He's torn apart our trust - but I can't bring myself to leave him
Dear Dr. Pam,
I’m 42, my husband and I have been together for 15 years and we have two young sons. He has a business but it isn’t successful, he has promised me for years it will work but every time something goes wrong I end up bailing him out with my earnings.
Recently he started coming home late and extremely drunk, around that time I realised that a lot of money was missing from our joint account. When I confronted him about it he broke down and told me he’d been out gambling and used our money as he’d lost his own. After he told me this he ended up having an actual break down and had to go to rehab.
Now he’s come out of rehab and he expects to go back to the way we were. But I’m now left with little cash (after paying for rehab and the missing account money). I can’t support him, two children and his business.
I love him but he’s torn apart our trust – how can I be with him anymore? But I also can’t bring myself to leave him after the breakdown and he has nowhere to go.
Dear 'Can't bring yourself to leave him',
My gut instinct is this is NOT the time to decide whether or not to stay with him. Unfortunately when you've come out of the immediate drama of his gambling, financial disaster, and him going into rehab, etc., partners quite naturally want to make a decision either way.Part of this is about the fact that you've witnessed his difficult behaviour over a long period of time. So it feels like you're ready to make the final decision. Another part to this is the fear that if you don't get out it's bound to happen again and you'll have to go through all this drama again.
But the time for such a big decision isn't now – it's never a good idea when you have powerful emotions washing around to make this kind of decision. Also I'm sure you realise for the well-being of your two young children you need to give it every chance.
Here's what I recommend –
- You must live with complete honesty from here on in. So much of any addiction (gambling in his case, but alcohol, drugs, etc., in other cases) is about dishonesty and lying. Tell him straight that every day he must resist any slipping back to fibs and lies.
- Let him know that you've come to this point about the future of your relationship – a real emotional crossroads. If he knows you're considering leaving (you’ve probably have told him but maybe not – many of these feelings are hidden) then he should be taking this all very seriously.
- Start being open about your needs. Maybe you need more affection from him or maybe you need more time to feel that way. Maybe you need a bit more space, seeing friends, doing hobbies, etc., even though you stay together. He needs to understand that as he carved such a destructive path you undoubtedly put your needs on hold.
- Keep emphasising you're in a cooling down period and you don't want to make a final decision. Be honest that your final decision is very much about him showing you rehab has been a success. That means he must live one day at a time, as best he can and let you see that.
- If you see any of the old signs creeping back pull him up on it immediately. Don't bury your head in the sand as is so easily done.
- He should definitely be going to addiction recovery meetings for his problems – both Alcoholics Anonymous and Gamblers Anonymous. And please do consider going to an addiction support group for family members because of the emotional trauma you've been through.
Final tip: Many couples who've been through such hard times find that marital guidance/relationship counselling is helpful. So consider what's offered locally to you if things don't stay on course.
The very best of luck, Dr Pam x
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