My name is Maarit, and until June 2013 my family life was pretty typical. I lived with my husband of eleven years, Janne, and our children, Tilde and Keir, in a modest house on the edge of a large town. We weren’t rich but we were comfortable, and the children enjoyed a range of extra-curricular activities, such as theatre club and football practice. From the outside we were a normal, loving family, but on the inside we had begun to fall apart.
Janne had always been outgoing — the life and soul of the party. I knew he was going through a tough time at work, and so assumed his distracted attitude had been triggered by his additional workload. He became irritable, depressed, and increasingly preoccupied. I tried to be supportive, but with Janne becoming increasingly absent I had no choice but to focus my attention on my children, and the many events and practices he had begun to miss. I must admit I became convinced my husband was having an affair. Cash was being withdrawn from our joint account, and Janne had started to cradle his mobile phone protectively. I learned to see through my husband’s lies, and it broke my heart to suspect he was being unfaithful. The truth, once it came to light, was both a relief and an affliction.
In June 2013, I confronted Janne with my suspicions. Had he embarked upon an affair? He broke down and wept. My husband, the strong, dependable head of our household, had fallen deeply into debt due to an online gambling addiction. What had started as a bit of fun with his work colleagues had quickly spiralled out of control and our family now had no savings, no financial security. I was furious, concerned, and heartbroken. All of the emotions you hope never to experience at the hands of your husband.
But I quickly realised that Janne needed my support, rather than derision. How could I have missed the signs? How could he have got himself into so much trouble? Our family life was suffering unnecessarily, and I needed to stand by my husband. Together we suspended all of his casino accounts, of which there were five. Janne was lucky, his bosses quickly transferred him to a new department in an office away from the anxieties that had turned him to gambling. We attended a local support group together — a united front. Those were dark times I never want to return to.
If this site can help just one family like ours then I know it will have been worth it. Nobody deserves to struggle with their addiction in silence, or to have their peaceful family life torn from underneath them with little warning. We still have a long way to go, Janne and I, but the lessons we have learned during these last four months have been invaluable. I firmly believe that our relationship now is stronger than ever — although I wish our circumstances could have been different. Through counselling and local support groups Janne has learned to confront his addiction and speak things through. In turn, I have learned to recognise Janne’s triggers, and to step in when the impulse begins to overtake him again.
Gambling is a pastime that many enjoy without incident. However, I have seen how quickly matters can spiral out of control and would urge everyone to remain vigilant. Please look out for the symptoms of gambling addiction, in yourself or someone you know. When that weekend bet, evening spin, or holiday game of poker stops being fun, it’s time to stop.
You are welcome to contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org if you require any advice whatsoever. My family has been to hell and back, and I am determined that something positive shall emerge from our experiences.