My husband has a serious gambling problem and it’s destroying our marriage. After 13 years of trying to help him overcome this personal struggle (attending GA, seeing a counsellor, telling his parents, etc.), I feel helpless both for him and our marriage. This leads me to ask: is it haram to divorce him because of this issue? Is there any help in the Muslim community for this type of addiction? To my dismay, I have not found any type of Islamic-based support program for gambling. In all other respects, my husband is a wonderful, loving man. I want to grow old with him but I don’t know if I have the stamina to continue doing so with this horrible addiction hovering over our lives. I need serious direction, please help.
May Allah (SWT) reward you for being so patient these past thirteen years in your marriage, and going to such great lengths to help your husband. This is truly a challenging situation, and I will do my best to offer you some advice that is helpful, knowing that whatever is beneficial is from Allah (SWT), for He knows best.
You are already aware that your husband has an addiction, and that he does need to commit himself to professional help. With all of that education, I would guess you are already aware that this addiction is not your responsibility to fix, or your fault in any way, and this is your husband’s way of managing life, managing his own feelings of inadequacy, escaping painful emotions, and ultimately the fear that Allah (SWT) cannot accept him, forgive him, and guide him to living his life as a true servant of Allah (SWT).
You both must continue to surrender your emotions, feelings, fears, and hopes to Allah (SWT). We often look for help everywhere except turning to our Lord, and telling Him what we are going through. We may think to ourselves, “But Allah already knows, why should I tell Him?” but we speak with Him because that is how we create the connection stemming from our own hearts. We ask His help because He loves that we make du’a to Him, and we seek His guidance knowing that it is only with His Mercy that we can truly find success and tranquility in our hearts, no matter what the test is we are going through. Speak to Him, because without Allah (SWT), we are truly alone, no matter how many people we have around us.
A Muslim wife is not obligated to stay with her husband, and need not prove he is behaving undesirably in order to seek a divorce (talaq), or a khula’a (anullment.) The decision to stay or leave is a personal one, and only you can answer that question for yourself because you live with your husband.
While he may very well be an otherwise loving person, an addict is often emotionally unavailable, distracted from those close to him, withdrawn into periods of isolation, and deceitful about where they are spending their time. The addict will often try to deny the damage that is being made through their choices. All of this is emotionally taxing on your relationship, with you not feeling deeply loved, and leaving you to live with the shell of a husband who is physically there, but whose heart and mind are elsewhere. This often destroys intimacy, love, and trust, all of which are crucial components for a healthy marriage. Spiritually, you are missing your husband as the leader of the household, the one who guides the family in deen; he is not allowing you the opportunity to honour him with that role.
It would not make you a bad person, or less pious Muslimah, if you do decide that it would be healthier for you to leave your marriage. It would not mean you failed, because you couldn’t “fix him” with your love. It would not mean you are selfish, impatient, or self-centered. It would mean that you have decided that staying would be detrimental to your emotional and spiritual well-being, and you are choosing to create space in your life to heal, which cannot be done within your relationship with your husband.
However, to be sincere, it also means you are not threatening to leave in a hope that this will make him change, or as a way to get revenge, or because you want him to hurt as much as you have been hurting. An addict is already in immense pain; that is why they have an addiction, so they can numb out what they are running from. If you choose to step away, you should do your best to honour the good he has given you, and forgive him for the hurt he has caused you. Then it will be clear you are leaving because his actions are too much for you to live with, but that he himself still deserves to be treated with dignity as a Muslim man.
A question worth asking yourself is: “What has prevented you from leaving sooner?”. I believe you need to answer that question several times, to get to the truth. The truth is what is going to guide you in the right direction. Write this question down on a piece of paper and then write the first answer that comes to mind. Then scratch it out, and answer that question again, going to a deeper level of truth. Do this a total of five times. If you are honest, the fifth answer will be the most raw, real, and emotional one. For example, a woman might come up with the answer, “I don’t think anyone else could love me,” or “I might deserve this as a punishment for previous sins.” Whatever your answer is, you will own it.
Once you know the truth, sit with that answer for a few days. Challenge your truth. Is your true statement based on reality, a fear, or a belief you’ve carried with you your whole life? If there were a great wisdom in this situation you are in, married to a man who is an addictive gambler, what would that wisdom be? Surely, you are not in this marriage by accident, as everything given to us is a personalised test from Allah (SWT) to help us learn and grow.
Whether you decide to stay or go, do not stop looking for the diamond of wisdom that is waiting for you. Our lives often have patterns that repeat themselves, although not always at the same level of severity. Often the pattern keeps going until we learn to recognise it. With that diamond of wisdom you are searching for, know that your Lord wants good for you. He wants you to be near to Him, to turn to Him, to surrender your heart to Him. Marriage is often one of our most uncomfortable teachers, but it expands our heart to a width we didn’t know was possible.
Finally, if you do decide to stay with your husband and to grow old with him, then make it a choice, a conscious decision, with the intention that you are doing this because you believe you are capable of being happy and healthy. This may be by finding outside support for you to keep going, without losing yourself in his problem. You are not a victim if you choose to stay; you are a woman who, on her own, decided that this is what she wanted, with no regrets. You are choosing to stay in a marriage knowing that unless he stays committed to the recovery process, you may never have the kind of relationship you have always wanted with him. It means letting go of your expectations and making peace with what you have, and asking Allah (SWT) to reward you for your decision, while you are patient by your husband’s side. Few women can be in that role, so before you make a final decision, consult those you trust with your spiritual and emotional well-being, such as an Imam, a marriage therapist, or your family. Either way, there is a grieving process of letting go and coming to terms with what is “supposed to be,” being different to “what is.” From Allah (SWT) we come, and to Him is our return.
May Allah (SWT) guide you to that which is best for your happiness and iman, allow your husband to recover from his addiction, and grant you His continuous Mercy in your lives. Ameen.
Megan Wyatt is the founder of Wives of Jannah, a rapidly growing organization of thousands of Muslim wives who are inspired by the core goal of rekindling marriage as an act of worship. She coaches wives and couples to learn the art of her key technique Fearless Vulnerability. SISTERS magazine, an international publication now online, features Megan in their relationship column where she answers questions from wives around the globe. She is also the co-founder and key trainer for Find Your Mr. Right where she guides single Muslim women in finding, meeting, attracting, and marrying their future husband. She co-authored and published a book with her 13 year old daughter called “How to Get Hijab Ready: A Guide for Muslim Girls Ages 8-11.” A homeschooling mother of four, Megan resides in Southern California with her children and husband Zeyad Ramadan.