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Do I tell my partners family about his mental health and addiction problems?

Community Member

Hi Everyone,

I am completely new to this forum and looking forward to getting some different perspectives! My partner and I have been together for about 5 years, after a short period of knowing him I knew he suffered from a level of anxiety (not an issue for me at all). I always thought he drank a bit too much alcohol but I also thought his family did too and because I don't drink very much I never read into it. A year ago we moved to a different city together for my work, he definitely struggled with the transition and trying to find work but after 8 weeks he got a job he liked.

Six months ago I discovered (he didn't bring it forward) that he had spent all our savings on alcohol and gambling. He owned the bank account so I didn't have regular visibility and trusted him. He had been drunk almost everyday for six months and this was a concern for me, moreso than the money so I was quick to take the supportive route. He has since been seeing a psychologist/psychiatrist and is trialing different medication for anxiety and depress - they believe the alcohol/gambling has been his coping mechanism for the mental illness. Since this all happened I said to him the most important thing was he had to be honest with me, that a relapse was possible but being upfront was what I needed in our relationship. I then caught him lying and buying/drinking alcohol 2 months ago and I gave him the ultimatum that if he lied about it again I would leave (in my mind it was strike two). I have now caught him again, not drinking, but gambling ... and its been going on for a couple months!

I'm so torn on what to do - I don't feel I am respecting myself by staying in a relationship where I am lied to and emotionally manipulated (which I don't think he even realises he is doing). I have told him this and asked him to tell his family what is going on, so I am not alone in this as a supporter. He won't do it and says it will make everything so much harder for him...

Given I have caught him out every time, he hasn't confessed the addiction abuse, I just don't think he is really admitting/dealing with these issues. I don't know if I am going to stay or go but I feel his family need to know. I need their support and I feel his best chance of recovery lies in there not being this big secret.

My questions - do you think I should tell his parents?... has someone done this to you and what was the pros/cons? any thoughts?

Any help is greatly appreciated, so thank you in advance!!

5 Replies 5

Valued Contributor
Valued Contributor

Hi Seekingsupport2019,

I am sorry that you are in this situation, I know how lonely it can be. I once was in a relationship with a guy who spent all of his money on gambling and alcohol, which I was unaware of, and then had to justify every item that I put in the grocery basket at the end of the week because he obviously would rather spend our food money on that. It was a struggle for a few years and I ended up taking control of his finances, while he got his shit together and dealt with his addiction issues. I never involved his parents in the matter as they are his parents and I didn’t really think they would support me. It would have also potentially created more hassle than it was worth. I guess my question is, 1. what do you hope to get from his family and 2. Knowing them, do you think they will support you on this?

I know the lying can be difficult and it’s hard not to take it personally (that was the part I hated most to), but realistically they are dealing with a compulsion to do these things. So they have to lie to you we’re not going to be ok with them saying “I’m going down to the pub to play pokies and drink” every day. It can take people a long time to address their addiction issues and my experience is that most don’t actively admit it, except for a few brief moments of insight (although they probably know it inside). I guess you have to weigh up whether this relationship is something you want and whether you can support your partner through this. I think that gamblers can stop (I’ve seen it more frequently) whereas alcohol definitely takes a lot more work and a strong desire to change to give it up.

Thanks for your reply Juliet_84... the current update is that we’re discussing separating, Im not sure I can deal with all of the mental health (anxiety and depression) plus unhealthy coping issues (alcohol and gambling)... which brings me to answering your questions:

I think it’s important for his family to know because I feel burdened by the secret, but more importantly I feel like they need to know so that they can help support him too. He thinks drinking in isolation is an issue so he’ll be drinking A LOT over Christmas because it’s so frequent in his family. I’m worried about it being a slippery slope.

2nd qu: I think his parents would trust and believe me. I’ve got quite a good relationship with them and I think regardless of whether we stay together or separate they want to support both of us.

He is such a wonderful person and you are right about the compulsion, I just don’t think I can stay. The thought of leaving him makes me feel so guilty, what if I make it worse for him .... 😞

Hi SeekingSuppport2019,

Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. I understand where you are coming from and it can take an enormous toll bearing the burden of someone else’s unhealthy choices, particularly when you feel that it’s in their best interests not to keep that secret. Given that you have a good relationship with his parents and also that you are considering separating, it sounds as though it would be a good idea to tell them so that he can have as much support around him as possible.

As far as feeling guilty, you can only ever have control over your actions and the choices you make. You can’t set yourself on fire to provide someone else with warmth as the saying goes. He has made the choices that he has and like every choice, there is a consequence to that. This may be the wake-up call that he needs or it may not. I think the important thing is to make sure that you are really sure before you separate that this is what you want to do. Because your mind is very selective when you separate, it will only show you every thing good about the person once you leave for the first while and minimize the bad. I wish you all the best with whatever you decide, and let us know how you get on x

We are heading home for Christmas in a week and a half so I’m giving myself time to really think about everything before that! He has a short course to finalise his studies in mid Jan so I think I would tell his parents after this so I don’t derail him attending that!... I will post an update if anything changes but thanks so much for your support and words of wisdom!

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My advice ....hard but............in one word Run