March 26, 2018
Marriage is an empowering act of love. Countless difficulties can be faced together in marriage, but sometimes complex issues can arise that can seem too much to bear. Substance addiction is one such issue. It can cause immeasurable hurt and wreak havoc in marriages. However, there are ways to manage the strains caused by addiction, and seek healing as a couple.
Make an Early Intervention
Addiction can have a destructive impact on all aspects of life. It can alienate loved ones, fracture families, and have serious consequences on finances. Unfortunately, communication, which is key to recovery, can be lost to the secrecy and tension addiction can create. It’s important to take action immediately once the signs of addiction are noticed in order to prevent enabling. Don’t rationalize addiction or excuse symptoms, either to yourself or to others—this will only perpetuate the problem. Instead, talk to your spouse when they are sober and explain how their addiction is hurtful and upsetting and how it is damaging the relationship. Do so calmly and sympathetically—arguing will only cause further conflict and denial. Marriage thrives on open communication, and recovery can be galvanized by it.
Push for Treatment
The best option for addiction istreatment. Your spouse may be reluctant to seek help, perhaps fearful of the consequences of doing so, so stress its importance to the relationship’s future. Don’t, however, make hollow threats. It’s crucial that what’s said be conveyed as sincere concern for your partner's well-being and the relationship. Thankfully, there are a number of options to aid recovery and self-care.
Treatment can include inpatient and outpatient care, providing a supportive environment to achieve sobriety. A doctor can be valuable in determining what’s best for your spouse. This time will be difficult. Your spouse may be scared and anxious, so reassure them of your support throughout the process. Participating incouples therapy, during and after treatment, can provide additional tools to manage the stresses and strains faced. It may also assist in restoring trust and intimacy, as well as aiding in mutual understanding.
Being married to an addict can be emotionally and mentally exhausting, but it’s important to trust that addiction can be overcome. With this in mind, it’s imperative to recognize that addiction doesn’tdefine your loved one. They may be feeling shame and guilt, so try to focus on progress and an addiction-free future. Feeling hurt and upset is understandable, but layingblame on your addicted spouse can sustain a cycle of negative emotions. Their perception of reality will likely be influenced by addiction, and their behaviors may not seem as egregious to them as it does to others.
It’s important to try to separate the person suffering from addiction with the actions that addiction causes. It won’t be easy, but it can help you remember that the person you love is still there, and can be reclaimed from addiction.
Treatment can hopefully give them an appreciation for the struggles you’ve gone through, and you can both try to encourage a return to a positive family life. This form of reciprocal self-care can involve things like dates and family outings. A therapist will be able to offer additional exercises and activities that can facilitate the practice of self-care, both as a couple and as individuals.
When the Situation is Untenable
If your partner resists treatment or you feel they’ve become a threat to you or your children, then a temporaryseparation may be the best option. The actions caused by addiction do not mean they don’t care for their loved ones, but sometimes you have to put your own and your children’s well-being first. In addition, for some who suffer from addiction, separation can be the catalyst to start confronting their problems. Separation can be a source of heartbreak for all involved, yet some couples may find that it is the only way to start to repair the damage wrought by addiction and begin to start the healing process.
Healing is Possible
Though it may be a challenge, the condition of addiction can be confronted. As the author of this article and a recovering addict myself, I can attest to the importance of a supportive spouse. When I went into recovery for opiate addiction, my wife stuck by my side through the good and the bad. In fact, she was the one who helped me see my downward spiral and find help to turn my life back around. It was hard on both of us, and there were some trying couple’s therapy sessions, but we approached my recovery as partners rather than me trying to go it alone. It’s a long-term process, but, with intervention, treatment, and time, your marriage can be brought back from the brink and your family can find healing.
Caleb Anderson and his wife Molly are the founders of RecoveryHope.org, which helps couples and individuals by providing research and resources regarding the many challenges of overcoming drug and alcohol addictions.