Marriage Rx for the Wife of a Gambler


Marriage Rx CM SantosQuestion: It’s a bit hard for me to ask but I see that you have such a wonderful relationship between the Lord and your home life. My loving husband has a big ugly issue with gambling. I have tried numerous things like therapy, church study, Gamblers Anonymous, anti-depressants, you name it. But I learned that if the gambler doesn’t want to change he won’t. What about the families that stay with a person with that illness? Any advice? God bless. – Gambler’s Wife

Anwer: Our sympathies go out to you in this difficult situation. An estimated six to eight million people struggle with a gambling problem, and it’s a difficult cross for their families to bear. Many of the strategies for dealing with addiction are the same, whether it’s to gambling or to alcohol. So, try these three.

1. Work it until it works. This saying is popular in Alcoholics Anonymous. It basically means that many strategies can help an addict if he just perseveres in them. You mentioned that you and your husband tried therapy, faith-based solutions, Gamblers Anonymous, and anti-depressants. It’s good that your husband was willing to try these strategies. They all have the potential to help. Return to what seemed to work best, even in the short-term, and recommit to it.

2. Expect relapses. With a disease like addiction, the aim is recovery, not cure. Relapses can be a common part of the process of healing. But one relapse, or even several, does not equate to failure. As they say, it’s not how many times you fall, but how many times you get up again. Or, in the words of Scripture, even a righteous man — a saint! — falls seven times, but then he rises again (Prv 24:16).

3. Get help for yourself. Gamblers Anonymous has an outreach program for the family and friends of compulsive gamblers. The program is called Gam-Anon, and it seeks to improve the lives of people who are suffering emotionally or financially because of a loved one’s gambling habit. If Gam-Anon is not available in your area, you might want to join a group like Al-Anon, which provides similar outreach to families of alcoholics. You would at least be able to get compassionate support and information about behaviors common to most addicts.

May God bless you and your marriage!

Copyright 2015 Dr. Manuel and Karee Santos


About Author

Dr. Manuel Santos is a psychiatrist who has been helping couples over rough spots in their relationships for almost fifteen years. Dr. Santos also serves as a resource for the Marriage Tribunal of the Archdiocese of New York. Dr. Santos and his wife Karee are co-authors of The Four Keys to Everlasting Love: How Your Catholic Marriage Can Bring You Joy for a Lifetime.


  1. Having a gambler especially a compulsive gambler is extremely hard in my experience ,I had lost homes,
    cars and a whole lot more. The worst thing is when they feel as my ex-husband did that the rest of us
    needed help where as he felt that he did not. So I have had years of emotional abuse as well because my
    faith has been there for me . I am a very devout catholic I never wanted to be divorced I just had enough
    of the gambling, pornography, cigarettes, and habitual lying. So I had to get my son and I out of that
    lifestyle when he got rid of his direct deposit of his paycheck and told me that I would have to beg him
    for the money to pay the monthly bills. So just keep the faith, and pray to St. Monica and her son
    St. Augustine for intercession.

    • Dear Angelica,
      Trust is hard with a CG I would know First hand
      It’s hard and frustrating
      But I have experience the will that they have to change and also the replace and that is hard for them and the families. I do pray every day for changes in him and in me. We will continue to pray and to work on this hard situation illness .I have tried this site called gambling look it up there so k ch support for all families for complusive gamblers (cg) and there families. What keep me somewhat sane lol no really is going to church keeping busy with the kids and taking about this illness that sickness the whole family helps a lot.please don’t give up but saying that doesn’t mean in anyway to let him walk over your family and that’s including him.its his illness not your and your not responsible for that took me a awhile to get that one.they are very manipulated they know what do to hide there lies etc..
      I know I know
      Keep your head up But most of all your FAITH!

  2. Why would you stay with a man who is undermining your family and security. He’s abusing your trust and is unreliable and faithless. Marriage is not one partner being endless burdened with another who is morally bankrupt, Better to leave and have something left to sustain you, Things not to be borne are gambling, alcoholism, infidelity and abuse as such things are a breakdown of their side of the marriage contract

    • Divorce is certainly justifiable to protect yourself (and the children) in extreme circumstances. But there are at least two important things to think about before contemplating divorce. First, we have known many people in terrible circumstances whose life did not improve substantially after a divorce. Second, bad behavior after the marriage does not necessarily mean the marriage was invalid to begin with. Marriage is a sacrament — more than a contract, it’s a covenant. Even after a civil divorce, a couple is still sacramentally married unless and until an annulment is granted. And a sacramental marriage is worth fighting for.

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