"My Husband is a Compulsive Gambler"
Her Turn"Our Problems Started Long Ago"
"Six months ago, I kicked my husband out of the house," said Kim, 37. "Nick is a compulsive gambler, and though I've adored him for twenty years, I can no longer be married to him. Except to discuss our kids, Nick and I have barely spoken -- he's living in an apartment across town. Last week he called to tell me he'd gone to Gambler's Anonymous. He promises he's going to stick with it this time, and he begged me to let him move back in. I don't know what to do. How can I ever trust him? I thought asking Nick to leave was the hardest thing I'd ever have to do, but healing our marriage seems impossible.
"We met when I was 16. My family had just moved to New England from Montreal. I'm the youngest of four girls; my sisters are all far prettier and smarter than I am -- and I was finding it hard to make friends. Nick was a senior. Handsome and charming, he was clearly the smartest, most popular boy in high school. It was love at first sight for me, and I was astounded that a guy like him, who could have any girl he wanted, was actually interested in someone like me.
"After one date, we were inseparable. Though my parents wanted me to go to college, I couldn't wait to settle down with Nick and raise a family. We married two months after I graduated from high school. By then, Nick had a job in the ticketing and reservation office of an airline, and I was a secretary for a businessman in town. I thought my dreams had come true.
"For a while, they had. Nick's family welcomed me with open arms. We moved into a small house down the street from his folks, and his mother treated me like the daughter she never had. She was always there to help out, and when the kids came along -- Kelly is now 17, and Sean is 13 -- she volunteered to baby-sit so I could keep working. She was generous with her money, too, popping over regularly with shopping bags filled with new clothes for the kids.
"Nick put in long hours on the job. His shifts changed every few months. He took lots of overtime and, since airlines are round-the-clock operations, he could conceivably be working at all hours of the day or night. When he told me that he had to stay late, there was no reason not to believe him. Besides, Nick has always been able to talk me into anything.
"But I started to get increasingly anxious about money. We never seemed to have any, even though Nick was working all the time. If I dared ask about it, he'd fly into a rage. 'That's my job,' he would shout. 'The home is your job. That's the way my father did it, and that's the way I do it! The bills are getting paid, aren't they? You have food on the table, right? So leave me alone!' I was never allowed to see his paychecks. Whenever we were low on cash, Nick had a ready explanation. I learned not to ask too many questions, or he'd unleash his temper. I thought we were happy. But clearly, our problems started long ago, and I chose to ignore them."I Convinced Myself That Things Were All Right"
"For years, I convinced myself that things really were all right. After all, my husband wasn't a goof-off, or an alcoholic like my father was. Actually, I didn't realize until I was well into my twenties that Dad had a drinking problem. My sisters and I adored him, in spite of his outbursts. Mother always made excuses for him, anyway. She always forgave him: 'Oh, Daddy didn't mean that,' she'd tell us. She insisted we all love each other, never fight or argue. Peace at any cost was her motto.
"So, like my mother, I whitewashed my life, literally. I became a cleanliness fanatic. The kids were immaculate, the house was immaculate. I could calm myself that way for a while, but then I'd start to feel anxious again and start yelling at my kids. Of course, Nick was the good guy. He'd come home and say, 'Guess where we're going? Disney World!' Kelly and Sean would be so excited, and my stomach would churn. Where, I wondered, did the money for this trip come from?
"Then, one night, my worst fears came true. Nick came home and told me he had gambled too much at the dog track. He explained that it was near his office, and he had stopped off with the guys -- just once -- to try his luck. I asked how much he had lost, but I never got a straight answer. It was enough, he said, that we had to take out a second mortgage on our house.
"I was hysterical, but Nick was so remorseful and promised it would never happen again. So we took out a second mortgage and I tried to forget it happened.