13 Dec 21

People often ask Gambling Help counsellors about a dilemma: Should they tell their partners, family or friends about their gambling losses, or attempt to conceal them?  This decision is never easy. Callers know there will be consequences whether they decide to tell or conceal.

Photograph of a couple sitting on a dock looking out to sea | Photo by Korney Violin on Unsplash

On the other hand, around 25% of callers  are partners, family and friends of a person with a gambling issue.  Some are reacting to a confession, while some have discovered secret gambling losses, often losses that will significantly affect their own lives.  Just like the people who call us trying to decide about confession or concealment, the family members or friends who call us need to make an often difficult decision: can their loved one with a gambling problem be forgiven? Can they be trusted again? 

Unlike people who have problems with drugs, alcohol, overuse of the internet, or even chocolate, problem gambling is often not very visible. People with gambling issues often show few signs that gambling is causing them significant concern. Maybe they’re a bit grumpy and withdrawn but really, at the moment, who isn’t? There are many potential causes for unusual irritability, especially right now when many of us are stuck in lockdown and worried about the pandemic. So even if gambling is causing you great distress, loved ones might be completely unaware. They see you on your phone a lot and don’t even consider that maybe your gambling is getting out of hand. That can leave you alone to deal with feelings of worry, embarrassment and shame. 

So, how do you decide whether to confess or conceal that you have a problem with gambling knowing that this will not be easy and will have consequences? 

To help you make this decision, it is important that you know that people recover from gambling every day, and people repair relationships that have been damaged by gambling every day.   There is no set path to make it through, but there is lots of help available if you decide you need to change your gambling habits, or leave them behind altogether. 

Of course every person’s circumstances are different so there can be no set of rules regarding this dilemma. While therapists know that keeping secrets can be destructive, we also know that there is a time and a place when — and how — they should be revealed. 

What you should ask yourself

  • Realistically, how long can I conceal my gambling and my debts? What will happen if I conceal and my partner/family finds out? Will those consequences be worse than if I confess?
  • Will I be safe if I confess? If not, what do I need to do to keep myself safe?
  • What do I want my future to look like? What is in my future regarding gambling?  Do I want to give it up or just get past this current situation?
  • What do I think will happen if I confess? What is the best scenario? What is the worst?  
  • Should I prepare a specific time to make my disclosure? 
  • If our positions were reversed, how would I want to find out? 
  • How do I prepare so my disclosure has the best outcome?  For example, by putting plans in place to limit gambling. 
  • Should I talk with this over with someone else before I talk to the significant people in my life?
  • Can I ask for their confidentiality?

All these questions require some thought. Gambling Help counsellors welcome the opportunity to help you work through your concerns. Counsellors are professional ‘secret keepers’, meaning that anything disclosed or discussed will be kept confidential. 

If you'd like to connect to a Gambling Help counsellor, give us a call on 1800 858 858 — free, confidential, 24/7. 

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