The most complicated relationships in life can be with those we actually choose. The people that form our romances and with whom we live with and marry. These people are unlike family members or friends with whom you may have an emotionally committed relationship with but don’t select for their romantic compatibility. These partnerships require more work from both partners, not just on a day-to-day basis but also throughout different stages of your significant other’s lives.
Addiction or substance abuse can be one such factor that affects a long-term romantic relationship dramatically. Can a marriage survive drug addiction? It is possible for a relationship to survive addiction; however, it is not an easy feat.
How Addiction Affects a Relationship
Anyone that has had a loved one affected by addiction can tell you that the addiction was extremely destructive to his or her relationship. The pain of addiction affects all individuals that are associated with the individual suffering from a substance use disorder. Many people think of addiction as only affecting the individual suffering from addiction, but the destruction is much more widespread.
When someone you love is suffering from a substance use disorder, it can be difficult to remember the person that he or she was prior to the addiction. The disease of addiction can ultimately change many people’s behaviors and character traits. It can also lead to numerous problems that you will both ultimately end up having to face.
In many cases, addiction does not occur immediately. It may take years for the problem to develop.
Addiction in Marriage
- Could have been an issue that was hidden for some time
- Might have appeared to be harmless or normal at the beginning
- Can develop after being together for several years
- Could also develop after a short period of time
- Might be something you refused to acknowledge as an issue
- Completely unknown at the beginning
The pursuit of drugs and alcohol can come before anything in a marriage, including the partner and children. It doesn’t matter what they choose to abuse – alcohol or illicit substances like heroin – it will always take priority over other commitments such as family life.
A person with an addiction disorder is compelled to use any number of things regardless of their feelings because the disease of addiction tells them something is missing. The addict cannot live without his or her substance of choice, so no talking could convince him not to drink again. This causes many problems within the relationship and family life.
Common Problems When a Marriage Faces Drug Addiction
- Job loss or income loss
- Absent from normal family or social functions
- Decreased interest in the relationship
- Withdrawing from regular hobbies or activities
- Increased confrontations and arguments
- Lack of trust between the family
Because of the difficulty that comes with facing a partner’s addiction, many relationships that do so do not survive. Understandably, being the wife of a drug addict can feel shameful, and ultimately, it’s easiest just to leave. However, if you’re determined to have your marriage survive drug addiction, there are steps you can take to help improve your current situation. But your partner will need to be willing to try to overcome the addiction and find treatment.
How Can a Marriage Survive Drug Addiction?
When addiction takes over a marriage, you may hardly recognize the person that used to be there for your every need. Perhaps they were once supportive and loving; now, their mood keeps everyone walking on eggshells.
Someone suffering from addiction may ultimately sacrifice anything in order to satisfy a drug or alcohol craving. If you are currently in a marriage to someone suffering from addiction, it’s important to consider the following items regardless of whether you plan on staying in the relationship or not.
Take Care of Yourself and Your Family First
Start by making sure that you are taking care of yourself and your family first and foremost. When was the last time you took care of yourself? You might be surprised to find out how much better your life can be when we remember what matters most.
Did someone say “massage,” and then you think, “I could never afford that”?
Maybe it’s been too long since you and your kids went out to eat? Do something for yourself! There is nothing wrong or selfish about loving yourself and your family. Selflessness leads us into a more fulfilling future.
Do Your Research on Addiction
Addiction is a disease, and the more you know about that disease, the better-equipped your family will be to effectively guard against pain.
It’s important for families of addicts to fully understand what it means when someone contracts this terrible illness. They can then learn to stop blaming their loved ones or themselves for any alleged moral weakness which led them to addiction. It might be painful at first to acknowledge the problem, but it’s important to put that in the past.
Instead, focus on strategies like forgiveness. Research has shown time after time that forgiveness not only helps heal broken relationships but also prevents further damage.
Depression and anxiety stem solely from negative thinking. Finding a way to move forward with hope and forgiveness will ultimately help heal your relationship with your loved one suffering from addiction.
Acknowledge that the Problem Exists and Avoid Denial
It is a shame that addiction has such a harmful effect on loved ones, especially as it can lead them into incredibly painful downward spirals. For this reason, many family members and friends tend to turn their heads when they see what’s happening with their loved ones.
Sometimes pretending there isn’t actually anything wrong just seems easier than going through all of the trouble of fixing things or perusing recovery themselves. This will ultimately make you more miserable in both cases.
So, can a marriage can survive drug addiction? Yes, but not by ignoring the existence and magnitude of the problem. You will not be doing any favors to yourself, your family, or your addicted spouse by downplaying or avoiding the problem altogether. It’s important that the family as a whole acknowledges the problem that is addiction and faces it as a team moving forward.
Stop Any Enabling Behavior
Spouses who enable their partners may tell themselves that they are helping or protecting them from addiction. However, by enabling the behavior that is abusing drugs, it becomes easier for a person to continue on with those abusive and harmful practices.
As long as you’re enabling your spouse’s drug use habits, then your spouse will not stop drinking or using drugs even if he or she has considered quitting. A person’s actions have consequences, and doing something out of misplaced responsibility can be detrimental to that person learning his or her lessons. Stopping enabling behavior reinforces the need for treatment because there would no longer be anything supporting the destructive behavior that is substance abuse.
Common examples of behavior that enables drug addiction include:
- Lying to law enforcement officials regarding a drug addict’s whereabouts
- Making excuses to friends or family regarding a drug addict’s behavior
- Calling into a drug addict’s job or school with reasons for absences
- Giving drug addicts money to purchase drugs or alcohol
- Continuing to provide drug addicts with the resources in order for them to abuse drugs or alcohol
Find a Support Group
Finding support as the significant other of a person who is suffering from drug addiction can be tough, but you are not alone in this fight. There are many people who understand what your life looks like now because of addiction. There are opportunities for help for the whole family!
The Nar-Anon or Al-Anon groups provide support to families like yours by giving them the opportunity to heal together. Such support groups can also provide guidance to people dealing with an addict’s behavior. These types of support groups can even help you and your family understand the disease of addiction better.
While gaining such education and support, people that attend addiction support groups get the opportunity to hear from other individuals in similar situations. Hearing such stories can help people in families and relationships with addiction like yourself remember that they are not alone in their battles.
Professional psychotherapy can also help people in marriages with a person that suffers from substance addiction. Psychotherapy is an especially helpful coping tool for people that are ashamed of their romantic relationship due to it involving substance abuse.
Individual therapy is a private counseling session that gives patients the opportunity to be honest about their emotions. A therapist can help individuals stay on track and maintain focus on what’s important.
Can a marriage survive drug addiction? Yes, as long as it has the right tools to move forward.
Recognize Codependent Behaviors
The longer a man or woman lives with a spouse who suffers from substance addiction, the more the addiction will affect that man or woman and his or her family. This is because addiction affects the entire family. Thus, the more amount of time spent dealing with the actions associated with addiction, the more it will alter behaviors and the character of your family as a whole.
Unhealthy emotions about a spouse who suffers from substance addiction can come up like panic attacks. For example, spouses of people that suffer from substance addiction may constantly ask themselves questions like, “Why is my spouse staying out so late without calling?” Such questions can cause spouses of people with substance addictions to display obsessive behaviors.
When you find yourself constantly stressing out about someone else’s everyday actions, even if that someone is your spouse, it’s a sign that the relationship is unhealthy. In fact, stressing about the daily actions of someone that you are in a relationship with more than yourself is a sign of codependency.
If you find yourself or any other members of your family demonstrating such codependent behaviors, you should work to change them. Learn about codependency and how you can make gradual changes to stop exhibiting such toxic behaviors.
Find Treatment or Resources on Addiction Treatment
One of the ultimate goals of a spouse of a person with substance addiction is to get that person’s husband or wife into treatment. This goal will be difficult to achieve though without support.
Even if you have the best intentions and your spouse agrees that he or she needs help, a drug or alcohol addict’s whims are capricious at best. So don’t wait too long after your spouse agrees to receive addiction treatment to start taking action.
Finding the right addiction treatment program can take some time. Start researching programs as early as you can to see what fit’s your addicted spouse’s needs when it comes to addiction treatment and recovery.
What should a person expect when he or she goes into treatment? Also, what should a person bring to rehab? You’ll want to prepare with all the common questions and answers regarding addiction treatment programs so you can support your spouse in his or her addiction recovery journey.
Coordinate and Intervention
To stage an intervention for a spouse with a substance addiction, get together with other people close to him or her like friends, family members, and perhaps even coworkers. Together lovingly but firmly confront your spouse about his or her addiction. Each person that participates in a substance addiction intervention needs to let the person with the addiction know how his or her addictive behaviors are affecting everyone else’s lives.
The goal of an intervention isn’t to be vindictive or to punish a person for his or her addictive behaviors. It’s simply so that people with substance addictions can understand on a personal level how their addictions are affecting them and those around them.
Interventions are great times to let spouses with substance addictions know that their substance abuse will no longer be tolerated. This is also the time to tell individuals with substance addictions that they need help. Thus, explain that treatment is a person’s only alternative in life as the people surrounding that person will no longer allow substance abuse to continue.
Set boundaries regarding a spouse’s substance abuse if he or she refuses to get treatment. Such boundaries can include:
- Ending the relationship/getting a divorce
- No longer providing financial support
- Suspending visitation of children
- Forcing that person to leave the shared residence
Don’t give up if your spouse refuses treatment. Remember to enforce the boundaries that have been put in place before leaving.
In many instances, an individual doesn’t believe that his or her actions will not be tolerated. Once a person who believes this starts to feel the consequences of his or her actions though, that person will ultimately ask for help.
Be Supportive of Positive Changes
Your spouse may be going through intensive treatment, but that doesn’t mean you should stop supporting him or her. You could take care of yourself and your family by giving your addicted spouse something to look forward to when coming back home.
Being positive and continuously providing your addicted spouse with support throughout his or her addiction treatment and recovery journey can provide him or her with the motivation for change. IN the long run, such positive and supportive behavior will even help you begin to be able to focus on yourself without distractions.
Your participation in your spouse’s addiction treatment journey is crucial as a spouse. Thus, continue to remind your spouse of the value of his or her sobriety and how his or her family is cheering your spouse on.
It’s difficult to make such a large change and focus on rehabilitation. By reminding your spouse of what is important though, you will help keep him or her on the right path.
Develop a Relapse Response Plan
Relapse can happen to any person. Thus, it’s good to have a plan in place if it occurs. Make sure you and your spouse are both clear on that plan.
First things first, relapse response plans should involve the spouse going back to treatment.
Also, make sure that you are protecting your family by providing it with the following:
- An alternative safe space away from the relapse
- Money set aside in a bank account that the spouse suffering from addiction cannot access
- A list of loved ones or sponsors that can assist the spouse within a family that suffers from substance addiction
- A safeguard for assets that can’t be sold or leveraged against
Hope for the best, but plan for the worst. Remember that relapse is common. Thus, hopefully, if a relapse does occur, the behavior is quickly acknowledged, and your spouse gets help right away due to your relapse response plan. If that is not what happens though, you need to be prepared to make the best decisions for your family.
Does Your Marriage Need Professional Help to Survive Drug Addiction?
So, can a marriage survive drug addiction? Well, finding the right addiction treatment program for your spouse can feel overwhelming. As difficult as it may be to suffer from addiction, being the spouse of a person that suffers from substance addiction and is left with all the responsibility at home is equally as stressful.
If you are the spouse of a person that’s in recovery from substance addiction, you are not alone. There are plenty of treatment and post-treatment options that can help you and your family to recover from substance addiction as well.
Florida Center for Recovery (FCR) offers family therapy during addiction treatment to help heal people from the trauma of addiction. Our team of addiction treatment specialists here at FCR understands the fragile nature of addiction. Thus, your family is in good hands with our team. Contact us here at FCR today to learn more about our addiction treatment programs.
Dr. Balta is the Medical Director at FCR for more than 10 years. Dr. Balta is Board Certified in Psychiatry and Addiction Medicine, Certified Psychoanalyst. As well, as having Psychiatric Training at The Albert Einstein School of Medicine Psychiatric Residency Program In New York City and Psychoanalytic Training at The William Alanson White Institute in New York City. While working in New York City, gained funding Grants for the treatment of Substance Abuse Disorders from SAMHSA , HRSA and the City of New York.