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This week’s dilemma is as follows:

You and your husband (let’s call him Ian) have been married for nearly ten years, and you have two beautiful children.

One day, Ian comes home looking down and depressed. You of course ask him what’s wrong, and he takes a deep breath, and explains:

Apparently, the family is now bankrupt. Ian has been hiding a gambling habit, which has led to him gambling away your combined life-savings. He is in debt to the tune of nearly $300k, which leaves all of you desperate, and possibly homeless.

He begs you to forgive him, and tells you that he will get help for his addiction as long as you don’t leave him.

What do you do? Do you stand by him and help him through his addiction, or do you leave the man who brought you to financial ruin, and concentrate on finding a way back for you and your kids?

What do you do?


  • If the marriage was otherwise a happy one, I’d like to think I’d give him a chance to redeem himself. If he came home and said he’d cheated on me, his ass would be out that door pronto. But this sounds like a psychological issue, so I’d try to get him help.

    That said, I’d be pissed as hell. He’d have to really get his act together and it would take a long time to earn my trust again.

    Honestly, I don’t know if the marriage would survive under those conditions, but I would at least try to save it.


  • I’m going to take hidden option C.

    I would leave his ass. Close the bank accounts with our names, separate all financial matters and get a divorce, change the locks. There are so many issues to deal with, the lying, the gambling, the choice to ruin our children’s futures, the cowardice, the weak-willed temperament to sink that low, the weak-willed temperament to not say anything until you have hit critical mass.

    I would also help him. He’s the father of my children. It does nobody any favours to completely cut him off. After so many years of marriage, we would also be friends–understand each other, know how to talk with each other, see the flaws in each other without bias.

    So after the anger faded, I’d stick by him and encourage him through recovery. But no more marriage, the trust is gone and he never gets signing rights to my money again.


  • Emmy
    April 24
    10:07 am

    I think I’d give him ONE chance to get therapy and stop the gambling.

    However, mama didn’t raise no fool, so all of the finances would be put in a bank account under my name, and he would have no access to them. I’d deal with paying the bills, etc. He can have a weekly allowance.


  • Hard call. I’d probably give him ONE chance, and I’d make sure he knew he had ONE chance…but I’d make it to where he couldn’t have free access to money. I’d go with Emmy’s option-all the finances are in my name and I’d give him some money.


  • Fae
    April 24
    11:42 am

    As always, I’m ignoring the bit where you want me to pretend to have kids, lol.

    If I put myself in this situation with my current, and hopefully forever, partner, then I would stay and help them. Once. If it happened again, I’d have to reassess and would probably leave. But I give second chances, and my life partner certainly deserves one or even more depending on the severity of the situation. At 300k, that’s huge and I don’t think I’d give much, if any, leeway for a setback. But yes, I’d give my partner a second chance to get help and support her every step.

    Edited to add: And yes, like Emmy said, all finances would now be in my name with my partner having no access to them whatsoever. Car titles, mortgages, anything they could put up as collateral would all go in my name solely.


  • Las
    April 24
    2:55 pm

    Frankly, the question “do you stand by your man?” gets an instinctual “Hell fucking no!” from me every time unless we’re talking really special circumstances. In this case, I’m 100% with Venus. That relationship would be over immediately. I’d help him out (after a cooling off period, because I’m furious just imagining that situation), but I’m not staying with him. I don’t believe in screwing myself or my hypothetical children on top of how he’s already screwed us out of a naive sense of loyalty.


  • MB (Leah)
    April 24
    5:00 pm

    This is that thing again, like with the cheating or the guy who came out of the closet wearing his wife’s clothes after 10 years…What have the wives been doing all this time that they had NO clue about these kinds of activities for so long?

    But in answer to the dilemma-

    1. in reality I would never have been so clueless about this for that long.

    2. But let’s say I had been that clueless. If I take into account my current DH and what I feel about him, I’d give him a second chance and try and help him out with stopping this addiction. The guy in this case is at least finally acknowledging that he has a problem, so there is hope.

    3. That said, although I’d give him a second chance as in our relationship, I’m still a very practical girl, so first thing I’d do is get a lawyer and cut all financial and legal ties to him.

    $300k is a boat load of debt to get out of. If there were any chance to break away and keep my ability to have credit and such without that hanging over my head then I’d do what needs to be done to keep my name clean of this. There is NO WAY that I would help him pay it off. With that kind of debt anyway, I figure that just being able to support myself and the kids while he pays off that debt would be as far as I could deal with it.

    He made the mess, he can be solely responsible to clean it up.

    If I gave him a second chance and he blew it again I’m gone. Sometimes that kind of tough love is needed.


  • Louise van Hine
    April 24
    6:09 pm

    I would make continuing on contingent upon his ongoing commitment to a) therapy and b) Gambler’s Anonymous. Gambling is an addiction like alcoholism or drugs, and there is a program for it. If he sticks to the program and pulls himself out, sure.


  • I’m with MB (Leah) on this one. How the heck could a husband gamble away his family’s savings without his wife knowing? In our house, we sit down twice a month to pay bills together, look over our financial statements, adjust our savings goals, etc. The health of a family’s finances are not a one person job. That’s why marriage is a partnership…

    But, to answer the question, I’d close all the accounts and put everything in my name. I’d take him out immediately to a Gambler’s Anonymous meeting and then bring him home to work on a game plan. If he’s willing to commit to change–really commit–then I’ll stay with him and help him, but at the first slip up, and I’m gone.


  • Marianne McA
    April 24
    6:46 pm

    I love the way he only looks down and depressed. How much money would he have to lose before he looked suicidal?

    I’d stay with him for now. I suspect he may only have told me at this point because he’s run out of options, rather than because he’s really accepted he has a problem.
    So I wouldn’t let myself hope he’ll change. However, I don’t see this as a character flaw – addiction is an illness, and I wouldn’t walk out on him if he had cancer. I’m married to the man: I have to at least try and see if with my support he can recover from this illness.

    If he won’t commit to that – won’t have therapy, won’t attend Gambler’s Anonymous – at that point, I’m imagining I’d have to divorce him just to avoid future financial repercussions.


  • I have my own money from an inheritance that only I, by law, can touch. So he would not be able to gamble away any money other than his own.
    I’d pay off whatever he owes but only if he gets helps with his addiction and agrees to go to marriage counseling. I would have lost a HUGE amount of respect and trust and we would need help to stay on the right track in our relationship.

    However, a wife would have to be pretty blind to not know what has been going on, so if it even gets that far then it’s half my fault for not stopping it. He would not be totally to blame.


  • Heh, this is what I get for thinking about these things too long, others have already posted my thoughts.

    See, I don’t have enough imagination to conceive a relationship in which I was so unaware as to be taken by surprise by such news.

    If the family’s finances are in the hole to the tune of 300 grand, how often have the utilities been shut off on our asses in the past, say, year, two years? How often have my credit cards been rejected or my checks bounced?


  • I’d leave him but keep the door open in case he manages to straighten himself out. Addicts are great at fooling themselves and others. I would need proof that he changed before taking him back.


  • Anon76
    April 24
    9:19 pm

    Wow, see, this could happen in reverse in other households.

    My beloved honey sucks at financial stuff, so I do all that (a total reverse from the 50’s – 60’s era and earlier). However, he is not some lame duck.

    There is no way I could hide a debt of that magnitude, nor a habit to have it get to that magnitude. You’d have to be in lala land not to figure that something was seriously wrong. Like constant calls from creditors and what not.

    So basically, I can’t fathom this situation occurring in my current life. I wouldn’t want to be married to either of the participants in this fiasco.


  • How does it happen? At the beginning of the relationship…

    He says: I’ll handle the money, dear.
    She says: Thank God! I’ve never been any good with numbers.

    He receives both paycheques, handles the bills, the credit cards and the mortgage is in his name.
    He maxes out old credit cards and opens up new cards to cover old debt, he takes a second mortgage on the house.
    He diverts the billing address and phone number of the utilities and other bills to the job because it’s ‘just easier for him to do it there.’
    He makes excuses for why the money isn’t where it’s supposed to be when (if) she asks, and comes up with it (from the credit cards) when she has a need.

    It’s not that tough to do. If the woman loves and trusts her partner, it’s even easier. And yes, a scenario like that can run into the hundreds of thousands.


  • Lorraine
    April 24
    11:53 pm

    I’d dump his ass and wouldn’t think twice about it. I would lose respect for him for being stupid and weak enough to get us in such a serious bind. That he would jeopardize the safety and well being of our children is unacceptable, (by that I mean running the risk of us being homeless). My first loyalty is to safeguard my kids. Period. The end.

    Anyway, at least in California, his 330k debt is also mine. It’s not only a community property state, it’s a community debt one, too. Just the thought is awful.


  • The lying and hiding stuff thing would piss me off no end and I doubt I would stay with him as I could never trust him again – what else is he doing I don’t know about? Is it only because he got caught out that he confessed? Love is fine but honesty kicks it’s arse every time.


  • I think I would take option C, which would be that I wouldn’t make a decision until I had had time to think things through and look at what options were available. I know that is not really an answer, but..I could never make such an important decision on the spur of the moment…


  • Love is fine but honesty kicks it’s arse every time.

    That needs to be in a t-shirt!


  • Masha
    April 25
    8:13 am

    I’ve known a couple women who had something similar happen to them, but I knew them through friends so I’m not sure of the exact details. I do know it wasn’t gambling. In each case, the husband owned a small business, it failed, and the husband ran off and was never heard from again. Both not only ran away from the mountain of debt, they took the couple’s retirement money.

    One woman thought that because their finances had always been separate and the house was in her name, that she’d be okay. But we live in California, which as Lorraine pointed out is community property/community debt. It didn’t matter to the creditors that the wife had no idea what her husband had been doing.

    My impression is that given how easy it was to get a credit card or a loan a couple years ago, that it wouldn’t have been that hard for one spouse to hide a growing pile of debt from the other. Especially if as a small business owner that spouse’s paycheck had never been stable.

    To answer Karen’s question, if he makes getting help conditional on me not leaving him, then I’m not sure he’s committed to taking care of his problem. If he’s not really committed, then because of how my state handles debt, it’s best for our children that I divorce him now before he can accumulate more debt.

    Sorry for the long post.

    * re-lurks *


  • Marianne McA
    April 25
    3:50 pm

    How does it happen? At the beginning of the relationship…

    Even after that…

    Someone I knew had all the stuff in her name (after it had happened before), and then had to go into hospital. He used the opportunity to take out a loan on the house by simply forging her name on the documentation.

    She knew nothing about it for months. So even when you know what you’re looking out for, if you don’t think that way, you can be conned.

    (She did divorce him then.)


  • Sarah McCarty
    April 28
    1:00 pm

    I would start divorce proceedings immediately with an emergency filing for immediate separation of finances. I would never be able to trust him again for all the reasons stated here and my first loyalty would be to my children and keeping them safe. I would also protect the children and myself from potential identity theft, if he hadn’t already compromised the above. If he had, I’d have to start untangling that mess. I would hope he got help, but my time would be consumed getting out of the mess he put us into which would likely take years. And I would feel so betrayed and angry, while I might eventually forgive him, I would never ever trust him again. So, the marriage would be over.


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