‘My ex owes me £99k, but I chose to walk away for the sake of my mental health’

Could you give me a little background about you, your life and career so far?

I’m 36, have a Masters degree, and a successful career in HR. I bought my first home at 24, have always had savings and spent responsibly, and generally have always considered myself to be financially savvy and intelligent enough to not be easily manipulated or taken advantage of.

What happened with your ex partner?

I met him when I was 30. He was up front about having a gambling addiction from the start and framed it as something that he was getting over. It soon became apparent that this wasn't the case, and during our 4 year relationship he had multiple relapses where he lost his wages in the casino or the bookies. I didn't fully understand the addiction and I wanted to support him to get better, so started bailing him out so he could pay his bills and support his children.

How did the situation progress?

It got to the point where I was taking out loans on his behalf because his credit file wouldn't allow him to do so himself. The loans eventually became unmanageable as he would inevitably relapse again and I'd need more money to bail him out, and so I took out a second mortgage to consolidate them. He then took my credit cards without my consent and maxed them out, which forced me to default on them as I couldn't afford the payments alongside the second mortgage. I even sold my car at one point.

For most of our relationship, he lived in my house without contributing to rent or bills money. His two children lived with us for most weekends, and I got very close with them - they are basically the reason I stayed with him for so long.

He also borrowed money from my parents who later raised concerns with me about his manipulative behaviour. I was completely blind to how he was treating me because I just wanted him to get better. He even went so far as to blame one of his relapses on a miscarriage I’d suffered. I thought I was helping him because we were going to gambling counselling and I was encouraging him to speak to his family about his addiction, but in reality, by being his financial crutch, I was enabling him without realising it. This all escalated until we eventually broke up.

What happened after you broke up?

He had always promised he would pay me back everything he owed me, and a couple of payments did get sent across, but then months would pass with nothing. I was finding myself constantly chasing him for money while struggling to pay my own bills as well as his debt.

After months of me chasing him, and four years after we actually broke up, he told me he had spoken to the CAB about his legal rights, and announced that he didn't legally have to pay me back anything. He said he would potentially try to send me £100 a month if he could, but was only doing that because he 'felt bad'. He told me he would also not be paying my parents back anything at all.

What financial and emotional impact has it had?

To date I have paid off £99,866 of his debt, and in the four years since we broke up he has sent me a total of £660. The two defaults will stay on my credit file until 2026, and I’ve spent three years struggling to rebuild my life. Without my wonderful parents loaning me the money to pay off the second mortgage, I would have lost my house.

For the sake of my mental and emotional wellbeing, I made the decision to walk away from the debt completely and block all contact with him. It is a huge amount of money to have lost, but I just couldn’t put myself through any more stress and upset.

What does the future hold?

I am now financially secure and will be completely debt free by the end of 2026. I'm also in a safe and loving relationship with a wonderful man, and we're expecting our first child together.

Do you have any advice for those where you were?

I would implore anyone in a similar situation to try and put their own health and wellbeing above all else. I was so embarrassed when my parents suggested I was being manipulated - I thought I was too smart for that, and so I ended up blaming myself when the debt started piling up, and I didn't talk to anyone about it. As embarrassing as it might be, I wish I'd taken the time to step back and realise how badly I was being treated and walk away sooner.

Gambling addiction is so misunderstood and I wish the government would do more to combat it.