Recovering from an addiction is one of the toughest challenges most people ever face.  And managing the stress it puts on a marriage can be especially difficult. If you’re married to an addict, you may be wondering if your marriage can survive.

Being married to an addict is not easy. So it’s not surprising that addiction and divorce often go hand-in-hand. For many, one spouse’s addiction issues add many layers of additional stress to a family unit, including financial issues, social isolation and even physical, emotional or sexual abuse. 

Addiction can also lead to overall dissatisfaction in a relationship. A paper published by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University found that married men with addiction to alcohol are more likely to have a poor relationship with their wives. Additionally, they and their wives reported less sexual satisfaction and more sexual dysfunction than couples not facing addiction and marriage issues.

Still, just because you’re married to an addict doesn’t mean there is no hope for your relationship. Here are some strategies for navigating the addiction recovery journey together.  

Married to an Addict – Tips To Get Help

Engaging help when married to an addict

Marriage can be tough under the best of circumstances, but add in a spouse struggling with an addiction and marriage struggles can become much more common.  

Getting your loved one into an addiction recovery program may be your first challenge. Oftentimes when those with an addiction or substance abuse issue are confronted, they don’t want to listen to what you are saying.  Your spouse may become angry because you are essentially threatening to take away the thing he or she has come to rely on for managing life. 

The substance (whether drugs, alcohol, porn, sex, gambling, etc) has become a coping mechanism and your loved one can’t imagine life without it. If they don’t have other coping strategies in place or haven’t dealt with the painful feelings and past trauma they are numbing with their addiction, they likely won’t be successful in changing their addictive behaviors. This is why mental health treatment is so important for addicts trying to quit. It’s not just about quitting the substance. It’s about healing the underlying trauma that caused the addiction in the first place. Staying married to an addict may come down to reaching out to a professional addiction interventionist who will work with you and your spouse on plugging into an addiction recovery program.

Find a professional addiction recovery program or counselor

Addiction recovery programs are more affordable than you may think, and can be vital to restoring quality of life for you and your loved one when married to an addict. Professional intervention can also play a key role in preserving your marriage. 

Many insurances cover treatment and there are government-funded facilities that provide help under certain circumstances.  You can also use loans and credit cards to pay for treatment as outlined in this article. You can contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration for information about available resources; the helpline is available 24 hours a day, every day, and the phone number is 1-800-662-HELP (4357).  

Married to an addict? Here's how you can save your marriage

Adjusting your perspective when married to an addict

It’s important to understand your spouse’s behaviors and to separate them from who your loved one is.  Addiction is an illness, in some ways not unlike cancer. It isn’t your spouse’s identity. Though it may feel incredibly difficult, try to be forgiving and accept things you cannot change about your partner in order to find healing for your marriage and move forward.  

Though being married to an addict may seem like the major issue in your relationship, ask yourself if you can take responsibility for any part of the struggles you face together (hint: there is always something you can take responsibility for when it comes to relationship concerns). More often than not, those married to addicts are codependent and have a lot of their own healing to do. Focusing on fixing, changing, and helping your partner is one way that codependents avoid doing their own personal growth work. Check out our blog on signs of a codependent relationship and how to fix it to learn more about how to address codependency in your relationship.  

Intervention is imperative when married to an addict

Getting help is vital to restoring your partner.  As Psychology Today explains, addictions are progressive.  That means that without intervention, the addict’s behavior and needs will only become worse.  Life for you both as a couple and as individuals will decline. 

The key to making things improve when married to an addict lies in your spouse.  The addict must want to change in order to embrace recovery, and the behavior must change in order to enjoy a healthy, happy life together.  

Unfortunately, addiction and divorce are commonly seen together. A large number of couples struggling with addiction divorce or live unhappily in their situation. Only a small percentage receive much-needed help, heal and go on with happy lives.  While a separation or a divorce shouldn’t be a bargaining chip, sometimes it’s a last resort, and sometimes it’s the push someone needs to get help.

The difference between a boundary and an ultimatum is that when you give an ultimatum, it’s used as an attempt to manipulate your partner’s behavior and you don’t intend to follow through with the consequences. Threatening to leave if they don’t get help when you have no intention of leaving is an ultimatum. A boundary is different because you have every intention of holding it. So, if you are at the end of your rope and truly are ready to leave unless your partner gets in recovery, that is a boundary you can and should share.

It’s also important to follow through if they do not get help for themselves. At a certain point, you just can’t live in the fantasy anymore. Addiction is tearing your marriage apart and you don’t have to keep sacrificing your own happiness to help your spouse. If you are in this place in your marriage, we highly recommend reaching out to a couples counselor or therapist for assistance. There may also be family addiction counseling and online addiction counseling options that could help.

Care for yourself

Whatever road you and your loved one travel, you’re likely to face a number of difficulties while married to an addict. Engaging in a self-care plan which includes getting your own individual therapy will help you through the journey.  Good self-care can help you keep life in balance and provide healthy coping skills when troubles come your way.  

Ensure you get enough sleep, eat healthy meals, and participate in a workout regimen. Do something creative, like dancing, crafting or painting, and engage in an activity that encourages self-introspection, like yoga or journaling.  

Marriage and addiction recovery: Help for you both

Addiction can take a toll on your marriage. Still wondering how to stay married to an addict? The best things you can do for you and your spouse is to get help and take care of yourselves.  Thoughtful strategies can mean success in navigating this difficult journey together – and can ultimately help your marriage not become part of the addiction and divorce statistics.

If you're married to an addict, these tips can help save your marriage.

Getting Help When Married to An Addict

When it comes to addiction and marriage, the first step is getting professional help. Whether you need online addiction counseling for a partner struggling with addiction, you’re looking for a specific addiction recovery program or you want to look into family addiction counseling services, a professional addiction counselor can help.

It’s also important to do what you can to support your marriage as a whole when married to an addict. While addiction may be the biggest problem in your marriage, it’s almost guaranteed that it’s not the only one. Working with an online couples therapist can help you work through any other challenges you have and support one another during the recovery process.

Interested in getting started with online couples therapy? Contact us today to learn more!

About the Co-Author: Caleb Anderson who co-authored this blog, developed an opiate addiction after being in a car accident. He’s in recovery today and wants to inspire others to overcome their addictions. He co-created Recovery Hope to help people with substance abuse disorders and their families.