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Agony Uncle

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I’m starting to worry about my wife’s online gambling habit

QMy wife plays on her phone, often late at night after I have gone to bed. I don’t know which sites she visits but at some point she started playing poker and blackjack online.

We have always indulged one another’s vices, and so far the amounts she is losing seem to be small – so if the pleasure she gets is real then I guess it’s worth it. But I have noticed a dip in the joint account recently, and I wouldn’t want things to get worse. Should I start to keep some money back, or is it best to have this out even if she feels I’m judging her?

—Anon, Essex

Dear Anon

AI’m no expert on addiction, and gambling can be one of the most subtly hidden of all compulsion­s. It’s impossible for me to detect, just by reading your brief letter, whether or not there’s a problem under your roof. But I’ll do my best. Firstly, the fact that you’re beginning to worry about your wife’s gaming is in itself a warning flag. I strongly advise you to get in touch immediatel­y with one of the many help groups: Gamblers Anonymous or the National Gambling Treatment Service (BeGambleAw­are) are just two organisati­ons with a wealth of experience you can draw upon at the click of a mouse or the tap of a handset.

You say your wife gambles after you’ve gone to bed. That may be a worrying factor, too. Partners with a betting problem tend to pursue their habit away from prying eyes, either out of the house or, in your case, late at night. Others get up early to go online while everyone else is still asleep.

It’s also a concern that you’re beginning to notice “dips” in your joint bank account. You’re right to be suspicious about this. If your wife is still in the process of moving from a relatively harmless habit into an increasing­ly damaging addiction, then the more promptly you intervene the better. What was it Churchill used to say? “Action this day!”

Dear Richard My husband flatly refuses to retire Q

Both my husband and I have had busy and rewarding careers. However, while I am enjoying my retirement and feeling fulfilled by voluntary work, my husband, who is 66, is reluctant to stop paid employment, though there is no financial need. When one of his projects came to an unexpected end, we did discuss retirement, which he’d refused even to talk about before. He says he will stop when the time is right, but won’t be drawn on when that might be. In the meantime, I am living with someone who is often busy and stressed out rather than enjoying a well-earned, relaxing retirement and spending quality time with our family. I am increasing­ly annoyed by what I see as his selfish behaviour. Please advise? —Jane, via email

Dear Jane A

When you exchanged rings on your wedding day, you didn’t swap synchronis­ed watches, too, set for the next 50 years. You were always going to experience some drift in your expectatio­ns from life as the decades drifted by. And lo, it has come to pass.

It doesn’t help that the days of retirement dates set in stone are pretty much gone. The gold watch or carriage clock at 65 followed by a docile retreat to the allotment are obsolete tropes. These days old staffers never die; they just go freelance. What’s needed here is a compromise. You must both find a way to re-merge your diverged expectatio­ns. It wouldn’t be fair of you to expect your husband to give up work entirely, and anyway that would be a recipe for resentment. Neverthele­ss, he has an obligation to build in enough free time to meet your needs, too.

My own wife and I have had similar negotiatio­ns since we stopped jointly hosting daily TV shows. Judy is happy to step right back from that whole world but she understand­s that I enjoy keeping my hand in. So we’ve talked it through and come to an understand­ing.

I’m sure you can, too, but your husband needs to accept that he must give ground. He can’t just go on exactly as before – it’s simply not fair on you.

Marriages are built on compromise, right to the end. The list of synonyms for compromise in my thesaurus might help you both: “Make a deal; make concession­s; find a happy medium; strike a balance; give and take; move to middle ground.” You’ll find your middle ground; I’m sure of it. Good luck.

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