Partner's gambling and financial problems are ruling our relationship and I don't know what to do...
Thanks in advance for your support and advice. I am really lost and I'm hoping engaging with the gambling community may give me a different perspective on the issue.
My partner and I have been together for two years. When we met, he was in a dark place dealing with the loss of his grandmother, a guiding figure in his life. Our budding relationship really turned things around for the both of us, and before long we were happily meeting each other's families and making plans for the future together.
It was around that time that I started noticing strange transactions in my bank statements, I'll call them "repeat transactions" - money I had transferred to him for say a dinner out or payback for a joint purchase was going to him over and over again. At the time I wasn't really concerned, just annoyed and blamed my bank. While at work one day, he told me he called them and that it was a "known issue" and that it would come into his account in around twenty days then he would transfer it straight back to me. I now know that it was all a ruse, however at the time I was foolish enough to believe him. Money continued to funnel out of my account and I constantly asked him if he had received it yet, to which he said no. He never offered to show me his own bank account as proof, and I regret not asking at that time.
From the beginning, I noticed strange behaviours around technology. He was very secretive with his phone and laptop use. In past relationships, my ex and I had unbridled access to each other's devices and it was no issue, in fact I thought it was very healthy and trusting. In my current relationship, my partner will never leave his phone unattended, even if he is going to the bathroom in the middle of the night he will unplug it and take it with him. When he uses his phone in front of me, he angles the screen and his body away from me so I cannot see what he is doing. When questioned about this, he told me it wasn't on purpose and is "just the way he holds his phone" but never offered any more access or transparency... Some nights at home on the couch he will be on his phone literally all night, saying he is doing work. Even when we play board games or cook dinner, he has his phone in one hand, never giving me his full attention unless I get angry with him (which I don't like to do). At this stage of our relationship, I put it down to him being a private person.
Eventually he paid a lump sum back to me a couple of months later which covered most of the payments. It was around that time that he travelled to America for two months with a friend, whom also had a gambling problem (however I didn't know either of them were gamblers at the time!). Being in this environment was not good for my partner who I later learnt relapsed there due to the constant exposure to sporting games / bars etc. During this time I lent him money when he asked for various reasons, such as his travel card getting locked and other elaborate lies that I didn't identify at the time.
When he returned, things felt different in our relationship but I couldn't quite put my finger on why. We continued with our plans to move our careers and lives together to a different city. His parents came to help us move in and things were extremely tense. I still did not know about my partner's issues, but obviously his parents did and my theory is that they were very cold around me as their strange way of protecting me and "telling me without telling me" that I shouldn't be encouraged into continuing this relationship. For the first few months, my partner's brother who suffers with drug and alcohol dependency, and also is in a great amount of debt from gambling, lived with us. This put strain on our new relationship and we were constantly concerned with his wellbeing. He never paid a cent of rent or contribution towards food or bills which really upset me, however my partner as the "big brother" (and also I now realise, suffering the same addiction as his brother) let it slide.
One day while at work, I logged into my internet banking app and saw that my savings had been depleted by $10,000 since I had last checked. At this point I was sick of seeing my money siphoned out of my account, and decided to call my bank during my break to confront them. They told me that there was no "known issue" about repeat transactions, and I was transferred from employee to employee until I was put on the phone with a manager. She gently told me that these transactions were made from my phone during strange times of the night, and asked who else had access to my phone. My heart started to race. Despite all of the signs I still had absolutely no idea of the situation my partner had unwittingly involved me in. I told her that of course my partner had access, however we also lived with his brother who had a known gambling issue but there would be no way he could access my phone during the night as the door to my bedroom is always locked. She asked if I would like to report it to their financial crimes unit to launch an investigation, to which I agreed to because I simply couldn't fathom the fact that my partner could have done this to me.
As soon as the phone call ended, I texted my partner to tell him how strange the whole situation was. He immediately panicked, and it was in that moment that I finally knew that he was responsible for all of the money being, what I now know, stolen from my account. We both left work and met in a park near our house as his brother was home and I didn't want us to have a scene in front of him. He handed me a letter which explained that he had been suffering a gambling addiction for four to five years, and was in a total of approximately $40,000 debt. I was in complete shock, but went straight into "fix it" mode. By that afternoon, we had opened a joint account for him to get paid into and for me to oversee his finances. We had purchased an alarm clock so our phones would not be kept in the bedroom overnight. I told him that he had to tell his brother to move out as it was negatively impacting our relationship. I felt devastated but hopeful.
That night I flew home to be with my parents so I could seek their support and take stock of the situation. I did not tell them the fact that he had stolen money from me as I knew that if they knew that, they would never be able to forgive him. My parents were sad for me and disappointed in him that he hadn't told me the full story before moving to a new city with him. We all reasoned that $40,000 of debt on a doctor's salary should not be too difficult to settle, and that I would be there to support him through it.
When I returned home, sure enough, his brother had moved out. My partner told me that he had sat his brother down and told him the truth. His brother was so angry that he had hurt and manipulated me and dragged me into his gambling problem that he swore to never speak to him again. Sure enough, 8 months later they haven't spoken a word. The alarm clock strategy went well initially, however a few weeks later my partner made excuses like "I don't trust the alarm" or "it is too bright" and eventually, over time, our phones ended up back in the bedroom. He also made excuses for why he couldn't get his salary paid into our newly set up joint bank account, and sure enough it never happened.
Over time I became fearful of discussing financial issues with him because I was afraid of the truth and the impact it would have on our relationship. As a naturally shy, introverted person who avoids confrontation at all costs, it was easier for me just to keep my head down and focus on other areas of our relationship that were thriving. I avoided checking my own bank account out of fear that it would happen again. Every now and then, I couldn't hold it in anymore and I would express my feelings to him about the broken trust between us and how I felt he was not taking any actions to repair it. Each time I did this would take much courage and emotional strength, however he had a range of responses prepared from "I'm so tired and have surgery early in the morning, can we talk about this another time?" to "I don't know how you're ever going to get over these feelings except with time". Somehow it was always avoided or put back on me. Following these conversations, he would "love bomb" me - showering me with love and affection, making me feel once again like I would never want to leave him despite his issues.
This cycle has taken place around five times this year. I feel ashamed and embarrassed looking back on this retrospectively. My love for him and belief in him is so great that I would rather turn a blind eye then step back and force him to face his issues alone. Love truly is blind in my case! Last week while he was at work, I decided to go through all of my bank statements from the year and calculate an exact cost that he owes me. What I discovered was much worse than expected. Overall, throughout the year, I have lent him almost $60,000. He had paid back half, leaving me with a $30,000 debt. This begs the question, how are his debts not completely paid off?
When I confronted him with this question and all of the evidence I collated, he explained to me (however I do not know if this is the truth) that he was actually in around $80,000 of debt as he had other loans to banks and family members which he had not mentioned to me at the beginning of the year when he first confessed. I reacted with confusion, despair and even anger which is unusual for me. The numbers didn't add up! There was no way that he could still be in this type of debt unless he was still borrowing more money to gamble. When confronted with that allegation, he outright denied it. I asked him to prove it to me, through bank statements and his phone. He told me that there was no way he could prove it to me, and that he was really tired and needed to sleep for work the next day.
A few days later I raised these issues again. I explained that I would not sign another lease with him (ours is coming up in the next month) until he came clean about his financial situation, showed me evidence and took actions towards fixing it. He told me that he couldn't do that as he had closed bank accounts and he wouldn't be able to get the statements (which is absolute rubbish). He also told me that if he really focused and worked hard, he could be debt free in two years. This devastated me. Not only was he unwilling to be completely honest and transparent with me, but also it was going to take a long amount of time to even get over this part of the situation. This certainly did not align with my hopes of getting engaged, purchasing a house together or even going on holidays together. My heart was broken. He assured me that it wouldn't effect our lives in a negative way, and that I would hardly even notice it.
What he doesn't understand is that he has taken my power away. By emotionally and financially manipulating me throughout the entirety of our relationship, through lying, misleading and stealing, I am left feeling extremely low. I am clinging onto my love for him and the person I fell in love with, because with that side of him I can have the future that we dreamed of. However, I need to accept the reality of the other side of him who has exploited my trust, generosity and kindness. The prospect of giving up my new job for next year, surrendering the puppy we had arranged to adopt together next year, and giving up a romantic relationship to return to my parent's house in my old town to my old job is very upsetting. In a strange way, it seems easier to go along with this relationship and hope for the best.