Some of the most complicated relationships in life can be those we actually choose: the people we date, the people we live with, the people we marry, the people we have children with. Unlike our relationships with parents or siblings or cousins and so on – we actually seek out and are selective about those with whom we are romantic. Somehow, however, those relationships can take the most work.
One factor that can throw the biggest loop in a marriage or long-term relationships is drug or alcohol addiction.
Addiction In A Marriage
Anyone who has been married or in a committed relationship with a person who is addicted knows, without a doubt, that addiction is destructive. In some committed relationships, addiction isn’t something that comes up right away. Addiction in a marriage:
- May not be apparent at the beginning of the relationship
- May seem like normal drinking behaviors early in the relationship
- May develop after a short time together
- May develop after years together
- May have been there all along
- May have been hidden from you by your partner
In a marriage, the drug of choice may vary – alcohol, illicit drugs such as heroin or cocaine, or prescription drugs like Xanax or OxyContin. Regardless of the drug or drink a person is addicted to, the pursuit of the substance can eventually come before all else. When a person is addicted, he or she will choose drugs or alcohol before their marriage, before their partner, before their children – before anything.
When a spouse or partner is actively addicted, it can be difficult to recognize or remember the person you fell in love with. While it may take years to figure out what is really going on, there can be numerous problems along the way. Things like missing income or lost jobs, unusual absences from family gatherings or events, increased arguments or decreased interest in the relationship.
With so many new and unforeseen challenges in the marriage, for some spouses, find that the only answer is to leave their addicted partner.
What To Do If You Love An Addicted Spouse
When addiction takes over a marriage, you may hardly recognize the person that you once fell in love with. Perhaps he or she was once supportive and loving – now he or she isn’t present or available for you physically or emotionally. He or she may once have been patient and kind – but now their mood keeps the entire family walking on eggshells.
If you’re married to a person in active addiction, here are seven things you need to consider and do – whether or not you plan to stay in the marriage.
- Avoid Denial.
Addiction is incredibly painful – and on top of that, there is a massive stigma that surrounds it. For those reasons, family members and friends sometimes turn a blind eye to what is really going on with their loved one. Sometimes, it’s easier to pretend that there isn’t a problem. However, doing so will neither help your addicted spouse or you. Facing the addiction head on will allow you to take control of your own health and wellbeing, and give you a clear head in deciding your next step.
- Read Up On Addiction.
Remember the person you fell in love with? He or she still exists, and he or she would never have wanted to fall into this cycle of addiction and harm you. Addiction is a disease – and a family disease, at that. Living with addiction causes a domino effect in the life of the person using, as well as their family. In order to understand what you’re dealing with, it’s important to learn as much as you can about the disease: In addition to reading up on valuable information online, consider talking to an experienced treatment specialist who helps families every day. By talking to a specialist, you can gain a clearer picture of your own unique relationship and situation.
- Learn About Codependent Relationships.
Remember when we mentioned that addiction is a family disease? Your loved one’s drug or alcohol addiction isn’t just affecting him or her. It’s affecting you, any children you may have, and anyone else in the home. The longer you live with a person in active addiction, the more you will be shaped by it. For example, you may now be experiencing a wide range of unhealthy emotions: Panic attacks when he or she doesn’t call or come home, fits of rage when you discover your spouse using again, obsessing over every move he or she makes. Unfortunately, when your life focus is centered around another person, you can’t focus on your own life or goals. People who love those in active addiction often find themselves dealing with their own disorder: Codependency. By understanding this disorder, you can make gradual changes that will help you and may, in turn, bring true help to your loved one.
- Cut Out Enabling.
We talk a lot about enabling at Vertava Health because it’s one type of behavior that truly allows addiction to thrive. Enabling is essentially doing things for an addicted person that buffer him or her from consequences and allow him or her to continue using or drinking. Most enabling is done with the best of intentions – however, enabling hurts more than it helps. For an in-depth look at what enabling looks like and how to address and change enabling behavior, check out our tips here.
- Avoid Denial.
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- Connect With A Support Group.
When it comes to addiction, there is strength in numbers. While you may feel as though you are completely alone in your situation – it’s important to know that there are many, many other spouses and partners out there who are dealing with the same problems. There are groups that offer guidance and support and the chance to connect with other people who understand what you’re going through. Groups such as Naranon or Alanon can help you to feel less isolated – and will help you learn how to live with a person who struggles with addiction.
- Draw A Line In The Sand.
If your spouse or partner continues to refuse treatment for addiction, the negative consequences will more than likely continue. Everyone is different and only you know your own situation – which is why only you can make the choice of when or if to detach with love or leave the relationship. Whether it is financial lines, verbal or physical abuse – know your limit and set a line to draw that you will not compromise. In many cases, spouses eventually get the appropriate addiction help and people never reach this line. It is important, however, to know your own limits.
- Take Care Of You.
There is only one person in this world that you can change – and that’s you. Self-care is essential for loved ones of addiction. It allows you to keep the focus on yourself while working on your own behaviors, health and actions. Taking care of yourself will give you strength you may have never known existed within you. For advice on where to get started with self-care – and how it can impact your addicted loved one, check out this article.