TV’s Steph and Dom Parker, 53 and 56, draw on their 23 years of marriage to solve your relationship problems . . .
Q I am married to a man I love and who I have been with for 30 years. He has always loved sport, especially football and horse racing, and likes a bet. As the children are grown up, we now have more time together and I am finding his passions a real turn-off.
Hearing him shout at the TV because of a goal, or a race now drives me mad. He bets most days and while the bills get paid and we are financially OK as we both have decent jobs, his betting irritates me. He is also on his phone constantly, even if we watch a film. If I catch his eye and he is looking at it, he smiles and moves it away. I don’t want him to feel like I’m telling him off — I want him to leave his phone alone because he wants to spend time with me!
I now worry about life when we retire and wonder if I can continue in this relationship.
An anonymous reader asked British TV’s Steph and Dom Parker for advice on her husband’s gambling (file image)
DOM SAYS: I have every sympathy for your situation and must reassure you that you are not alone. The difficulty for all of us is that, now we’re working from home, we’re all spending more time with our spouses than we previously were. We’ve all had to come to terms with lockdown, and yes, at our age, it is a bit like prep for retirement. So I do understand your concerns.
I must tell you that I’m also familiar with the problem of having a loved one who likes to watch nothing but sport! It is irritating at the best of times if you’re not wildly into it — and I’m not — darts, football, wrestling, whatever it is, my son loves them all, but I really don’t. You have to deal with it and allow them time to indulge their habit and then move on.
The other issue is the mobile phone. This is a problem. And again, it’s one which will be familiar to countless households. In our family we have a policy of going dark for a couple of hours in the evening. We put our phones on aeroplane mode and, just like that, we are off grid. Of course, there’s the landline for emergencies, but turning our mobiles off means Steph and I have time to ourselves.
The reality is phones, laptops and whatever do interrupt relationships. You’re not wrong to feel slighted that he’s not watching a film with you, that he’s checking his Facebook page (or whatever it may be) instead. There’s nothing wrong with telling him you’re fed up with him being on the phone — a quick ‘I’m over here!’ Might go a long way. You need to tell him not to forget about you. If he does, you might forget about him too!
Dom (pictured) urged the reader to set limits for how much money her husband spends and the time he’s on the phone
The other aspect of your problem is the gambling. You say his bets are almost daily. Well, if you’re financially OK, he’s obviously good at it, but I’d warn you that gamblers do often pitch themselves as winners. It’s often said that you only hear about the wins and never the losses, and I’m no expert, so it might be wise to seek further advice on this. For a start you could visit begambleaware.org.
It seems to me that, in general, you should set limits. For sport, money spent on gambling and time on the phone — and also for shouting at the TV. It’s fine occasionally, but it’s disrespectful in the long term and if he’s going to be yelling away he should do it in another room.
Set money, TV and phone limits
You say you don’t want your husband to feel you’re telling him off, but this is an early warning system. It’s no bad thing to send a shot across the bows. Remind him that getting on in age doesn’t mean you don’t respect your wife and family.
STEPH SAYS: You should be proud of yourself for writing in — you’re echoing many other people’s situations. We’ve all been in close proximity with our partners for too long now. You really can’t underestimate what a huge change this has been for us all.
You say your husband has always been a sports enthusiast and I think you have to accept that, 30 years later, there’s no changing that. I feel it is wrong to try to change his behaviour after so long just because its beginning to grate on you.
The problem is that your husband, whom you clearly love, now irritates you from the moment he opens his eyes.
Steph (pictured, with Dom) told the reader to have a serious conversation with her husband about his spending on gambling
Maybe now’s the time to start dreaming about turning a shed into a garden room, or a spare bedroom into your own space, or, if that’s not possible, retreat to the bedroom with a cup of tea and a book with instructions that when the door is closed you do not wish to be disturbed.
Maybe you need to get out of the house for a bit too — I know you’re working from home, but can you eat a sandwich at your desk and take an hour’s walk at lunchtime just to clear your head? Or perhaps chat to your friends on the phone? Whatever it is that you enjoy, do so guilt-free — so you don’t watch him enjoy himself and resent him for it.
Now for the gambling. You say you are fine financially, so why is it irritating you so much? I would imagine you have spending habits which also irk your husband — perhaps it’s the hairdressers or new shoes?
Withdraw, but not emotionally
That said, gambling most days is a lot, so it does need a conversation, and a serious one. It is easy to slide into a gambling addiction, so I don’t think you’re wrong to be worried. Ask him how much he is spending. You need to know.
As you’re having an honest conversation, be open about how spending so much time together at home can be difficult — and brace yourself for his reply. He may have some issues with your habits too!
Try not to be too blunt, try to remember to be kind and then hopefully you will find a solution together. And lets not forget how insecure you are feeling regarding his constant use of his phone. Why not suggest he shares what he’s reading with you. If it’s an article or funny video, you could both enjoy it at the same time.
You’re feeling excluded from his life and it’s time to find your way back in. Thirty good years are too precious to even consider throwing away.
National Gambling Helpline 0808 8020 133.
If you have a question you’d like Steph and Dom to tackle, write to: firstname.lastname@example.org