Married to an Addict: How to Deal With a Spouse’s Addiction

Our close relationships are thought to be safe havens and our home is considered a place that provides shelter from various forms of danger. However, being married to an addict can lead to a harmful relationship with emotional abuse and stress. For various Americans, an intimate relationship with an addict can easily become a source of negativity, emotional upheaval, chaos, and even violence.

Substance abuse eventually can destroy a person that is living with an addict spouse and the relationship. This process happens by undermining trust and weakening the bond between the two individuals. If children become a part of the relationship, neglect, abuse, or a conflict over parental responsibilities, can happen as a result of a partner’s drug or drinking use.

How Does Substance Abuse Affect Relationships?

spouse with addictionAccording to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, there was a cycle of conflict that was described that happens in a domestic partnership, in which substance abuse leads to physical and verbal conflict. In turn, it further leads to further disagreements about substance abuse. The other concerns that might develop are:

  • Legal conflicts over drunk driving, illicit drug use, or child custody. 
  • Physical, sexual, or verbal abuse.
  • Financial difficulties.

Drugs and alcohol can impair a person’s judgment, create a conflicting atmosphere at home, and arouse feelings of resentment and anger. If there are any experiences of potential or abuse signs, they must be taken seriously in recovery. Individuals who have physically or verbally abused their partners will need anger management courses and might face legal consequences, depending on the severity of the assault. 

If a spouse of an addict feels they are in danger due to an abusive partner, they should immediately seek help from a healthcare provider, a substance abuse treatment professional, or legal authorities. There are support services and online resources on partner abuse that are available through the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Remember, that you are not alone.

How to Support a Partner Without Enabling?

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The most effective way a spouse of an addict can support a partner without enabling is by offering support to an addicted partner. This can take a tremendous toll on a person’s emotional and physical health. Furthermore, the needs of the entire family, such as aging parents or children, and the demands of social and work commitments can swiftly become overwhelming.

Enabling Behaviors

Enabling happens when one partner, typically without the conscious intention, makes it more possible for the other partner to continue using without having to face any consequences, or continue drinking. The examples of enabling behavior might include the following: 

  • Neglecting your own needs to help another person. 
  • Allowing a loved one to neglect responsibilities.
  • Letting your loved one or someone abuse you.
  • Making excuses for a loved one. 

living with an addict spouse

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How Can You Tell if You’re Supporting a Partner vs Enabling?

If you’re a spouse of an addict, and you make excuses, lie, or create explanations for your partner that allow them to stay in denial, then you’re engaging in enabling than supporting. Codependency is the act of an individual being dependent on the other person in a relationship. If a person is living with an addict spouse, the codependent patterns can end up enabling. 

In a few cases, the codependent will lose their sense of self in an overwhelming attempt to “save” the partner from their addiction. However, when the partner gets closer to recovery, the codependent might sabotage the process to maintain self-esteem and feelings of power. It’s recommended that the spouse of an addict and the addict ask themselves these questions:

  • Am I giving myself time to tend to my stress management activities?
  • Also, am I letting them take responsibility for themselves?
  • Am I seeking help from professionals outside of my home?
  • Or am I making time for my recovery activities?
  • Lastly, am I setting healthy boundaries for myself? 

To further emphasize what to do when married to an addict, the following are tips on what to do if you’re living with an addict spouse. 

Help Yourself

The most important stage to start at is taking care of yourself. It is almost impossible to tackle the other steps if this step doesn’t happen first. Being married to an addict can be taxing on your coping mechanisms. It is all-consuming. Utilizing resources such as support groups and therapists for loved ones of individuals struggling with addiction is useful. 

During the recovery process, a spouse of an addict will receive support and coping mechanisms. The resources will teach individuals how to put healthier boundaries in place with their loved ones. During this step, the spouse of an addict will learn how they could be enabling their spouse’s addiction or substance use. 

When it comes to enabling behaviors, it can be quite difficult to recognize. If a person is married to an addict, it’s common for them to feel like they are helping their spouse, but sometimes more harm is being done than good. By utilizing the help of a trained professional, you will gain the following discoveries:

  • The realization of your behavior and the tools necessary to change.
  • How to become more of an effective communicator with your spouse. 
  • Become more resilient. 

Educate Yourself on Addiction 

If you’re married to an addict, understanding why your spouse is addicted can assist you in reaching a level of empathy. When this process occurs, you’re able to get better results. It’s important to remember that substance abuse is a chronic disease of the brain and individuals aren’t able to “just quit” once they have become dependent on alcohol or drugs. 

Alcohol and drug addiction can alter a person’s brain. They frequently co-occur with various mental illnesses. When individuals have anxiety, depression, or several other co-occurring disorders, they might engage in substance abuse to cope with psychiatric symptoms. 

Self-medicating is a brutal cycle. However, this doesn’t excuse your spouse’s behavior. Also, it doesn’t disprove your feelings of sadness or anger. The emotions you have are legitimate. Engaging in addiction education will better serve in understanding how your spouse became addicted and where to go from here. 

Detach With Love

A strong theme in support groups for families of addicts is detaching with love. This means that if you’re married to an addict, you love them enough to make their own mistakes. In other words, you accept the reality that you aren’t able to control them.

This process means continuing to take care of yourself even when your spouse doesn’t take care of themself. All in all, these acts are easier said than done. When you’re married to an addict, you might engage in the following roles:

  • Excuse maker
  • Caregiver
  • Bonder
  • Parent
  • Nurse
  • Fixer

Once you can detach with love, it helps both parties. It will show them that you believe in their capabilities to take responsibility for their life. Overall, it will send the message that you love them but you don’t like their addiction. 

When you detach with love, it helps you overcome any issues like codependency. You’ll be more able to focus on yourself since it’s vital to remember that your life doesn’t only revolve around your spouse. Though this process sounds simple enough, it’s usually pretty challenging to execute. Therefore, seeing a therapist is paramount for both individuals. 

Avoid Blame

If you’re living with an addict, one of the common themes might be the blame game. You might blame them for their addiction, and they might blame you for driving them to substance use because you’re a stressor for them. It is crucial to remember that: no one wins the blame game, it only keeps both parties in a continuous cycle of defensiveness. 

When there are productive conversations, it doesn’t happen in a space that is filled with blame. Addiction treatment can address blame, shame, and other issues that come within the same territory. Until your spouse is ready to get help, it’ll be feasible to work on any blame. 

A mental health professional will be able to assist you in exploring blame and the root of it. During your therapy sessions, you’ll learn more ways to communicate that don’t put your spouse in defense mode. When you address things in this light, they are more able to hear you. 

Be Consistent With Boundaries

Setting boundaries is a difficult task, but the harder part is enforcing them. Individuals engaging in drug and alcohol use generally test boundaries. This is especially true when substance abuse wires a person’s brain to continue engaging in substance or drug use. 

If you’re currently married to an addict, always remember that consistency is key. Make sure to be clear about what you will not tolerate and the consequences of your spouse’s actions. When your spouse decides to cross your boundaries, because they most likely will, enforce these consequences. If you let your spouse get away with something once, it will send the message that the type of behavior is acceptable. 

Stage an Intervention 

An intervention can serve as the wake-up call that your spouse needs. When they can hear from friends and family about their concerns, it serves as a powerful tool. Interventions are more effective when it’s led by a trained interventionist. 

During the intervention, the trained professional can guide the conversation and ensure that everyone is communicating honestly and respectfully. Also, an interventionist can answer a loved one’s questions about treatment. Furthermore, they can recommend addiction treatment programs and assist with transitioning to the next level of care.

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What Are Some Options of Support for Spouses of Drug Addicts?

Married to an Addict There are various options of support for spouses of drug addicts. It’s possible to find yourself in need of peer or formal support as you assist your loved one in navigating recovery. Some of the numerous communities and resources ready to help those who love someone struggling with addiction are:

  • VAWnet: The National Online Resource Center on Violence Against Women 
  • Substance Abuse and Intimate Relationships
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline
  • SMART Recovery Family & Friends
  • Recovering Couples Anonymous
  • Couple Recovery from Addiction 
  • Addiction Assessment Quiz
  • Nar-Anon 
  • Al-Anon 

Reclaim Your life at Intrepid Detox Today

Here at Intrepid Detox, we understand that everyone’s addiction journey is different. Therefore, we ensure that you’ll receive treatment that is designed specifically for you. If you’re married to an addict and living with an addict spouse, we can help you. Healing awaits you both.