What Can You Do if Your Partner is a Gambler?

Do you suspect that your partner may have a gambling problem? In this article, we'll tell you about the common characteristics of this addiction.
What Can You Do if Your Partner is a Gambler?
Ebiezer López

Written and verified by the psychologist Ebiezer López.

Last update: 21 December, 2022

Gambling is a mental disorder that not only affects the lives of those who suffer from it but also that of their loved ones. If you think your partner has a gambling problem, it’s natural that you feel worried and uncertain.

The first thing you should know is that gambling is a disease and, as such, requires specialized care. However, there are also certain actions you can take to support your partner.

Indeed, in these kinds of difficult times, you can be of great assistance to them. In fact, you can help them bring their dependency under control in a relatively short space of time.

Is your partner a gambler?

This is a psychological condition characterized by the difficulty or inability to control impulses associated with gambling. Sufferers have problems regulating their behavior when participating in games that involve betting. For that reason, problem gambling is considered a type of behavioral addiction.

However, not all people who gamble become problem gamblers and there are multiple factors involved. If you suspect that your partner is a gambler, there are certain signs that you can look for if you want to be sure of your hypothesis.

Next, we’ll look at some characteristic behaviors of sufferers of gambling addiction.

Man with problem gambling
People with gambling problems have difficulty controlling their impulses.

Gambling produces significant economic losses

In order to satisfy their desire to gamble, gamblers may invest a large amount of money. Even when they no longer have money in their pocket, they might borrow from family, friends, or even their partners. Therefore, you should observe how your partner handles their expenses.

They think they’re in control of the game

Mañoso, Labrador, and Alba (2004) conducted a study on the cognitive distortions that pathological gamblers present. One of the most common is the illusion of control, whereby they think that the role of chance is far less decisive than it really is. In addition, they often think that their chance of winning is greater than that suggested by the mathematical laws.

This illusion of control also carries over into their own behavior, as they’re likely to believe that they can leave the game whenever they want. However, in many instances, this is far from the case.

Lies and mood swings

If you suspect that your partner is a gambler, take note of the most recent changes you’ve detected in their behavior. Perhaps you’ve noticed that they’ve stopped telling you where they are most of the time, and they’re coming home later from work or leaving earlier.

You might also detect extremely intense and unexplainable mood swings in them. These are produced by their ability to play and the outcome of the particular game. If they place bets in advance, you might find them particularly nervous as the day approaches.

Work problems

Like any other addiction, gambling affects the lives of those who suffer from it in different areas, including work. For instance, it’s not uncommon for them to suddenly start taking time off to go gambling or get money from their company to gamble.

When the addiction becomes chronic, they might lose their jobs. If they continue to have resources, it’s easy for them to see this loss as a liberation. It gives them more time to play, while also being the only thing they think about.

It’s common for gamblers to engage in risky behaviors in order to satisfy their addiction. For this reason, they may become involved in legal matters such as lawsuits, liens, or even face jail time. For example, if they gamble in places that aren’t registered and are illegal.

What can you do if your partner is a gambler?

If your partner displays the characteristics mentioned above, it’s extremely likely that they’re suffering from gambling addiction. You should bear in mind that your relationship is a significant bond and your actions can help them recover. However, the one who must make the most effort to get out of the situation is your partner.

1. Be patient and understanding

You must be clear about the fact that gambling is a mental illness and understand what that means. Álvarez, Bedoya, and Arredondo (2010) conducted research on the cognitive profile of gamblers and reached several conclusions. One of them was that gamblers use gambling as a coping strategy for their emotional distress.

Pathological gambling is an impulse control problem. Most likely, your partner recognizes in a way, that they have difficulty regulating themselves but, at the same time, they can’t stop. It’s not an issue that can be solved just by wanting it to be, it has to be addressed for what it is: a disease.

2. Avoid paying their debts but take control of the money

Given the suspicion that your partner is a gambler, the best thing you can do is take control of the money. Under no circumstances should you pay their debts. It’s often tempting to think that by giving them money you’re helping, but this isn’t the case. That’s because they may use the money to gamble and end up losing it.

If you take control of the finances, there’ll be less risk of your partner gambling it away and affecting the rest of your family. Also, if they decide to start treatment for their problem, not having to manage money will help them endure the withdrawal process.

3. Help them recognize that they have a problem

The first step toward change is for your partner to acknowledge the current situation and understand why it needs to change. Try to talk with them about what’s happening, without blame or recrimination. Instead, try to make them see that they’re unable to control their impulses and explain how that affects you.

Keep in mind that your partner may have a negative reaction and deny reality. If that happens, remember to be patient and understand that it’s not an easy situation for either of you.

Man talking to his partner
Talking about the problem without criticism or accusations will help your partner.

4. Look for support groups

A good way of tackling the problem is by contacting support groups. In fact, pathological gambling is a more common condition than you might think and there are many therapy groups available.

Hearing about the experiences of others in similar situations may help them better understand their own circumstances. It’ll make it easier for them to recognize their problem and seek the professional guidance they need.

5. Plan healthy and enjoyable activities with your partner

The problem with addictions is that the sufferer uses them as their only source of pleasure in the midst of their discomfort. For this reason, a positive strategy could be to organize healthy and fun activities that you can share as a couple. For example, you could try doing a sport or physical activity that you both enjoy.

Williams and Strean (2004) conducted a study concerning the use of physical activity in the treatment of substance abuse. They established that regular physical exercise can be a good complementary treatment, thanks to its health benefits.

6. Get specialist care

If your partner is able to recognize that they have a problem, it’s best for them to see a specialist. This won’t only make the chance of recovery higher but it’ll also minimize the risk of relapse. Furthermore, in many cases it’ll speed up the recovery process.

As tempting as it may be, this isn’t the time to blame your partner. The fact that they feel bad will only feed their desire to continue gambling.

Finally, if you have a partner with a gambling problem, you might find yourself feeling emotionally exhausted. If you feel overwhelmed, seek help. After all, if you neglect your emotional well-being, you won’t be in any position to help your partner.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Álvarez, N. I. T., Bedoya, V. H. C., & Arredondo, N. H. L. (2010). Perfil cognitivo en personas con ludopatía: aproximación a la población no institucionalizada. Revista virtual universidad católica del Norte, (29), 98-121.
  • Mañoso, V., Labrador, F. J., & Fernández-Alba, A. (2004). Tipo de distorsiones cognitivas durante el juego en jugadores patológicos y no jugadores. Psicothema, 576-581.
  • Williams, D. J., & Strean, W. B. (2004). Physical activity as a helpful adjunct to substance abuse treatment. Journal of Social Work Practice in the Addictions, 4(3), 83-100.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.