A love relationship with a gambling addict isn’t easy. This too is Els’ experience. For years she carried the burden of her partner Hans’ addiction until she became deeply depressed. The well-intended advices of family and friends: ‘break up with him already, you deserve so much better’, is easier said than done. She loves him and often enough he is incredibly sweet to her.
For years she has tried her best, but without result: she’s exhausted, desperate and financially ruined. Yet she cannot end the relationship. Eventually she decides to look for help and knocks on our door. This proves to be a turning point in her life. Suddenly it is no longer about whether or not she should end the relationship, but about herself. It is about her feelings for Hans and what it is she wants in her life. This is exciting; she is so used to worrying about Hans that it feels awkward to talk about herself. Thinking about how she should live her own life is something completely different from trying to change Hans’ behaviour.
She is shocked to recognize herself in a book by Robin Norwood ‘Women who love too much’. It turns out there is a name for her own behaviour: co-dependency. We advise her to join a peer support group, where she discovers she is not the only one with such problems, and she finds strength in the shared experiences of her peers.
Gradually her behaviour towards Hans has changed. She clearly communicates her own needs and arranges more for herself and less for Hans. She also stopped acting as a safety net for his behaviour. Noticing this change, Hans realizes he might lose her if he does not change his old behaviour. Will Hans’ behavioural change suffice? Only time can tell. But through our dialogue Els has become a stronger and happier person. She has regained control over her life. She has come to realize that she cannot save Hans; he’s the only one who can do that and in some way this feels like a relief.