How Does Gambling Affect Relationships?

Written by Steve Rose

Steve Rose, PhD, is an addiction counsellor and former academic researcher, committed to conveying complex topics in simple language.

Gambling, a popular form of entertainment for many, can provide an adrenaline rush and, for some, a temporary escape from everyday life. However, when gambling becomes an addiction, it can have devastating consequences on relationships.

Gambling addiction can strain relationships through financial instability, emotional turmoil, social isolation, and family tension. It erodes trust, affects communication, and may lead to separation or divorce.

It is crucial to address gambling-related issues to protect and preserve relationships, encourage responsible gambling, and ensure that individuals affected by gambling addiction receive the help and support they need.

The financial strain of gambling

A significant and often immediate consequence of gambling addiction is the financial strain it places on relationships. This strain can manifest in various ways, including loss of shared savings, debt accumulation, and financial secrecy.

Loss of shared savings and assets

Depleting emergency funds

When a gambling problem takes hold, individuals may begin to tap into joint savings or emergency funds to feed their addiction. This depletion of essential financial resources can cause significant anxiety for both partners, as it undermines the financial stability and security of their shared future. The loss of these funds can also lead to unanticipated consequences, such as difficulty covering essential expenses or handling unexpected financial emergencies.

Risking joint investments

Persons with an addiction to gambling can also lead individuals to risk joint investments, such as property or retirement accounts, in pursuit of gambling wins. This reckless behavior can jeopardize a couple’s long-term financial goals and cause significant stress, resentment, and tension within the relationship.

Debt accumulation and financial secrecy

Hiding debts from partners

As gambling debts accumulate, individuals may attempt to hide these debts from their partners out of shame, guilt, or fear of confrontation. This financial secrecy can erode trust and foster a toxic environment of deceit and suspicion within the relationship.

Borrowing money without consent

In addition to hiding existing debts, persons with an addiction to gambling may resort to borrowing money without their partner’s knowledge or consent to finance their addiction. This breach of trust can further strain the relationship and contribute to a breakdown in communication and intimacy.

Financial stress and its effects on relationships

Strained communication

Financial stress caused by gambling can lead to strained communication between partners, as they may avoid discussing their financial situation or become defensive and argumentative when the topic arises. This breakdown in communication can prevent couples from working together to find solutions and may exacerbate existing relationship problems.

Arguments and distrust

The financial strain of gambling can also fuel arguments and distrust between partners. Money-related disagreements can quickly escalate and lead to a breakdown in trust, making it difficult for couples to resolve conflicts and move forward together.

Emotional consequences of gambling addiction

The emotional toll of gambling addiction extends beyond financial strain, impacting the mental and emotional wellbeing of both the individual with the gambling problem and their partner.

Mood swings and irritability

Impact on communication

Persons with a gambling addiction may experience mood swings and irritability as a result of their addiction, making it difficult for them to communicate effectively with their partner. These mood fluctuations can lead to misunderstandings, arguments, and emotional distance within the relationship.

Emotional distance

The emotional turmoil caused by gambling addiction can also create a sense of emotional distance between partners. As the individual with the gambling problem becomes increasingly preoccupied with their addiction, they may withdraw emotionally from their partner, causing feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Anxiety and depression

Psychological toll on both partners

The stress and uncertainty associated with gambling addiction can contribute to anxiety and depression for both the individual with the gambling problem and their partner. This shared psychological burden can further strain the relationship, making it difficult for partners to provide the emotional support and understanding needed to navigate through the challenges they face.

Struggles with intimacy and support

As anxiety and depression take hold, couples may struggle to maintain emotional intimacy and provide support for one another. This lack of connection can exacerbate feelings of isolation and despair, further eroding the foundations of their relationship.

Loss of trust

Broken promises

Persons with a gambling addiction often make promises to their partners that they will stop gambling, only to break those promises time and time again. This pattern of broken promises can lead to a loss of trust within the relationship, making it difficult for partners to believe in each other and work together to overcome the challenges they face.

Eroded foundation of the relationship

Trust is a fundamental component of any healthy relationship, and the erosion of trust caused by gambling can weaken the very foundation on which the relationship is built. This loss of trust can make it difficult for couples to move forward and rebuild their relationship, even if the individual with the gambling problem seeks help and begins the process of recovery.

Impact on family dynamics

The negative effects of gambling addiction extend beyond romantic partnerships, impacting family dynamics and the relationships between parents, children, and other family members.

Neglect of responsibilities

Parenting and childcare

As gambling addiction consumes an individual’s time, energy, and focus, they may begin to neglect their parenting responsibilities. This neglect can lead to a lack of emotional connection with their children, inadequate supervision, and an inability to provide the necessary care and support for their child’s development.

Household duties

Similarly, persons with a gambling addiction may neglect their household duties, resulting in an increased burden on their partner or other family members. This imbalance in shared responsibilities can lead to resentment and tension within the family unit.

Tension between family members

Emotional fallout from gambling

The emotional fallout from gambling addiction can create tension between family members, as the individual with the gambling problem becomes increasingly irritable, moody, and withdrawn. This tension can strain relationships between siblings, parents, and extended family members, as they struggle to navigate the emotional turmoil caused by the addiction.

Resentment and blame

Family members may also harbor resentment and blame towards the individual with the gambling problem, as they struggle to cope with the financial and emotional challenges that the addiction has brought upon the family. This resentment and blame can further damage relationships and make it difficult for family members to support one another through difficult times.

Potential for abuse

Emotional and verbal abuse

The stress and tension caused by gambling addiction can sometimes lead to emotional and verbal abuse within the family unit. As the individual with the gambling problem becomes increasingly frustrated and overwhelmed by their addiction, they may lash out at their partner or children, causing emotional harm and further damaging their relationships.

Physical and financial abuse

In some cases, gambling addiction can lead to physical and financial abuse, as the individual with the problem becomes desperate for money to feed their addiction or attempts to exert control over their partner’s finances. This abuse can have devastating consequences for the safety and wellbeing of all family members involved.

Social isolation

As gambling addiction progresses, it can lead to social isolation for both the individual with the problem and their partner.

Withdrawal from friends and family

The secrecy of gambling

Persons with a gambling addiction often feel the need to hide their addiction from friends and family, leading them to withdraw from social activities and events. This withdrawal can result in feelings of isolation and loneliness, as they become increasingly disconnected from their support networks.

Shame and guilt

The shame and guilt associated with gambling addiction can also contribute to social isolation, as individuals may feel unworthy or embarrassed to engage with friends and family. This sense of shame can further perpetuate the cycle of addiction, as it prevents individuals from seeking the help and support they need to overcome their problem.

Loss of shared interests and activities

Prioritizing gambling over quality time

As the gambling addiction consumes more of the individual’s time and energy, they may begin to prioritize gambling over spending quality time with their partner, friends, and family. This shift in priorities can lead to a loss of shared interests and activities, further weakening the bonds between loved ones.

Lack of emotional connection

The loss of shared interests and activities can also result in a lack of emotional connection between partners, as they no longer engage in activities that foster closeness and intimacy. This lack of connection can make it difficult for couples to maintain a healthy, supportive relationship in the face of the challenges posed by gambling addiction.

The risk of relationship breakdown

The strain of financial, emotional, and social issues caused by gambling addiction can ultimately lead to the breakdown of relationships, with separation or divorce often being the final outcome.

The strain of financial, emotional, and social issues

The cumulative impact of financial strain, emotional turmoil, and social isolation can place an immense burden on relationships. As trust erodes, communication breaks down, and intimacy fades, couples may find it increasingly difficult to navigate the challenges posed by gambling addiction together.

Factors leading to separation or divorce

The factors that contribute to relationship breakdown due to gambling addiction are numerous and complex. They may include the loss of trust, chronic financial instability, emotional disconnection, and the inability to resolve conflicts in a constructive manner. Additionally, the presence of abuse, whether emotional, verbal, physical, or financial, can also be a deciding factor in the decision to separate or divorce.

The need for professional help and support

Given the severity of the challenges faced by couples dealing with gambling addiction, professional help and support are often necessary to address the issues and work towards rebuilding the relationship. This may involve individual or couples counseling, support groups, and specialized treatment programs for gambling addiction. Seeking professional help can provide the tools, resources, and guidance needed to navigate the complex issues surrounding gambling addiction and promote healing and recovery within the relationship.

If you or someone you love is struggling with gambling, check out my video on how to recover from gambling addiction:

Conclusion

The negative impact of gambling on relationships cannot be overstated, as it can strain the bonds between partners, family members, and friends in numerous ways. Recognizing the signs of gambling addiction and its consequences is essential for individuals and families affected by this issue. Open communication, seeking help, and providing support for one another are vital steps in addressing the challenges posed by gambling addiction.

By promoting responsible gambling and ensuring that those affected by gambling addiction receive the help they need, we can work towards minimizing the damage caused to relationships and fostering healthier, more stable connections between loved ones.

If your loved one struggles with gambling and you want to learn more about how to support them, you can see my article on How to Help Someone with a Gambling addiction.

Fascinated by ideas? Check out my podcast:

Struggling with an addiction?

If you’re struggling with an addiction, it can be difficult to stop. Gaining short-term relief, at a long-term cost, you may start to wonder if it’s even worth it anymore. If you’re looking to make some changes, feel free to reach out. I offer individual addiction counselling to clients in the US and Canada. If you’re interested in learning more, you can send me a message here.

Other Mental Health Resources

If you are struggling with other mental health issues or are looking for a specialist near you, use the Psychology Today therapist directory here to find a practitioner who specializes in your area of concern.

If you require a lower-cost option, you can check out BetterHelp.com. It is one of the most flexible forms of online counseling. Their main benefit is lower costs, high accessibility through their mobile app, and the ability to switch counselors quickly and easily, until you find the right fit.

*As an affiliate partner with Better Help, I receive a referral fee if you purchase products or services through the links provided.

As always, it is important to be critical when seeking help, since the quality of counselors are not consistent. If you are not feeling supported, it may be helpful to seek out another practitioner. I wrote an article on things to consider here.


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