Marriage Missions International

Gambling is Destroying Our Marriage and Family Life

What do you do if you are married to someone who is caught up into gambling (and might even be going down the downhill slope of gambling away your marriage, family relationship, your home and everything you own and treasure)?

What if YOU are the gambler who is caught up in this type of behavior?

These are two questions we’d like to address in this article that we pray can help you in some way. We know this is a tall order and that we can only scratch the surface of the subject. But because of the seriousness of this problem, we know it’s important to do what we can to help those who are overwhelmed by it all.

We don’t want to approach this subject as if we are the experts here at Marriage Missions advising you, because frankly, we have very little experience in this area of marriage even though we personally know of several couples that have/are dealing with this issue. Instead, we will facilitate within this article, the opportunity for others who are more experienced to share what they have learned.

First, lets look at gambling in general to give you information that you might find helpful. We’d then like to address the person who is married to the gambler (and other family members and friends) and the gambler as well.

One of the “truths” concerning gambling that we didn’t know was brought up in an article titled, “Gambling’s Impact on Families” put together by Ronald A. Reno. He wrote:

“A University of Nebraska Medical Center study concluded that problem gambling is as much a risk factor for domestic violence as alcohol abuse. Domestic violence murders in at least 11 states have been traced to gambling problems since 1996.”

Another article written by Ronald Reno (and posted on the web site) brings out the scriptural reasons why gambling isn’t something we should indulge in. He brings out the point:

“Jesus commanded, Love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:31). Gambling, meanwhile, is predicated on the losses, pain, and suffering of others. For one to win at gambling, others must lose. For many, the ramifications attributable to their gambling losses are profound. Families touched by a gambling addiction are at greatly increased risk for such negative outcomes as divorce, bankruptcy, child abuse, domestic violence, crime, and suicide.”

Besides that point, the article brings out others as well, with scriptures to support them. To find out more, please click onto the link below to read:


After you recognize that there is a gambling problem going on within your family and that gambling can grow in its negative impact, what can the family do about it? had an interesting article posted on their web site that brings out the important point:

“There’s the failure of the non-addicted spouse and other family members to respond appropriately and helpfully to the situation. Now, don’t get me wrong on this. I understand that the person with the addiction is the one who must ultimately take responsibility and make the changes to get healthy. If you are the supportive spouse, I am not suggesting that you are responsible for the addiction or the havoc it’s wreaking in your home.

“I am suggesting, however, that the way in which you respond can either create an environment that will help your spouse beat their addiction, or it can contribute to and compound the problem. As the partner who is one step removed from the addiction, you will have a huge impact on how this will turn out —for better or worse.

“The tendency of many in this situation is to tiptoe around the addict and their habit. But while letting sleeping dogs lie may get you through the day, it will not bring about the results you desire long-term.”

In this web site article, “Tiptoeing Around Addictions” Dr. Dave Currie, with Glen Hoos, made the point that “DENIAL” is one of the “unhealthy ways that “people respond to their spouse’s addiction.” They make the point that the addict tries to deny that there is a problem, but:

“Their spouse, family and friends often get hooked into it as well. The spouse in particular may deny the extent of the problem. They may try to convince themselves that their marriage is strong enough to bear up under this pressure, and that the issue is better left alone.

“You’ve got to be willing to let go of the security of that fantasy, and face reality. The first (and often hardest) step is admitting you have a problem. The issue is there whether you admit it or not; accepting the truth puts you on the road to recovery. If you deny the depth of the problem, your spouse will have no compelling reason to face it either, in which case your situation is never going to improve.”

And then there is, “ENABLEMENT,” which is “denial taken a step further.” As Dave Currie and Glen Hoos write:

“It’s covering for the addict, protecting them from the natural consequences of their actions. Some examples:

• “The boss calls and asks the woman why her husband isn’t at work today. ‘He’s in bed, sick,’ she answers… neglecting to mention that the sickness is due to a killer hangover incurred the night before.

• “The wife’s gambling addiction has strained the family finances to the point where the bills can no longer be paid. Instead of facing the real issue, the husband arranges to skip a mortgage payment and opens yet another line of credit.”

It’s tempting to do this because it seems easier to do this than to face the truth. However, as it’s pointed out:

“What you’re doing when you cover for the person is removing their motivation to change. Maybe he needs to get fired to wake him up. Maybe she needs to go to the store and have her credit card rejected when she’s trying to buy groceries to realize there’s a problem here.”

“Instead of enabling, you’ve got to intervene. Whether that’s a one-on-one confrontation or some kind of a group intervention depends on what you’re facing. But you need to come to the point where you sit down and say, ‘Okay, we have a problem here. What are we going to do about it?'”

Another way that a spouse and family may tiptoe around addiction is that they turn to “ABANDONMENT” as a way to cope. They:

“Cover for the addict one too many times and have come to the point where they say, ‘You know what? You got yourself into this mess… now get yourself out of it!’ They wash their hands of the situation and leave their spouse to deal with the problem alone.

“It’s understandable that some people get to this point. After all, it’s their spouse who chose this road, and paying for their bad behavior gets old very fast. Nevertheless, if you’re in this position you’ve got to ask yourself how you want this to play out? Do you really want your spouse to get cleaned up and get your marriage back on track? Because if that’s what you want, you’re not going to get it by leaving your husband or wife to fend for themselves. They’re going to need your support and encouragement every step of the way.

“Somehow, you’ve got to suppress the urge to cast blame and point fingers. Instead of putting the problem between you, you’ve got to stand side-to-side with the problem in front of you and say, ‘We have a problem. It happens to be your addiction, but it’s our problem, and we’re going to solve it together.’ What a world of difference from the, ‘It’s your problem… deal with it!’ approach.

“This is undeniably tough, especially if your spouse is not showing a willingness to do the hard work of recovery. However, don’t mistake support for softness. Supporting your spouse may mean confronting them, refusing to cover for them, and perhaps even separating for a period of time while they work through it. But it’s got to be done in a context of love and encouragement, and an attitude that says, ‘We will do whatever it takes to get you healthy and to put our marriage back on solid ground.'”

Now, it’s true that you may have been there and done that, but it’s important not to keep allowing this addiction to keep going on in your home, because it will continue to erode your marital relationship until eventually your marriage will be totally destroyed. There is no doubt that help is needed —desperately!

“FLYING SOLO” is another temptation facing you in all of this. Dave and Glen write further:

“As in many other areas of life, pride can be crippling when it comes to dealing with addiction. Pride causes you to say, ‘We don’t need help; we can handle this on our own.’

“Most addicts require outside help to fully conquer their habits —and fortunately, help is widely available. Whether it’s Gamblers Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous, Sex Addicts Anonymous —name the addiction, and there is likely a group to help people through it. And if there aren’t any groups for it, there are counselors, pastors, friends to walk alongside you and helpful resources that can really make a difference.

“You’d be wise if you reached out for help at this time, and not just for the one with the addiction. There are also support groups for spouses, friends and family of addicts. Talking with others that are on a similar journey can bring you strength in difficult times.”

So, in our search for help for those who are being impacted by the negative effects of gambling upon their lives, we found the following to be something that you may want to research and possibly use in some way. The authors wrote:

“Because of the involvement of a family member, our hearts have been drawn to the Christian Recovery of Compulsive Gambling and Gambling Addiction. After doing considerable research on the internet on compulsive gambling and participating in the Recovery Process (Gambler’s Anonymous) with a loved one in a Support Group (Gamanon), we would like to share what we have found with all who visit this web site.”

To take advantage of what they offer, whether you are a family member, friend or someone who is dealing with your own gambling issues, please click onto the following web site link:

IS GAMBLING A PROBLEM? Gambling Addiction Information

Something that would be good for the gambler to consider is written by Gregory L. Jantz. Please click onto the link below to read:


From the ministry of the following article offers a tool “written by those who were, themselves, captive to gambling and who are now free indeed.” To read about it and consider if it is something you should use, please click onto the link below to read:

HIGHER STAKES: Freedom From Gambling and Betting

And if you think that it’s only those who are younger that are having problems in this area of life, think again. The ministry of Focus on the Family put together a great series of articles aimed to help those who are living out the years of “Midlife and Beyond” —those who are betting their life savings away hoping to obtain more to live on in their growing years. To read the first of the series and then continue on to the other articles they offer on this subject, please click onto the link below to read:


We hope you have found this article to be helpful. We encourage you to “Join the Discussion” below if you have further insights, prayer requests concerning this issue, and encouraging help for those who need it.

This article was compiled by Cindy Wright of Marriage Missions International.


Join the Discussion!

But please observe the following guidelines:

  • Try to be as positive as possible when you make a comment.
  • If there is name-calling, or profane language, it will be deleted.
  • The same goes with hurtful comments targeted at belittling others; we won't post them.
  • Recommendations for people to divorce will be edited out–that's a decision between them and God, not us.
  • If you have a criticism, please make it constructive.
  • Be mindful that this is an international ministry where cultural differences need to be considered.
  • Please honor the fact this is a Christ-centered web site.
We review all comments before posting them to reduce spam and offensive content.


8 Responses to “Gambling is Destroying Our Marriage and Family Life”
  1. JOHN says:

    (AUSTRALIA)  I was a problem gambler until one year ago. My wife did not know a thing as she was caring for our terminally ill daughter. Since my daughter passed away last year, I revealed everything to my wife. She realized then why bills were not paid and we never had any money.

    Since revealing my problem, she has built this wall between us. Even though I have not gambled for a year, she remains devastated that I cheated her out of a life. I agree with her and I need help in the way of saving our marriage. I do not want to lose her as I love her very much and my son.

    Please, is there something I can do to start living a proper life? We seem to argue a lot, mostly being my fault, as I do not know what to do or say. I have been praying and seeking guidance from my late daughter. Thank you for being here for all of us.

  2. Dawn says:

    (UNITED STATES)  My husband filed for divorce last year after I discovered he was having an affair. I knew that he plays the lottery and went to the casino occasionally, but until I was going through the paperwork for the divorce, I had no idea of the extent of his spending. We have other problems (which I’ve read about here and on other places), such as living next door to our in-laws (yes, there are “leaving” the parents and boundary issues), which is where he has been living since January -with his mother.

    He has no interest in reconciliation. In fact, he continues to blame me for everything related to the “failure” of our marriage, and considers that I am entitled to take my things and get out of the house. I am heart-sick at times, even though I realize I can only take the responsibility that is mine. I read John’s comment above; I’ve prayed for and with my husband, even for the other woman and her husband and child. Nothing changes. I understand that if my husband and I “get right” with the Lord as we need to and with each other, there is no problem that can’t be solved… but I also understand that doesn’t mean it would be easy or that things would magically fall into place.

    At least John was willing to “own up” and try. I’ve lost 20 years of my life and a whole lot, but worst is the impact of the previous denial and its continued presence in our lives and what it does to our daughters -who don’t know who to trust and are experiencing stress-related health problems. Plus, one daughter thinks God is a crock now. And yes, as more truth has surfaced, he becomes more abusive, to anyone (myself or our daughters) who challenges his version of reality.

    I finally had to get a restraining order this summer when he came into the house this summer and destroyed our dehumidifier after the basement flooded because it would “run up the electric bill” and we got sick from mold/bacteria blown through the air conditioning ($200 + in medical and replacement costs to me).

    Nothing makes logical sense anymore; it’s as if he thinks my going away will solve his problems. And I actually think the affair is nothing but an attempt to get a new source of funds; she had a good job (she was his nurse) and she made it sound like she was going to marry him. They are both supposed to be Christians; I’ve seen non-Christians show more decency when the truth came out. But they continue their affair, she remains in her marriage, my husband continues to gamble as he can afford it and our daughters and I continue to live in a stress-filled limbo.

    I find some peace in Christ, but it is still a very hard place to be, especially when I realized their eternity is more important than our marriage or my happiness. That’s making me cry, so I’ll stop there. Thanks for the good information… I wish I could use it.

    • Marie says:

      (AUSTRALIA) My father is a compulsive gambler and refuses to get help because he believes he can help himself. My parents have been married for 30 years and still have not payed off their mortgage because of my father’s gambling habits. They refinanced and my mother regrets it as it has just encouraged the habit.

      As a child, all I remember is listening to arguments about the same thing- gambling. My mum always took him back because she believed his lies -I’ll change I promise, I’ll get the money back! We don’t even know how much money he owes people, that’s how bad it is. I think she stayed with him all those years because of us kids, but we’re not kids anymore! We understand the situation and encourage her to leave him.

      A few years ago he asked my husband for $2,000 and my husband said yes. When I found out I was furious! My husband said we had to give it to him; he said he was in danger of getting hurt. My father lied and said I’ll pay you back in 4 weeks but we haven’t seen the money. He also asked me to keep the situation a secret and don’t tell my mum. I couldn’t believe he expected me to lie to my mum?! Of course I told her but it was a complete waste of time! He not only owes me, but his parents and his siblings and a numerous amount of friends and co-workers. These debts have become my mum’s and all she works for, is to pay bills. They have nothing.

      We’ve tried and tried to get him to change by attending marriage counselling and church groups and programs, but nothing has helped because he refuses to cooperate. My father is living with his parents and its been almost 4 months but it’s funny that he still returns home when my mother isn’t there. Who knows what he does? Probably keeping tabs on sporting bets he’s made on channels he can’t access at my grandmother’s house. My mum should have changed the locks!

      I pray and pray for my mum, she has done nothing but support him and his family. My mum is an angel and my dad does not deserve her. Maybe if he treated my mum with respect and showed his so called love for her, we would be more sensitive towards him. But he doesn’t. All he does is yell at her and lie about everything. What’s a marriage with no trust?! My mum is only young and deserves to live the rest of life in happiness with her children and her very first grandchild, our son! I think we’re the only things keeping her sane and putting a smile on her face. I do believe that God will watch over her and guide her to make the right decisions no matter what.

      I hope one day my dad will wake up and realise what he has to do- accept that he has a massive problem that needs fixing through professional help and faith. I hope he realises how lucky he is to have a wife who has stuck by him for thirty years, even though he has caused her so much pain.

      • Kim says:

        (USA) I read the article and feel like I read my own life. I have been married for 25 years and just divorced less than 3 months. I have 2 wonderful sons and my husband is addicted in football gambling, starting 14 years ago when he came to this country. I have been crying and crying since then. Usually, he hid his income, put most of the expenses and responsibilities for me to take care of so he could have as much money and time as he could to gamble. Worse than that, gambling changed his behavior. He didn’t care about any family activities anymore, neglected my kids and verbally abused me. When he won, he flew back to our country to show off with gifts for relatives, friends… leaving us home, unsecured emotionally and financially.

        When my first son started working, he borrowed my son’s money, using the excuse that he helped his parents. We were so upset and disappointed but he acted happily as nothing wrong with it. I checked with his family and found out that he was lying. When he heard about that, he was angry, yelled at me to stop me from contacting anybody around him. I could not take it anymore so I moved out. Without trust and respect, I cannot stay in the marriage even though I treasure the value of family.

        Now, I’m still struggling to heal. But I know at least I’m not hopeless as when I lived with him. I believe that I make right decisions and I deserve to live my own life instead of suffering from someone else’s bad habit. I tried so hard and it is worth it. I have 2 wonderful sons who make my life meaningful. I wish all the best for your mom and for all people out there who suffer from spouses’ addiction.

  3. Louis from United States says:

    I’m almost engaged to a compulsive gambler. The thought of quitting scares her and she won’t do it. Over $300,000 in 8 years of gambling. Foreclosure, high interest loans, bankruptcy and owes her family money over $13,000. Whenever she gets money, it goes to the casino. She races to the bank to get the money out of the account before the bills are paid from it. Then it is overdraft changes and cut off notices.

    At one time she told me she had 8 months of sobriety. Now she is more honest and admits that she goes every 2 weeks. she continues to gamble though she will be evicted from her home in 3 weeks. Not a penny saved up for deposit or rent on a small apartment. She initially offered to get sober and stay sober for 6 months. I’d want at least a year.

    Just recently she has decided that we are very much in love and that we should get married now and worry about the gambling thing later. I’m slowly deciding that I need to back out of it. She has gone to meetings for 11 months, but never does stop gambling.

    • Cindy Wright from United States says:

      Louis, If you marry this gal, in her unrepentant, unchanged, still rationalizing and engaging in her gambling addiction lifestyle, you will pay with everything you’ve got –not only emotionally, but financially. You will be carrying her and everything toxic she will bring with her. Are you ready for that? You will take on her debts and she will have access to your money –“the two become one.” Whatever debt she runs up while you are married, you will be responsible for until it is paid off… we’ve heard this from many, many spouses over the years. You are seeing red flags waving, warning you of what will be your future if you marry. If you choose to overlook them, you will pay dearly. Please know that. You won’t get a free pass on this one.

      I have no doubt that “she has decided” that you “are very much in love” and that you should get married and “worry about the gambling thing later.” That’s what addicts do –they see ways to gain access to finances, which can support their habit in whatever way they can, and “decide” that is the way to go. I have no doubt that she feels loving thoughts about you. But that doesn’t mean, because of the way she is right now, that when you marry you will have a loving, healthy marriage. You will just be bringing the sickness into your life on a full time basis. She needs to be desperate enough to be sick of her addiction, turn from it, get help, and then keep walking the road to health. But that takes years, and even then, there is no guarantee that she won’t fall back into this habit. From what you’ve written, she has an addictive personality. Yes, she can change, but from what you’ve written, there sure doesn’t seem to be any evidence that she’s even close to being at that point. I hope you won’t be an enabler for her and that you will guard your heart and future from going into a marriage that is destined to be toxic.

      Keep in mind that you will not only be making your vows to a woman (perhaps her), but you will be making your vows to God to KEEP your promises. This, in itself, should be a sobering thought. Be wise, heed warnings, and pray for wisdom. You need it. I’ll be praying for you too.

    • Tony from United States says:

      Run, don’t walk. It is likely she is looking for her next source of cash. An addict cannot really love you. She is hooked to her addiction. She is unable to love in her current condition.

      If she really loves you, she will be willing to do the work to never gamble again and be 100% transparent about her life. Anything short of that and you are simply marrying a large set of problems. The most loving thing you can do is allow her to face the consequences of her addiction.

    • Jane from United States says:

      As someone recently married to a spouse who is addicted to scratch offs, I would definitely recommend that both of you seek counseling for a full year, if you really want to marry her. Don’t settle for anything else. Her wanting to marry you right away seems like a red flag, and a realization on her part that she isn’t going to recover, and that if you marry her, maybe you’ll feel obligated to stay with her despite her gambling. Otherwise, friendship is your best bet.

      My husband and I currently attend counseling, but if knew what I know now, I would not have married him. There are so many lies and so much financial destruction related to his gambling. My goals and life has changed.

Marriage Missions International