I have a problem, and I do not know where else to turn. I like to gamble on sports - a lot. Unfortunately, I have not been very good at picking the winning teams as of late and have gotten myself into some deep financial trouble with my bookie and my wife, who did not know I was drawing from our savings to cover my losses.
Last week I was certain that the Miami Dolphins would beat the New England Patriots, since the game was played in Miami and New England almost always loses in Miami, no matter how good a team they field. I put the mortgage payment on the game, figuring my winnings would cover my recent losses. Well, New England won by a large margin and my losses are more than I can cover. My wife is horrified over what I have done, and has told me she "needs some space" while we figure out how to solve our problems - the immediate one of the mortgage payment coming due, and the larger issue of my gambling losses. She has been staying with her mother this week, and I am now devastated emotionally as well as financially.
My mother-in-law is quite wealthy, and could easily loan or even gift us the money to cover our losses, but I am afraid to ask because there might be some very tight strings attached. Any advice on what I should do to get my life back on track? I love my wife very much, and will do whatever is necessary to save my marriage.
Sports Fan in New England
As stated in the well-known 12 Steps to Recovery, the first step is admitting that you have a problem that has become unmanageable. It appears that you are not quite there yet, but are on the path that will lead you to that realization. I strongly suggest that you check out your local Gamblers' Anonymous meeting A.S.A.P., even if it is only to sit and listen to the stories of others who have "been there, done that". A little dose of "scared straight", if you will.
Your more immediate issues, if not necessarily more pressing, are the state of your finances and of your marriage. On your wedding day, you and your wife took vows to stay together "for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health...", which is palatable when you are financially stable and healthy, but harder to honor when you are poor and ill; and make no mistake about it, addiction is an illness.
I suggest that you first list your options on how to handle the consolidation and payment of your gambling debts and that you seek help for your troublesome behavior. Whether you take out a bank loan, sell your valuables to the local pawn-broker, or break down and ask your mother-in-law for a loan is a decision you and your wife need to make together, which brings me to the next part of my answer:
Whether she likes it or not - and my guess is not - your wife is being affected by your decisions and she deserves to have a voice in any solutions to the problems that have been created. Find some neutral ground to meet and discuss the issues surrounding her departure from the marital home. Bring with you a list of realistic ideas on how to solve the problem of your gambling debts, and be prepared to discuss them rationally. Tell your wife you are sorry for betraying her trust and for damaging the financial stability of your marriage, and that you will be seeking professional help for your gambling problem and sincerely mean it. You say you are willing to do "whatever is necessary" to save your marriage; now is the (one last) time to put your money where your mouth is.