aims to reduce the prevalence and harms of problem gambling and to help those who choose to gamble, to do so responsibly.
A range of support services are available for people experiencing problems with gambling. To find out more, call Gambler’s Help on 1800 858 858 or visit fightforyou.com.au.