Gambling addiction not only affects the person with the addiction, but can also have major consequences on family members or others who are close to the gambler. Gambling addiction can seriously impact a couple’s shared finances, and it can be a major burden to worry about the gambler while feeling helpless in the face of the power the gambling seems to have over them.
Once the extent of the gambling problems are revealed, it often comes as a shock. It is especially common for people to feel betrayed if the gambler has been lying about or hiding their gambling problems.
As a family member or partner of someone with a gambling addiction, you may be entitled to specialist treatment. You must first obtain a referral from a GP or NAV (the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration) to receive such treatment.
Family members or partners can play a key role in motivating the gambler to seek help and support him/her in quitting gambling. At the same time, however, you must also take care of yourself and make sure that your own finances and health are not also affected by the gambling.
Family members or partners of a gambling addict may feel as though they have to put their own needs aside, often at the expense of their own physical and mental health. That is why it is important that you remember to take care of yourself. Wearing yourself out will help no one, and you should not be afraid to make reasonable demands of your loved one.
What can you do as a family member or partner?
It can be difficult to understand what a gambling addiction entails. Getting more of an insight into the nature of addiction can help you reduce or better manage any fear or frustration you may be feeling, reduce the number/severity of your conflicts with the addict and help you both develop a more solution-oriented focus. An addict often goes through a lot of different emotions, not least shame, guilt and fear of rejection. These emotions can manifest themselves as anger, frustration or reclusion, and it is naturally hard for a family member or partner to deal with such behaviour. Learning about the nature of the addiction, however, can make it a little easier. The person who has developed an addiction can similarly benefit from learning more about their addiction. We recommend learning about the addiction together. It is important for family members and partners of gambling addicts to understand and accept that the manner in which they behave stems from the addiction and not the person themselves.
It is normal to feel a sense of guilt or bad conscience when you discover that someone you care about has developed a problem. In practice, codependency entails you providing care to the gambling addict based on your own sense of guilt, as opposed to what is really best for the addict.
A wife’s experience with their husband’s addiction
My husband was a sober alcoholic when we got married. After roughly 3 good years together, he developed a gambling addiction, which led to a number of lies and breaches of trust. It undermined the relationships, finances and sense of security within the family. New hidden expenses and debts would continue to surface, and we’d have to deal with them again and again.
We went to Familievernkontoret for about a year and Modums Bad’s family department for three months. But the gambling continued. I was caught in this situation for about 6 years, gradually becoming mentally burned out. In the end, I realised that I had to get out of this marriage for my own sake and that of the children. It was time.
We continued working well together in relation to the children and celebrating Christmas and birthdays together. He continued working, and for the most part managed to live up to his role as a carer for the children.
The gambler must personally contact their general practitioner and other support services to get help with their gambling problems. Learn more about how to get treatment here.
Where can family members and partners get help?
The family and partner of a gambling addict may also require help to cope with the difficulties they face. As a family member or partner of someone with a gambling addiction, you may be entitled to specialist treatment. You must first obtain a referral from a GP or NAV (the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration) to receive such treatment. There are several places in Norway where specialist health services offer help for family members and partners of gambling addicts.
Familievernkontoret is a low-threshold service where you can seek help if you are going through serious relationship problems. Because this is a low-threshold service, you do not need a referral from a GP to contact them. You can call them directly to book an appointment.
Family members and partners of addicts can also book appointments at gambling addiction treatment clinics. Talk to your GP about getting a referral.
It can often be helpful to talk to someone who is in the same situation as you. Spillavhengighet Norge is an organisation for gambling and video game addicts and their family/partners and organises regular network meetings across Norway for family members/partners. Spillavhengighet Norge also has a helpline where you can talk to someone going through the same experience.
Their helpline is a service aimed at the gambling addict as well as their family or partner. Family members/partners can also make an anonymous call to 800 800 40 for advice or visit pages with information specifically written for them.
Spillkontroll.no has a useful online self-help course for family members and partners of gambling addicts. Among other things, the course teaches you how to talk to the gambler about their gambling problems, how you can help and support him or her and how they can also take care of themselves.
- Take the self-assessment test together. You can take the test here.
- Talk to the gambler about how you feel.
- Reach out for help.