Getting Back Together

Archived Responses: 

  • Dad with gambling problem wants to reconcile
  • Fiance is moving - should son and I move too?
  • Unhappy Overseas Move to be with Daughter
  • Considering move to San Diego to be near ex-husband

    Dad with gambling problem wants to reconcile

    June 2002

    I am a single mother of a 2-year old girl, and have recently been faced with a pretty difficult decision to make. I left the child's father almost 2 years ago, mainly because his growing gambling problems were too much for me to handle financially and emotionally. I moved back to California, and presently have managed to make a modest but stable life for me and my daughter. I've also registered to go back to UCB to finish my bachelor's. (By the way, he has been visiting us from time to time.)

    The father is now asking me to move back to Hawaii with him. Apparently, he has a chance to work in the family business which is actually very lucrative. He swears up and down that he is completely rid of his gambling problem, and that all he wants is for us to be a ''real'' family. The main pros of this situation are that 1) my daughter can be with her father (whom she adores), and 2) I could afford to stay home or go to school in Hawaii full-time without financial worries. The main cons are that 1) I wouldn't be able to go to UCB, 2) there is the risk of his gambling problem recurring, and 3) my family was and is opposed to us being together.

    I realize that this is probably a very unique situation, but I would appreciate any insight that could help me to better reach my decision...should I or shouldn't I?

    This is a tough one, but the one thing you didn't tell us: Do you love this man? Is he someone you want to live with, be intimate with, and share your life with? I think it's best for the child to see her mom and dad in happy, healthy relationships, even if that means you with a new partner somewhere down the road, rather than you with her real father, but not really happy. While it is important to consider the advantage of your child seeing her father more, it's also important for your child to see her parents in a healthy relationship, not one simply for pracical reasons. Good luck in your difficult decision making. anon, please
    It would be great if you all could be a ''real'' family. I think that you must let time be your test, though. I would wait at least a year or two and finish your B.A. to see if he is really over his gambling problem before uprooting your daughter. I am sure that this isn't the first time that he has ''sworn up and down that he is completely rid of his gambling problem.'' A two-year test is not very long when you are talking about a lifetime commitment. Best wishes. Anon
    Well, in some ways your situation is very unique; in others it isn't unique at all. It sounds like by moving to Hawaii you'll be losing your chance to fulfill yourself on your own terms; put your child through a huge change; and risk ending up with a man who has an addiction to gambling. I am very skeptical of his desire to be a ''real family''--you already are! He has a connection with your/his daughter; your daughter has a stable home with you and you with her. This is family. It sounds like he is trying his very best to live up to the ideal ''American dream'' vision of family--we struggle, go through a crisis, become estranged, feel great sorrow from the separation, go to a self-help group, believe and promise that if we just play at being the standard ''family'': dad the breadwinner, you, the totally-dependent-on-him-financially stay-at-home mom/possibly amateur student at a college that is WAY below your level. The possibility that he will re-manifest his gambling problem, either as a gambling problem or in the form of another unbalanced behavior is always looming in the background. Moving there to be with him will somewhat weaken your connection to your family--they have a bad feeling about this guy and don't want you or your daughter to get hurt in any way.

    Here's my advice, but do take with a grain of salt--I don't know you or the situation: thank him for his kind offer to try and have a traditional family structure with the two of you; tell him that you're already a family. Encourage him to remain free of his addiction and to make money at this lucrative business and to use part of this money to maintain and strengthen his ties to the two of you by traveling to see you frequently. Tell him that when you're done with your degree(s) at UCB and ready to embark on a career of your own if things seem right to you at that time you will consider moving there with him. This will sort of enable you to be diplomatic, respectful, and not self- destructive. You can feel him out. If he wants you to be totally dependent on you, then there's a problem. People who make promises like this to lure women into a co-dependent situation such as this one has the potential to become make me nervous. I believe that people usually have the best intentions, but even the best intentions can misfire.

    I wholeheartedly believe that whether or not you do eventually decide to try to ''be a family'' with this man you should make sure that you're comfortable with your reasons for doing so and that you are independent enough to always be able to find a safe and comfortable way out for yourself and your daughter.

    Let me add that if you move to Hawaii and marry him, if you regret it and try to leave the state, you may lose your legal right to take your child with you because of federal kidnapping laws. Good luck Amalia

    You're going to get a lot of conflicting advice about this one, so I'll just toss my opinion into it. You never mentioned if you still love your child's father? If so, go for it. If it were me, I'd always wonder if we had another chance and I blew it. I'd probably also ask for a commitment from him to make sure his gambling is no longer going to be a problem. Even if he says he's kicked the habit, you could ask him to join and regularly attend some Gamblers Anonymous type group. If he's willing to do it, he's serious about making things better. If he's not, he might still be in denial and susceptible to a relapse if times get tough. If he insists he no longer needs help you could point out all the risk you're taking to get back together, and everything you're leaving behind, and ask him to do this for your family.

    You can always attend school there. And if things don't end up working out, you can always re-enroll here.

    As far as your family is concerned, I'd ask them exactly why they feel the way they do, tangible complaints. Listen to see if they have some insight you don't. But the decision has to be yours; and remember that they are completely biased to you and hate the idea of you being hurt again. So you are the only one who can accurately access your risk, and determine the risk you are willing to take.

    If it turns out to be a mistake, so be it. At least you followed your heart and tried. Life won't be over and you can pick up the pieces knowing you've tried all you can to make him part of your family and an everyday part of your daughter's life. Michelle

    Dear one: I know that as you consider the possibility of living with your child's father, it is the child you are thinking of... my advice is... please don't, this relationship has to be about you and your former partner. Your child will grow up to be much healthier if she sees her mother happy and eventually in a good and healthy relationship. It doesn't sound from your letter like you are in love with him, or like that would be the main reason for you to go back with him. TThe only reason should be deep care and commitment for one another. If neither of those is present, then it will be much healthier for the two of you to remain friends but apart.

    I stayed with my husband for my children's sake and spent many years very unhappy, and both of us silently angry. Now after divorcing and spending our time apart we can be friends and mutually help our children, but we are also in good, healthy marriages of our own. A family is made out of love, not finances, opportunities, etc., and I have a hunch that your family's opposition to this reunion is on the right track... they love you, listen to them. Best to you.

    I would suggest asking the father what he has done to solve his gambling problems...for how long has he stopped gambling? Most importantly, is he involved with gambler's anonymous? If so for how long? Does he attend meetings regularly? Does he have a sponsor? Is he working the steps? If he isn't in the program is he working with someone else privately around his addiction issues? Is he paying off his debts? It is easy to make promises and a lot harder to keep from returning to an old pattern that must have been a serious problem if you chose to leave him when you did...with a newborn. Also, are you still in love with him? You showed a lot of courage and strength to take your child and yourself out of a very difficult situation. You have worked hard to create a healthly life for yourself and your child. Take as much time as you need to think about giving up the life you have created. Good luck. Andrea
    Take your time deciding on whether to reconcile with the father of your child. In reading over your questions and comments, I think you really have to consider what has he DONE to prove he's got his gambling under control. Is he attending support groups, etc.? Another question you need to consider is WHY does your family oppose you being with this man? Once you have answered those questions, reconsider them and redo your pros and cons list. If you can't attend UCB, make sure you set your career goals and aspire to them in Hawaii-you can do it anywhere you set your mind to getting it done. Wishing you true happiness for all involved
    About risk: You have a safe option (keeping the status quo) and a risky option, so if you choose the risky option, be prepared to FORGIVE YOURSELF if you have to pull up roots again and return to California.

    About love: It seems apparent that he truly loves his daughter and most likely he loves you, too. Do you still love him after all the emotional turmoil of the gambling problem? In my experience, love is necessary but not sufficient for a successful relationship, so don't let ''your heart'' be your only guide.

    About gambling: Have you seen any hard evidence that this problem is over? Is there any way to test his claim that it is? You may need more than his word over this. What do his friends observe? Can you trust his family's opinion on this matter?

    About your family: They disapprove of him, but are they willing to offer you the concrete support -- money, *free* childcare, etc. -- that you will need as an undergraduate single mother? Do you trust their opinions and advice on other matters, or -- red flag -- is this the only area of your life where you disagree with them?

    About UC Berkeley: The least compelling of your concerns, in my opinion, especially if you can go to school in Hawaii. If you can get into UCB, you can get into UH. The dirty secret at UCB is that undergrads don't get near the faculty attention that they do at less ''prestigious'' schools, so let this go if everything else feels right. Keep your daughter's interests in front of you as much as you can. Good luck. Older and, hopefully, wiser

    You didn't mention whether or not you loved this man, enjoyed living with him when he was not wrapped up in his addiction. I have 2 small children and a husband with an addiction. He is in recovery now thankfully. But it takes a lot of work on his part to resist his addiction and we are both in therapy together. I think that if you love this man, and are still in touch with the facets of him that you first fell in love with, that it is worth the effort and the risk. As long as you both agree to therapy, and it is understood that if the addiction takes over, you will be gone. Your parents concern is for their daughters well being,if the reconciliation works out, then it will be for your good as well. If the future becomes stable and healthy, they will have a chance to see your spouse in a different light. Albert Camus once said: that's what freedom is all about- a chance to be better. Just my dollars worth..... anon
    I think you are in a very difficult situation and I don't have any special insight to share with you. But I wonder whether having spent so much time apart trying to make a better life for yourself and your child, whether you couldn't wait a little while longer. Is it possible to let the father move back to Hawaii and prove to you that he is willing to work hard and stop gambling in order to have his family back? If you are unsure, waiting seems a small price for a little better sense of whether he has really changed. Also, if he has a gambling problem, is he going to gamblers' annonymous meetings (sorry, I don't know the exact name). That would also seem to be a good sign of a long-term change. Maybe you can also talk to someone else who knows him well to get a second opinion. Stephanie
    Hi, I know people have mentioned Gambler's Anonymous for your husband, but have you considered a group for yourself? I don't know if there is an 'Alanon' group specifically for family members of gamblers, but if not, you might be able to attend a support group such as Alanon (for family members of alcoholics) as addictions tend to have many commonalities. A group like this may help you decide how much you want to accept about him and how much you just can't live with. As someone who has battled addictions and also has many loved ones with addictions, I have found my own recovery around codependency to be invaluable, and I also know how hard it can be to recover from addictions and not relapse. Whether or not you stay with him, this kind of support might be helpful and comforting to you. Best of luck! anonymous

    Unhappy Overseas Move to be with Daughter

    January 2003

    I recently moved to Norway to join my family after two years and a half of separation. My wife is Norwegian and my daughter is American, unfortunately things are not going well here. First of all, I came to help her with the responsabilities of our four year old daughter who is brain damaged and needs a lot of help with her developing. Luckily she is walking, understands Norwegian words but she can not talk.Therefore SIGN LANGUAGE is our bridge of comunication between our daughter and us. Last Tuesday after an argue my wife told me to leave the house and she wants me to find a new place to leave because I do not things like she wants me to do and I also take a lot of her time to help me to settle down in this country where I do not have anybody else but my family and my wife's family.She also said she is NOT IN LOVE with me becuse I am 10 pounds overweight and I do not dress up like Norwegian guys.I do not speak Norwegian plus I do not have much money to move out and it is quite difficult to find a job here if you do not speak the language!!

    I do not what to do but if I should go back to the US where I had a good job but I know I will miss my daughter so much that I creates a lot of pain in me when I do not see her.On the other hand I do not want to be this MISERABLE for the rest of my life.I have a permit to stay here in Norway until May 2003 so I really need to think about it very carefully! I will appreciatte your sugestions and if you need more information of my situation I will be happy to provide you guys and thanks for giving me the option of talking to someone about my situation. Thank you and I hope to hear from you soon! Jose

    Jose, It sounds like during the 2 1/2 years you have been seperated from your wife you have grown apart. She may be upset that you were out of their lives for that long and she had to take care of your daughter by herself. You could either move out and try and get a job there(learn Norwegian)and continue to visit with your daughter. Hopefully, your wife will get over whatever issues she has right now. OR come back to the US, get a better job, send money for your daughter and scheduled visits as often as possible. MOVE ON BB
    It sounds like you are experiencing a crisis, but this may be just a temporary setback. Don't give up! It's very hard to adjust to a new country, and it doesn't sound like you have much support. But it will get better. You will learn the language, and you will be able to be more help for your wife. And she may have spoken rashly when she said she didn't love you. If she was being honest, then maybe you won't be together, but you should be there for your daughter, and she should help you do that. Keep trying. vm
    Dear Jose, Unfortunately I think you are going to need to turn to the massive and complex Norwegian bureaucracy in order to inform yourself about your rights and your daughter's. This will be easiest if you have a friend who speaks Norwegian and is familiar with the Norwegian system. If not, it will still be possible to pursue information, but it will be more difficult. You didn't say where you are living. It would perhaps be easiest to either 1) approach a lawyer, preferably one who has dealt with immigrant as well as family issues or 2) go to the communal (county) government offices that deal with child welfare and family issues. If you are in Oslo, for instance, the name of the county is Oslo kommune, and there is a department called Barn og familievern. They deal with family and child welfare (in the broader sense) issues. There is also a big government website,, which gives a list of various emne (subjects) covered by the government at various levels. You should look on the list for Barn og familievern (child and family welfare), Familie, foreldre og barn (Family, parents, and children), and innvandere (immigrants). I think that the communal level offices would be the best place to start, however. Children (even, I think, those who do not hold Norwegian citizenship) have lots of protection and rights in Norway, and so it would be important to inform yourself about these and about your ongoing status in the country and as a parent. Good luck! Linda
    You are in a very difficult situation. It is really hard to be in a country where you know only a few people and don't know the language or the customs or even where to go to get some help. I commend you for trying to make it work out for your daughter's sake. I hope your wife will be willing to go to marriage counseling with you; if not, you could go for counseling by yourself.

    What you need is a friend, or a person who can advocate for you with your wife and also help you navigate your way in Norwegian society. Perhaps you will find help through your posting in this e-tree; or perhaps you will find this through counseling.

    Other things you can do are to immerse yourself in learning Norwegian, and adapt yourself to the ways people do things there. You will have to do this on your own because it seems that your wife doesn't want to do it with you. If your wife is unhappy because of how you take care of or interact with your daughter, think about what might be valid about her criticisms and what you can do better. Her comments about your appearance seem trivial and possibly cover up some deeper unhappiness with you and your relationship with her.

    I'm sorry you are having such a sad and difficult time. I hope you get the help you need. Louise