Dear Annie: My husband and I have been married for eight years and share two beautiful children. About four years ago, I found him gambling, using substances and going places behind my back while he was supposed to be at work.
We have been in therapy since early 2020, both individually and as a couple. Since that time, he has repeatedly made the same hurtful choices. He says he wants our marriage to be better, but it seems that he’s unwilling to give up his impulsive and selfish ways. Most recently I discovered, while looking through our joint bank account transactions, that he lost $2,000 in online gambling in the last three weeks. When I asked him about these charges, he admitted what he had done and told me he never planned on sharing this mistake with me.
I am hurt, appalled and feeling so lost. I have tried very hard to improve our marriage based on what he says he needs from me, but I don’t know if he will ever agree to fully change his harmful behaviors. I don’t know if I can trust him anymore. Is there any hope for us, or has the damage gone too far and we should part ways? -
Dear Heartbroken: Your feelings of helplessness and disappointment are more than valid. The fact that your husband is lying, using substances and acting so carelessly with your shared money is already alarming -- but even more so with children in the picture.
It sounds like you’ve already tried to approach these incidents with grace. Now your husband is in need of tough love. The National Council on Problem Gambling (1-800-GAMBLER) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (1-800-662-HELP) are both helpful resources, available 24/7. In no uncertain terms, inform your husband that if he is unwilling to turn his act around, you’ll have no choice but to move on without him. What’s most important is protecting yourself and your children from someone who has proven to be an unpredictable and potentially catastrophic force.
Dear Annie: I read about people in your column wanting to end their marriage because they don’t love their significant other anymore. Here is a piece of advice I was given back in the ‘70s that, if followed, may help others avoid this. I’m sorry to say I didn’t follow it for two short-term marriages, but I did for the third one and we are still going strong.
I had a teacher in high school who told us the story of when he announced his daughter was getting married. People were excited for him. He said he asked his daughter one question -- what do you think it was? All the girls in class said, “Do you love him?” He said no. He asked her if she liked him. You always hear of people falling out of love, but you rarely hear of someone falling out of “like.” It’s better to start out liking someone and let it grow into love so you have a firm foundation for the future.
- Love vs. Like
Dear Love vs. Like: Brilliant — thank you for sharing this lesson.
Long-lasting, successful relationships are incredibly special, but rare. After the butterflies and the honeymoon period fade, it’s vital to take stock of what remains. Shared values, mutual respect and steadfast commitment to one another are undoubtedly three very important elements in the recipe to longtime love.