Q: Hi. I'm 38 yrs old and my husband is 36 yrs old. We live in Chicago and we have been married for almost 3 yrs. How do we rebuild our marriage after an affair, and having a gambling addiction? -- Keira A.
A: Although you don't state it, I assume that it was your husband had an affair and has a gambling addiction.
First, let me say that you're correct with the underlying assumption of your question that you can rebuild your marriage after these violations of trust. Many women assume that the relationship is too destroyed after a husband had an affair. So congratulations for looking for ways to rebuild rather than give up and get out.
Second, rebuilding a marriage after an affair is certainly difficult and painful -- but definitely not impossible. I've seen many men change these behaviors and become completely different partners, so hope for a different future is certainly a possibility.
Third, relationship faithfulness in the areas of emotional and physical intimacy, and money is the foundation for a marriage. These are two of the most core areas of a relationship. Violation of trust in these areas is very significant. Be careful not to underestimate the damage that has been done.
Here's where to start to rebuild your marriage after an affair:
- Talk about the facts of what's happened regarding both the marriage affair and gambling addiction. Be aware that you may not be able to do this very well without the assistance of a licensed counselor who can help facilitate the dialogue through these painful events.
- Each of you needs to share your feelings about each violation. You need to tell your husband how each has affected you; he needs to share the feelings that contributed to his making these choices.
- Start rebuilding trust. This can start simply with little things like doing what each of you says you'll do. If you say you'll pick-up some groceries or that you'll be home at 6:30, then be sure to do it.
Marriage after an affair can actually be better with the new level of honesty, transparency, and intimacy that comes with doing the above hard work. I see it every day. Best wishes.
-- Kurt Smith, Marriage Counselor
Here's an example of how a gambling addiction starts. This is the real story of one man who came to Guy Stuff Counseling for help with his gambling addiction.
Anthony had never gambled before. Sure, he'd played cards with friends at parties in high school, but never anything serious. Other than occasionally watching the poker tournaments on TV, gambling never had any appeal.
During his first year at college Anthony got invited into other guys' dorm rooms at night to play cards. He found that it was a great way to escape the studying he didn't want to do. As his school demands increased, so did the attraction and enjoyment of playing cards. Soon Anthony was up all night gambling and starting to skip classes. As his desire to gamble grew, he sought out other places to play and discovered online gambling.
When Anthony got kicked out of school, he knew it was partly due to his gambling, but he never thought he had a gambling addiction. He just moved back home, got a job, and started going to the local casinos to gamble. In addition to the 4 Indian casinos within easy driving distance, he found a card room only a mile from his house.
The card rooms made him feel seedy. He knew many of the other guys in there had a gambling problem. After all, they were always in there; every time he went in he saw the same faces. At least he could control it and didn't spend every day there, he thought.
He developed a strategy to keep his gambling addiction a secret from his parents. After the money he'd wasted at school, his dad watched his bank account carefully. He learned if he only withdrew a couple hundred dollars, and did from the local ATM and not at the casinos, his gambling wasn't noticeable by parents.
Anthony tried going back to school again at the local junior college, but found that missing classes and assignments didn't work there either. As he grew more and more unhappy with himself, and worried about what he would do with his life, he spent more and more time gambling. The money he was losing grew also. It didn't even seem inappropriate to him to be playing for a pot of $2,900 when he only made $10 an hour working part time at Home Depot.
One night, after getting kicked out by his girlfriend, he lost $400 in a half hour. Afterwards, as he walked out to his car and saw it packed full of everything he owned, and thought about having no money, no place to live, and no hope, he realized he had a gambling problem.
Anthony got his parents support and came to Guy Stuff for counseling. We've been working on his gambling addiction by helping him discover the reasons why he gambled. One of the things he's learned is that he used gambling to occupy his time and avoid things. As a result of our work, Anthony went back to school earlier this month and he's learning to use new ways to deal with the stressors in his life.
Q: I plan to quit my sports gambling addiction, which meets with various levels of disapproval from friends and family. Some are more able to express that they are glad I'm quitting than others. I consider that their weakness and judgmentalness, if that is a word.
My motivation for counseling is to learn something that would help me understand myself better and to change. I am figuring out who I am as a man at the ripe old age of 43. I'm trying to answer that, to analyze the sequence of thoughts and feelings that make up this gambling cycle and see where I can change some of them in addition to changing the behavior itself.
I have never tried to quit my compulsive sports gambling before. I've been at it for most of the last 22 years, going hard core most of that time, especially in football season. My only winning month has been September, and my only winning year was 1999.
Where do I start?
A: Sounds like you're off to a good start already. Here are a few positives I hear:
- It's good that you recognize that your decision to quit is going to meet with varying levels of disapproval. That's some good insight on your part to recognize that other people's reactions have more to do with them than you. This is a really important part of your recovery because recognizing the influence of others is a big factor in dealing with a sports gambling addiction.
- It's also good that you see that there's a cycle to your problem gambling. You're exactly right that you need to understand the thoughts and feelings that feed this cycle.
Here are three things to do going forward from here:
- Get Some Support. Don't try to do this alone and don't try to do it with just willpower. If you do, the odds are really, really high that you'll fail - again. Get involved with Gamblers Anonymous and get a professional counselor.
- Make Yourself Accountable. Put some systems in place, such as attending a GA group or meeting with an addictions counselor to help you stay committed on and on track with your goal.
- Find Some Expertise. Get connected with someone who's been through this before and knows what it takes to succeed. A professional counselor, who work's with men struggling with addictions, particularly a compulsive problem gambling addiction, is the best source of expertise.
You're off to a good start -- keep it going.
--Kurt Smith, Marriage Counselor
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