D ahlia certainly had piqued my curiosity. After describing how she was burning out from walking on eggshells around her husband in order to keep him calm, she said she discovered something that changed everything.

“I found them,” Dahlia said. “Lottery tickets. Hundreds of them. I asked my husband about them, and he yelled at me. Exploded. I’ve never seen him so angry. In fact, he never gets angry. He never has to, no one does anything that might somehow upset him!”

She shook her head. “Of course I apologized and spent the next week smiling and making his favorite meals and keeping the kids quiet. But inside I was shaking. Because he yelled, which he’s never done before, and because he’d been hiding something from me, and because I was at the end of my rope.”

She wiped her eyes. “I tried not to, but I couldn’t stop myself. I waited till he left for work and went through his desk. I found bills that were never paid. Collection notices. Threats.” Her voice broke. “I didn’t know what to do! I was afraid to confront him. He’s never been violent, but when he screamed? I was scared. I know that makes no sense. I just… I can’t handle him being upset!”

In fact, it made a lot of sense. Dahlia had been taking responsibility for her husband’s emotional state, so when he was calm, she felt calm. And if he wasn’t calm, it was her fault, and her responsibility to fix it. Otherwise she felt like a failure as a wife. The perfect picture of codependency.

I started to speak, but she said, “There’s more.”

I waited, wondering how long she’d kept all this bottled inside, and what would have happened if she hadn’t come today.

“I needed to know what else he’d gotten us into. I tried to access our joint bank account online but I didn’t have a password. So I went to the bank, in person.” She took a deep breath. “They sent me straight to the manager. We are seriously in debt. Thousands and thousands of shekels. The manager was nasty, said we were irresponsible and digging a deeper and deeper hole.”

“Did you tell him you knew nothing about it?”

“I was embarrassed to admit how clueless I am about our finances. It wouldn’t have made a difference, my name’s on the account.”

“Did your husband ever give you papers to sign? Loans, credit requests, or anything else?”

She looked away and said, “He gave me papers, a few times, but I don’t know what they were for. I… I didn’t read them. And…” She covered her mouth with a shaking hand.

I laid my hand on her shoulder. “Take your time.”

Dahlia sniffled, took a few deep breaths, and said, “I knew I should confront him. Ask him what was going on, but…”

“You were scared,” I said.

She nodded.

“I understand. What did you do next?”

“Started snooping. Tried to find out about the hole he’d dug us into, without confronting him. I’m not computer savvy, but I started googling. I figured out how to check the browser history, to see what he’d been up to online.” She closed her eyes. “He’s been gambling.”

“Once?”

“Hah!” She spat out the word. “Every day. Several times a day. Thousands of shekels each time, gone in a flash. For months.”

“So you’re saying he’s a compulsive gambler. An addict.”

She leaned as far backward as she could. “Oh, no, no, I didn’t mean he’s an addict, he just has this problem…” (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 561)