Can I make my husband pay for a $ 150,000 gambling loss?

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    Dear Penny,

    We are a middle-aged couple with no children or mortgage. We have been married for a few years and my partner had a gambling problem before we were married.

    During Covid, the problem escalated. Although our income was falling, the more time we had meant more play time for him. I took out several loans to cover his debts and I paid everything for him. Fortunately, our income levels have returned to previous levels. We managed to pay off all the loans, but he still “owes” me six figures, including the amount I loaned him before the marriage.

    Despite all this, he insists that from now on our income will be our common good and will not go into my pocket. I think his income should go into my pocket until he has paid off the $ 150,000 he owes on borrowing from me for loan payments, rent, recurring expenses, and his hobby items. It’s all recorded in one of those money management apps. The way I see it, I’ve also lost so much of my savings and investment opportunities.

    He thinks I treat marriage like a cold business relationship. We even agreed before we started paying off loans and debts that we would focus on the loan payments and when we were done he would have to repay me. But we did not put this agreement on paper. That seems too business-like to me.

    I do not take any interest on the loan. I’m just trying to regain my potential savings. Am i greedy Am I too businesslike about our marriage? Now what can I do to secure my lost savings?

    His income is credited to my account, to which he has no access. But I don’t have a good feeling that I will have access to his money if he thinks I shouldn’t take it.

    – Prisoner woman

    Dear prisoners,

    There is nothing wrong with being careful. Your husband’s addiction cost you a lot and left you in debt. Now that you’ve paid off the debt with your savings, he wants to clean the blackboard. Suddenly everything should be 50/50 in his eyes. That’s not how it works.

    Think carefully about whether anything has actually changed in your relationship. Has your husband made a commitment to give up gambling for good? Did he seek help because of his addiction? Did he sincerely apologize, or did he really go out of his way to get you back financially? Because it sounds like he’s more concerned with not feeling the consequences of his actions.


    Trust has to be earned. Sometimes a spouse messes up and needs to restore confidence. But it doesn’t sound like your husband ever deserved it. I understand why you would not want to be businesslike in your marriage. But if your spouse treats you like a piggy bank, you have no choice.

    The catch-22 is that if you are 100% in control of every penny, your man can’t deserve your trust. Trust comes when you have the freedom to make both good and bad decisions. It is earned little by little.

    Rebuilding your savings is certainly an important goal. A percentage of your husband’s paycheck should be automatically deposited into your bank account. But I think your husband needs to have access to part of his paycheck, along with some financial responsibility.

    Hold him responsible for paying some bills. You will need access to these accounts so that you can confirm that they are being paid as agreed.

    If your husband hasn’t taken steps to resolve his gambling problem, this is a non-negotiable first step. He should check out Gamblers Anonymous for assistance. Many chapters have virtual meetings.

    You also mention that he borrowed money from you for his hobby items. He could sell these items so you can replenish your savings faster. If he’s not ready, listen carefully to what he tells you about his priorities.

    Of course, I am making all of these suggestions based on the assumption that you want to make this marriage work. But since you signed this letter as a “Trapped Wife”, I have to ask: Do you really want to stay married to this guy?

    Even if you are sure that you want to stay in this marriage, please consult an attorney. Having a separate bank account doesn’t mean the money is yours if you split up. A prenuptial agreement may be in place to protect your assets and to shield you in case your husband goes into debt again.

    Stick to any records you have showing your husband’s gambling debts and the expense of saving him. Monitor your credit reports as well. People who compulsively gamble often hide debt from their partners.

    Your husband has to accept that you are monitoring how he is spending his money. He cannot spend $ 150,000 and all will be forgiven and forgotten. Don’t put your trust in him if he doesn’t deserve it.

    Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Send your tricky money questions to [email protected].


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