QUESTION: For the past four years,
my husband has had a significant gambling problem. While he seems
to be under control right now, I am still angry and resentful over
the financial and emotional problems that his past actions have caused.
I feel as though he doesn't take my feelings seriously when I tell
him how much hurt he has caused. How can I make him understand?
ANSWER: You are sensitive to the damage
that has been done in the past four years. Trust has been injured
and understanding diminished. Part of your husband's recovery process
must include developing an ability to have empathy for the pain he
has caused. Empathy is necessary not only to repair your emotional
relationship, but also to ensure that your husband's changes are more
likely to be permanent.
Part of your ongoing resentment no doubt results from
the fact that despite getting his gambling under control, he remains
unresponsive to your emotional pain. Without understanding his impact
on others, your husband may remain responsive to only his immediate
gratification when faced with the decision to gamble or not in the
future. What would stop him from going back to gambling if money were
not a problem? Can he feel the destructiveness of his past actions,
or is he numb to those feelings for himself as well as for you?
Most addictions are forged as a defense against low
self-esteem and depression. Your husband's inability to empathize
suggests an emptiness in his emotional connection to you. His gambling
addiction no doubt stems from deeper problems with finding emotional
meaning in life, including his relationships. It is possible that
he may have difficulty with attachment and intimacy in general.
Invite your spouse to become a part of the solution.
Ask him to consider professional help for his problem. Your husband
may benefit from joining a Gamblers Anonymous 12-step program, which
includes apology and making amends as integral parts of taking responsibility
for past actions. But don't stop there: Tell him that you love him
but that you need him to understand the nature of your experience
in past four years in order to rebuild trust in the relationship and
If your husband continues to stonewall your attempts
to resolve the past, seek a marriage counselor's help. It is essential
that your husband accepts responsibility for repairing the emotional
damage done to the marriage if your relationship is to recover.