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Ask Dave

Gambling Relapse

Kristin's husband took a turn for the worse with an old problem of his, and now she needs some answers regarding the money.

QUESTION: Kristen in Alabama says her husband relapsed with his gambling addiction. He blew $13,000 in just four days after being clean for five years. She will be moving everything to her name, and he will not have legal access to their money. She isn't sure how to control the finances yet still allow him to make decisions with the family.

Dave's ANSWER: He can have access to all the information. He can continue to make the decisions with you. If you've moved everything to your name and he has no practical access to the money, that doesn't keep him from looking over the debt snowball list with you.

Do all the steps you're doing, but the question becomes how to maintain a semblance of him making decisions with you. He can look over the budget and debt snowball with you, and he can have a say in the decisions–as long as he doesn't want to add a gambling category to the budget. You may not want to stress him out about money, but I do. I want him to grow up. That's part of him healing from this addiction. He's got to be able to carry these decisions. Money stress wasn't what took him down; it was all the other stuff you said, like the death in the family.

You're not his mommy–you're his wife. It's not fair to you that you are married to an addict. You have to be the only grown-up as far as access to the accounts, but you don't have to be the only grown-up to make the decisions. If he's functional again, you guys can look back over the budget together and say that you don't need to go on vacation or you do need to sell that item. You can make those decisions together, but you're the only one who has the ability to implement them because you have access to the actual physical accounts.

But he can still carry the weight and the stress of the decision-making with you, and he should. I don't think this disqualifies him from that. And honestly, it's a good way for you to begin to trust him again because he's making good decisions in the conversations with you. Over time, your trust begins to rebuild again.

Five years is a long time to go on a gambling relapse. That's plain weird. I really want to dig in and see if something else isn't going on here. But the way to do this is to continue to have your budget committee meetings. Continue to discuss that snowball. But you have the checking accounts and debit cards and such under lock and key. I think that's very wise, especially right now while this is all fresh and distressing.