Strategies for Partners and Families
What About Family Members? Who Owns the Problem?
It is the gambler who has a gambling problem?
You are not at fault nor have you created the problem. You cannot make a gambler stop gambling if they do not want to. You may not have the gambling problem but you and your family suffer from it. You may need to get help for the suffering you are experiencing before the gambler will seek help.
You may be blaming yourself for the gambler's behaviour, leading you to feel very confused.
Since the partner has a relationship with the gambler, the partner tends to:
take on the responsibility without controlling the gambler.
control the money. Wanting receipts for shopping etc does not work, and often makes it worse - the gambler tends to increase their scheming activities.
Recognising the Manipulation
Recognise the manipulation (lies, blaming, requesting, cheating, etc) used by the gambler to protect the gambling - to stay in the game.
Recognising if it is an Abusive Relationship
Domestic violence comes in many forms. Stay aware of the following forms of abusive:
Physical Abuse: includes hitting, biting, throwing things, punching walls, using weapons.
Sexual Abuse: includes any sexual act to which the other person does not freely give
Psychological and Emotional Abuse: includes constant fear of physical violence, degrading comments, threats, put downs, verbal abuse.
Social Abuse: includes limited contact with family and friends, monitoring phone calls and mail, deliberate geographical isolation. Having to constantly account for the other's whereabouts.
Financial Abuse: includes control over finances, forbidding a woman to work, unreasonable budgeting expectations.
Harassment and Stalking: includes constant telephone calls, threatening letters, following or photographing.
How to Respond
Use planned caring confrontation instead of explosive responses
Stating what you want too strongly, by screaming and being pushy, puts people off. They stop listening and you wind up with one-way communication - which is as good as no communication. Compliments actually work wonders in the heat of an argument. Expressing positive regard for someone during a conflict makes it much easier for the person to open up to your ideas.
Switch from an accusatory "you' to a non threatening "I"
Example:- Instead of saying: "You never take me to dinner on our anniversary," better to say: "I'd really enjoy celebrating our anniversary at a restaurant this year instead of having dinner at home." Sometimes a written dialogue can help you to handle the situation.
Discover your weak points by discussing it with a friend or someone skilled in communication.
Don't Accept Blame for the Situation
Nobody is to blame for somebody else's gambling behaviour. The only reason a gambler wants to gamble is because they want to. To gamble, or not to gamble, is a choice - nobody can make a person gamble. They may feel ‘as if' they have no choice but to gamble, but this is not true, because all ex-problem gamblers chose differently.
Problem gamblers have been known to create arguments (blaming, etc) to justify their intentions, to escape perceived stresses, and to gamble.
Avoid Secrecy and Enlist Help and Support of Others
Keep in mind that the best strategy is to be aware of the facts about problem gambling. The more you understand it the better you can handle it.
The more support the better. Here are some suggestions.
Family members, understanding friends, other people who are affected by problem gambling, counsellors, and spiritual leaders.
Self-help books, web-site information, documentaries, see Contacts and Resources.
Community Self-help: Gam-anon (self-help group for family members of a problem gambler/s), and any other self-help group that can help you to cope.
Develop a Family Wide Non-Bailing Out Policy
Don't pay for gambling debts, or debts created by problem gambling. The more you bail out the problem gambler the worse the situation gets. Blackmail does not work. Example: to say that you will pay gambling debts if the problem gambler goes to counselling etc, is a negative approach to helping the problem gambler.
Others must learn to say "NO" to the problem gambler. This will force the problem gambler to be more self-responsive to their gambling problem. The whole family would do well to agree to say "NO".
Focus on the Behaviour, Not the Person
Don't accept that change is impossible. Principles before Personalities:
Stick with the facts of the matter, not with the emotional content behind the facts.
Focus on WHAT a person is going to do about the problem and not on the who or why of it.
Consider Counselling, or Self-Help Groups
Generally, partners and family members tend to be confused about the subject of problem gambling and how to deal/cope with it. Gambling counsellors and self-help groups can help you to understand and deal with the effects of problem gambling in your life. Self help groups provide social contact with other people with similar experiences - you're not alone. The key to identifying with group members is to look for similarities, and not the differences, between yourself and others.
Consider getting as much help as possible. It does not matter who, what, or where you get your help from, as long as it (realistically) helps you. The more help the better.
Protect Yourself Financially and Emotionally
See Financial Strategies - by Mira Kozianski. This is a continuous need that needs to be met. Seek out accredited financial counsellors in your area. They may be able to give you further financial advice.
Family/Couples Counselling Services
Seek out a family/couples counselling service in your area. They may be able to help you deal with any unresolved relationship/communication problems.
Some counselling services, for gambling problems, provide help and counselling for family and partners.