GamCare Logo

Relationships and family

Is gambling affecting your relationships?

Having a gambling problem can be very all-consuming, and as well as the effect on the gamblers themselves, it can have a devastating impact on their relationships with other people, their friends and family. This can take various forms, especially the following:

  • Arguing more with your partner or family, especially about money, budgeting and debt
  • Being preoccupied with gambling and finding it difficult to focus on other things
  • Spending less time with people and more time gambling
  • Lying to friends and family about losses
  • Stealing money from friends and family to gamble with

If you can recognise these things in your relationships, it might be a sign that gambling is becoming a problem. You may want to take our self assessment test to find out more.

Problem Gambling and Relationships 

Instead of spending time with partners and their family, or fulfilling commitments, gamblers may choose to spend their leisure time gambling. This can lead a partner or family member to worry that the gambler does not care about them anymore, or that they are somehow less important. This can lead to emotional distance or tension in the relationship. It is often the case however, that the gambler is so tied up with the gambling behaviour that they are unable to think about anyone else. 

There can also be increased arguments over the family budget and finances when there is a gambling problem in the family. Often the gambler is convinced that they will be able to sort the problems out themselves, when in reality they need help to stop gambling and resolve their debt problems in a more realistic way.Broken promises and deceit can mean that partners of gamblers can lose trust in their relationship, especially if the gambler has tried to stop gambling several times but has ended up returning to the behaviour.It's easy to see how all of these factors can cause stress to a relationship and lead a partner or family member to question the value of it. Sometimes there is a lso a lot of guilt involved as a partner may wonder if the gambling problem is their fault, or if they have somehow contributed to the problem.

Problem gambling in a family can also have an effect on children - the impact of stress within the family unit and potential loss of relationship with a parent can have lasting consequences.

Jean’s story

Jean’s realisation that her husband had a gambling problem was sudden and shocking. Following the recent death of her mother, Jean went to the building society intending to make investments for her children as part of their inheritance from their grandmother. She discovered that the mortgage on the family home was double the amount it should be. Her husband had forged her signature to re-mortgage their home to fund his gambling.

Then she discovered the secret credit card bills – sent to a friend’s address. All Jean’s late mother’s estate was swallowed to pay the debts. Jean felt isolated, betrayed and frightened. She questioned whether she really knew the man to whom she had been married for many years. She felt cheated by the friends who had colluded to keep his gambling secret. She also felt that this was in some way her fault – that she had failed to keep her husband happy and safe. Through GamCare counselling, Jean was able to explore these feelings, come to terms with what had happened, and decide how she wanted her life to proceed. She was able to tell herself that her husband’s gambling was not her fault – and believe it. As a result of counselling, Jean has overcome the depression and fears she was experiencing. Jean and her husband have now re-built their relationship.

Get help

Once a problem gambler seeks help and enters recovery there can be an opportunity to re-establish relationships. Rebuilding trust can be a difficult task but relationships can heal once a problem gambler enters recovery. Breaking an addiction is a very difficult process. Recovery takes time, hard work and commitment.

If you are concerned about your own gambling, GamCare has a range of help, advice and support services.

Read more - Get support for problem gamblers>>

Read more - Get support for partners friends and family>>

If you are concerned that your relationship with a problem gambler is becoming extremely unhealthy or even violent, it is important to seek help for yourself. Likewise if you feel your children are impacted in an unhealthy way it is important to take action. Women's Aid can help with this.

You might find the following links useful:


Children's charity dedicated to ending child abuse and child cruelty.

0800 1111 for Childline for children (24-hour helpline)

0808 800 5000 for adults concerned about a child (24-hour helpline)


Advice on dealing with domestic violence.

0808 2000 247 (24-hour helpline)

Family Lives

0808 800 2222 (daily, 7am-midnight)


0300 100 1234 (for information on their services)

Was this page useful? Yes 

Find out more about...

Frontline Services

Whether you have a gambling problem yourself, or you are impacted by someone else's gambling, GamCare has a range of services designed to help you.

Find out more


If you are worried that you or someone you know is gambling too much you can talk to a HelpLine adviser from 8am-midnight, 7 days a week.

Find out more