Substance abuse problems can tear a marriage apart very quickly. Being married to someone who has an addiction can be draining. Learning how to respond to your spouse’s addiction can help you heal yourself as well as your marriage.
Whether your spouse is struggling with alcohol, prescription drugs, or illegal drugs, your marriage is at a very high risk of divorce. In fact, the non-addicted spouse is at risk of developing some bad habits as well. Among them are poor communication patterns, poor problem-solving skills, and anger management issues. Couples dealing with substance abuse issues are at risk of having difficulty conceiving and parenting children, managing finances, and managing mental health issues.
So what can you do if your spouse has a substance abuse problem? There are some steps you can take to help build resilience for yourself and your marriage as you deal with substance abuse problems. Learning what is helpful and what is not helpful can make the difference between staying together and getting divorced. It can also help support your partner in recovery.
1. Educate Yourself
Learn as much as you can about your spouse’s addiction. Knowledge can help you gain a better understanding of what your spouse is dealing with. It can help you to understand how addiction works, what to expect, and the recovery process.
If you aren’t certain if your spouse’s substance use is a problem or not, it can be helpful to learn more. There is a difference between substance use, dependency, and abuse. Learning as much as you can about how substances impact the brain and affect a person can assist you in separating your feelings toward your spouse from your spouse’s behaviors. It’s healthy to love your spouse and dislike your spouse’s behaviors.
2. Seek Support
Support for yourself is critical. Being married to someone with an addiction is overwhelming and most people can’t relate to the problems you’ll encounter. Find support from people who do understand. Support groups such as Al-Anon can be very helpful.
Individual therapy can also be helpful in supporting you in your marriage and can help you to learn new skills. A counselor can also help you when you don’t know what to do anymore. If you are considering leaving your spouse, a counselor can assist you. Attending counseling can also role model to your spouse the importance of self-care and may help your spouse to see the importance of getting mental health and substance abuse treatment.
3. Manage Your Reactions
Learn how to manage your reactions to your spouse’s substance abuse. Many couples end up with a lot of negative patterns of communication. If you have fallen into the trap of fighting with your spouse, name calling, or lashing out due to frustration, it is important to learn how to manage your reactions.
It’s also important to recognize that you can’t talk a person out of their substance abuse. However, many people try begging, pleading, and arguing with their spouse in an attempt to convince them to stop using. Many couples counselors suggest using positive reinforcement to support your spouse. This involves spending quality time together when your spouse is not under the influence and refusing to do so when your spouse is impaired.
4. Learn How to be Supportive Without Enabling
Unfortunately, many people who have a spouse with an addiction unknowingly enable their spouse’s behaviors. Learning how to recognize any behaviors that may be enabling your spouse is essential. Changing those behaviors can be very beneficial to you, your spouse’s recovery, and your marriage in general. It is important to find strategies that support your spouse’s recovery in healthy ways.
5. Find Healthy Activities for Yourself
Healthy outlets for yourself are critical in building your resilience. These activities can include spending time with friends and family as well as participating in leisure time activities. Focusing on your own physical and mental well-being is essential. Work on getting enough exercise, eating healthy, and getting adequate amounts of sleep to help you deal with the stress most effectively. Also, learn some stress reduction skills. Yoga, meditation, and deep breathing techniques can help manage your emotions in healthy ways.
6. Find Healthy Activities to Do as a Couple
Work together to find enjoyable activities you can do as a couple. Learning a new skill, participating in sports activities, or joining an organization can be very beneficial to your relationship. Participating in community service activities can also be helpful. Assisting your partner in getting involved in activities can be a great step in the road to recovery and can also help rebuild your marriage.