How to Tell Your Loved Ones About Your Gambling Problem

man talking to other man in coffee shop

Gambling problems affect millions of people worldwide. Many resources, including 1-800-GAMBLER, provide support for friends and family of those suffering from gambling problems. Some are specific to family relationships, such as how to talk to your parent about their gambling problem. But what do you do if you’re the one with the problem? 

It’s never easy to admit something you’re not proud of, especially when you feel like it’s gotten out of hand. You’ve probably wondered how to tell your partner, family members, friends, or other loved ones about your gambling problem. Admitting you have a gambling problem is a difficult conversation to have — but it’s worth having. At some point, your partner, friends, or family member(s) are going to find out that you’re maxing out credit cards, spending excessive time gambling to make up for losses, or telling some of the lies gamblers tell themselves and their loved ones. If things feel like they’re spinning out of control, you don’t have to let your problem run away with you. Take a deep breath and ask for help. Here are some guidelines for how to tell your loved one(s) about a gambling problem.

Prepare Yourself

One of the most important things to do when considering how to tell your loved one(s) about a gambling problem is to prepare yourself. You don’t need to craft a whole speech — just a few bullet points or note cards can work wonders. Writing down what you’d like to say or practicing it in the mirror can make you feel calmer when talking to whoever you are telling.

Consider Time and Place

Pick an appropriate time and place for the conversation. Ideally, you all should be in a calm mood and in a private place where you won’t be interrupted, so build in plenty of time for the conversation to happen. Choosing somewhere familiar can put both parties at ease, which means going for a private, secluded walk outside can also help, especially if eye contact intimidates you.

Stay Calm

Approach the conversation with a measured tone, rather than getting aggressive, accusatory, or hysterical. Stick to matter-of-fact “I-statements” rather than wild conjecture, and skip the excuses and explanations. “I feel like I can’t stop gambling” and “I feel like my spending on gambling is out of control” are some examples of I-statements. While it’s normal to feel intense emotions during such a hard conversation, try to lead with the goal of giving information rather than immediately diving into mental health (there will be plenty of time for that later).

Tell the Truth

Here’s the scenario: You finally get up the courage to talk to your aunt about how you’ve gotten hooked on the local casino’s slot machines. But when she asks how much you’ve spent, you become ashamed to admit it, so you quickly lie and change the subject. This can make the conversation counterproductive. The whole point of figuring out how to tell your family member you have a gambling problem is to tell the truth and come clean. Lying during what is supposed to be a moment of truth can make your loved ones feel even more hurt. If you aren’t prepared to discuss numbers or figures yet, you can approach the conversation letting them know that, rather than digging yourself a deeper hole. 

Don’t Assume Feelings — or Actions

Let’s say that you’re in debt because you’re spending all your money on sports betting, but you hide the bank statements from your spouse to cover up any signs of spending. One of the reasons you might be worried about how to tell your spouse you have a gambling problem is that you assume it’ll cause a nasty divorce. While it’s natural to worry that this might happen, if this is the case, the relationship will end as soon as your spouse finds out about the gambling anyway. There’s no reason to keep stressing yourself out by trying to hide it on top of everything else. More importantly, you can never assume how another person will react. Don’t try to predict the emotions, statements, or actions of others.

Hear Them Out

If your mom and dad just learned that you’d spent a semester’s worth of college tuition on online gambling, they’re not going to be happy — and they’re going to let you know that they aren’t. Even though listening to other people’s anger and pain isn’t comfortable, it’s an essential part of how to tell your parents about a gambling problem. After you’ve said your piece, make sure you listen to the other person or people’s feelings and thoughts on how this affects them, as well as your relationship. Another part of hearing other people out is showing appreciation. Thank them for listening and being there for you during your difficult time.

Accept Help 

No matter if it’s your spouse, parent, family, or friend that you’re talking with, they’re going to want to know how they can help you. You can adjust the help you ask for depending on the person. For instance, if you’re planning out how to tell your friend about your gambling problem, consider asking them to do fun weekend activities with you, so you don’t feel tempted to drive to the casino. If you’re planning out how to tell your spouse about your gambling problem, consider asking them to delete your gambling apps and change your phone’s settings to prohibit app installation without a passcode.

Talk Change

When you’re planning how to tell loved ones about a gambling problem, something to consider is the changes you want to make. Keep your goals realistic and achievable and break them down into small steps. Talk about tangible, legitimate steps towards improving your situation — show them that you care and want to change your behavior. 

Be Kind to Yourself

Throughout the process of talking about your gambling problem, remember that problem gambling doesn’t make you weak, morally bad, or a failure. While you may regret the decisions you’ve made so far, it isn’t too late to change and get back on the right track. 

Seek Professional Help

If you can’t stop gambling, seek professional help. One-on-one therapy, support groups, and programs exist to provide you with guidance to quit and get your life back. If you need help, call 1-800-GAMBLER.


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