Most marriages usually get tested through time and through unique trials that may serve to strengthen the bond as a family. In certain cases, it can cause the family’s breakdown when not handled properly. One such problem is gambling. If a family member is a serious gambler, it can get the entire family in financial trouble. It can also affect every aspect of the life of the gambler including his hard earned financial stability, his job, and even his relationship with others.

Gambling can take many forms such as playing Casino games like slot machines, and card games, and it can also take the form of internet gambling or even stock market speculation.  With these forms of gambling becoming more and more accessible, it can lure many people to get hooked on gambling.

Be wary of financial signs like when your partner is taking too many loans, or if his debt is piling, or when you find that there’s money missing from bank accounts and even personal valuables disappearing. For emotional cues, look out for withdrawal from family and friends, mood swings, sudden outbursts of anger, complaints of boredom, and even depression. More serious signs may include changes in sleep patterns, self-care issues, gambling preoccupation, more physical complaints, chronic lying, stealing, and even suicidal tendencies. These are clear signs that a problem exists, and these should never be taken lightly.

Here are some ways on how you can handle problem gambling in the family:

1.    Recognize the problem. If a family member has a gambling problem, he needs to acknowledge that his actions have led to big consequences. Accepting that there is a gambling problem is the first step towards healing, but it’s also a very crucial step in the sense that it will be very difficult for the person to admit his mistakes. Be prepared though because the initial phase of acceptance is denial, so it may take a lot of support from everyone in the family to get your loved one on this critical first base.

2.    Communicate effectively. You may have already tried giving ultimatums and threats, or you may have already gotten to the point of yelling to emphasize a point, but these certainly didn’t work, right? Set aside your frustration and try to find the best time to discuss about the family’s problem. Stay calm, avoid blaming, and talk openly about the crisis that the family is facing. He needs to understand that he is not only hurting the family financially, but emotionally as well.

3.    Get your partner to seek professional help. Counseling and other forms of therapy can be beneficial in addressing problem gambling. Find out the programs that are offered in your community, and make good use of these. Sign up other family members for programs that are suited for them, so that they can also positively overcome the family’s ordeal.

4.    Be supportive, but set limits. Do not be the enabler by taking over the responsibility of the gambler. If you pay for his debts, he will repeatedly go back to gambling because someone is always bailing him out. If you need to extend financial help, make it conditional. He may either agree to counseling, or it should be clear to him that the loan needs to be paid. However, you need to emotionally support your partner, and let him know that he doesn’t have to go through it alone.

5.    Work together in planning the family’s finances. The gambling addiction may have already caused havoc to your family’s budget, so it’s very important that you discuss strategies on how you can go about the problem. Require transparency regarding your finances, and agree on an achievable budget for the family. If he’s willing, you may limit the amount of money that he can have access to in order to prevent a relapse.

6.    Stretch your patience and prepare for possible relapses. Change will happen gradually, so don’t expect immediate results. Your partner will certainly encounter plenty of gambling triggers on a daily basis, so try to be firm with your stand that gambling is no longer tolerated in your family. It is very common to go back and forth the process of change, so be equipped with the right mind setting. When this happens, do not hesitate to seek professional help.

7.    Begin the healing process for yourself too.
Get your life back by taking good care of yourself. Sleep well, eat healthy balanced meals, and include activities that can help you cope with the pain and frustration of being betrayed. Surround yourself with supportive family and friends, and try to reach out to others who have been through similar situations.

8.    Encourage family activities. Your partner needs the diversion, and he also needs to “re-learn” that there are plenty of enjoyable activities for the family. This is also a good way to make the children feel that they can be kids again, and that they don’t have to take the blame for the family’s problems.

9.    Keep watch for depression and suicidal ideation. These are clear danger signs. If your partner exhibits signs that he may hurt himself or anyone for that matter, call for help right away.

The road to healing is never easy for gamblers and their families. But despite the challenges and the scars, it is still possible for families to begin anew.