Artwork: Tess Emily Rodriguez
She’s made all the mistakes, so you don’t have to… Ask Erin is a weekly advice column, in which Erin answers your burning questions about anything at all.
I would like advice on my situation.
I am going to start by saying that I’m in a relationship I don’t truly want to be in.
I have been with my partner for the past four years, and during that time, we have had twins, and then a year later, another baby, so I stay at home with my three younger daughters. I also have an older daughter in school.
My partner, from the moment I became pregnant with our twins, won a lot of money at a casino. From there, he constantly started to go to the casino and lost all of it. Plus, during this time racked up tons of debt — we are talking close to $50,000 worth. He has a good job, but most of his income now goes to debt.
He keeps promising to get better and then relapses — and continually lies to me about it.
Then he acts like he does nothing wrong, and my reactions are mistreating him.
Every time I try to be nice, he uses it as a way for us to go out and inevitably go to a casino. If I’m mad, he goes to a casino.
He’s very disconnected and hardly treats me with respect. It's like my worth is not equal to his. I feel like he views me as trapped with him, unable to leave due to having to stay at home and not making enough money working as a transcriptionist to make my own money to support us. When I do tell him I’m going to leave, he threatens to take me to court and get full custody of our kids. I have no support from my family because they are all very traditional, and most of them have stayed in relationships way worse than mine.
I just feel defeated. I have no voice with him, no clear communication, and I know if I leave, it’ll be years from now when I can get on my feet.
I used to feel confident, pretty, and smart before I met him — really before the gambling — and now I feel empty and like I don’t matter.
I would like advice that can empower me to be happy and know what to do in this situation. It’s tiring, especially since our twins are delayed due to being born early, and I have so much on my plate.
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I am so very sorry that you’re going through this with your partner. It sounds like things have been spiraling out of control for a while. I can understand how alone you must feel.
Gambling addiction, like any other addiction, is a mental health issue.
Your partner needs help. I don’t know if you’ve had this discussion or if he is open to some professional help, but it is as serious as any other addiction. And you know that. The financial and emotional destruction has been significant. I am wondering if your partner has gone to any 12-step meetings or looked into treatment.
The lying, the relapses, the projecting, and the threats are all actions of a person who is not well. While understanding this doesn’t make it any easier on you, I want you to remember the person who is underneath the addiction. Also…
None of this is a reflection of your worth.
And you certainly don’t need to stay stuck in this spiral.
First, check out Al-Anon or similar support groups. While 12-step programs aren’t necessarily the end-all answer for everyone, they are a great place to start, are free, and provide you with a community of support. I know you have young kids. Some meetings have childcare, and there are online meetings as well. If you are at all able to budget for therapy (some therapists so sliding-scale), I think it would be so beneficial for you right now.
You are pretty clear that this is not the relationship you want to be in, and who could blame you? Maybe there is a path to creating something new if/when your partner is in recovery from his addiction, but in the meantime, I agree this is a bad situation for you and your children.
I know leaving feels overwhelming; you have so much on your plate. Start by making a plan.
Look for any way you can begin to stash away a little savings here and there. If your family is unsupportive, perhaps there is a close friend you can turn to, to give you some emotional support. Although it may feel impossible to leave, you can take back that control and make it happen, with some time and planning and reaching out for help.
Lastly, as for his threat — the likelihood of him being able to take you to court and win custody of those kids is pretty slim. Second, he will be financially responsible for contributing to your kids (and possibly to you via alimony, which is dependent on the length of relationship or marriage and where you live).
I know you have been feeling defeated. Take that control back with getting support, making a plan, on trusting that you can do this. If you need any further help with some resources in your area, don’t hesitate to reach out again.
The information within Ask Erin should in no way be interpreted as medical advice because I’m not a medical professional. But I am here to help — to share with you the wisdom I’ve gained after years of making mistakes. If you have a question for me about relationships, addiction, dating, friendships, depression, parenting, sex, consent, what I’m watching, what I’m reading, Rainforest Jasper, or anything at all, use the contact form below or email me: email@example.com. As always, your anonymity is golden. Lastly, I’m so excited to share with you my Ask Erin Self-Care Guide, free when you sign up for my newsletter, which contains a behind-the-scenes look at STRUNG OUT and the publishing process, exclusive extras and book giveaways only for newsletter subscribers, recommendations to get you through the week, extra Ask Erin content, and more… XOXO