Fear of the future: A narrative analysis of the experiences of partners of problem gamblers


  • Elaine Nuske Southern Cross University, Australia
  • Louise Holdsworth Southern Cross University, Australia
  • Margaret Tiyce Southern Cross University, Australia
  • Nerilee Hing Southern Cross University, Australia


Research has shown that numerous people are affected by any one person with a gambling problem. In addition, the role of partners and significant others is known to be crucial in assisting behavioural change in those who gamble at problematic levels, yet little research has explored their stories. In-depth interviews with 18 partners of people with gambling problems were analysed to explore how the stories they told reflected how they made sense of their discovery of their partner’s gambling. Narrative analysis is used to uncover how participants developed a new sense of self in the light of their traumatic discovery, and enabled them to redefine themselves in their relationship to their partner. Three types of narratives are discussed, all beginning with similar stories of disbelief, feeling unsafe, fear of the future and a sense of powerlessness, with a subsequent movement toward taking control of both the relationship and themselves. The knowledge gained in the analysis of these narratives can be used in the development of education and support required both at individual and family levels, to enhance coping strategies for those involved.