Married to an Addict: How to Make it Work

How to Make it Work having an addict spouse

Table of Contents

Most married couples will agree that marriage isn’t always easy. Just like any other type of relationship, marriage comes with its challenges. However, those normal challenges can become even more difficult to overcome when addiction is in the picture. When a person is married to an addict, the stress and heartache they feel can be unbearable.

Having a spouse with addiction may bring about many questions and doubts. One of the looming questions might center around whether or not the marriage should continue. Spouses may wonder if they should remain in a relationship with their husband or wife who is suffering from substance use disorder.

If you are currently dealing with this question, you are not alone. Countless couples face this same query every single year. While separation or divorce might be the most obvious decision for some couples, it may not be what you want. So, if you’re married to an addict, here is some guidance regarding how you can make your marriage work and get the help you need.

Prevalence of Substance Use Disorders in the U.S.

Married to an AddictUnfortunately, the United States population is no stranger to substance abuse. Most of the communities and families in this country have been affected by alcohol abuse or drug addiction in one way or another. Every year, someone’s child, parent, or spouse finds themselves struggling with alcohol or drug misuse.

According to the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health highlights, 138.5 million people were suffering from alcohol abuse as of the time of the report. Approximately 9.5 million people had misused opioids within the past year. About 40.3 million people aged 12 and older had a substance use disorder.

The same report states that there were approximately 41.1 million individuals who needed addiction treatment. But, not everyone who required treatment actually received the help they needed. This could have been due to any number of reasons, including financial setbacks, concerns about job loss, or an overall lack of desire to get help.

Perhaps your husband or wife experienced some of these issues when it came to getting rehabilitation for addiction. Or, maybe your spouse has been in addiction treatment but is still struggling. In either case, it is important for you to know how to navigate being married to an addict. With the right amount of guidance and support, you can learn how to make it work for your health and the benefit of your partner.

Identifying the Signs of Addiction in Your Spouse

If you believe your wife or husband is struggling with a substance use disorder, it is essential to know what signs to look out for. Some signs of addiction may be easier to spot than others. So, it is best to be aware of the indications that may not be as obvious as one might think. The following behaviors and actions may be signs that your spouse is suffering from addiction.

  • Money seems to be disappearing without an explanation.
  • He or she has been gaining or losing weight rather quickly.
  • The individual is performing poorly at work or is consistently losing jobs.
  • Your spouse is spending less time with you and other close friends or family members.
  • He or she often does tasks while intoxicated (i.e., driving, operating heavy machinery, etc.)
  • Your spouse is unable to stop drinking or using drugs, even after he or she promises and tries to do so.
  • Your husband or wife is dealing with health issues that cannot be otherwise explained (i.e., liver problems, chronic coughing, etc.)
  • He or she begins to prioritize substance use over their responsibilities and relationships.
  • Your spouse is showing signs of lethargy, fatigue, tiredness, physical weakness, etc.
  • The individual is becoming increasingly violent or verbally abusive.

Individuals who suffer from addiction often withdraw from the people closest to them. If you find that your spouse seems to be spending more time away from you and more time with a set of “new friends,” this could be a sign of substance abuse.

More Signs of Addiction

Addiction can also cause people to behave in ways that are completely different from their normal behavior. Once mild and level-headed individuals may become angry or rude people. Sometimes, this can occur as a result of the discomfort people feel when they haven’t been able to use the substance on which their bodies depend.

If you have noticed any of the issues listed above, you may be married to an addict. But, there is hope for your spouse. There is hope for your family. Learning more about the ways in which you can help the love of your life can save your marriage and put your spouse back on the right road.

How to Support Your Spouse

As your spouse battles substance abuse, you may feel unsure of what to do. Knowing how to help a person who is suffering from addiction is not always easy. This is especially the case since every case of addiction varies from one to the next. What has worked for others may not work for your spouse. What has helped other marriages may not be effective for your union. As such, it is best to find out what works well for you and your spouse. Some of the ways in which you can help your partner during this time include the following:

  1. Get Support: Close family and friends can help support you and your spouse. Support groups will also prove helpful. Now, during treatment, and after rehab, your spouse will need support. You will also need support. It is best to find people to lean on throughout this process.
  2. Give Support: Let your spouse know that you are there for them. Offer your support and understanding. Shame and guilt are unfortunately common in the lives of those who are suffering from addiction. Let your partner know that there is no reason to be ashamed. Offer comfort while still encouraging your spouse to get the help they need.
  3. Educate Yourself: Learning more about the nature of substance abuse can help you assist your spouse. Having more knowledge about your partner’s disease will equip you to support him or her properly.
  4. Practice Self-Care: It’s surprisingly easy to forget about your own needs when you are looking after someone you love. As you support your partner, it is absolutely essential that you take care of yourself, too. Tend to your emotional, mental, and physical needs.
  5. Hold an Intervention: Sometimes, people who are struggling with addiction do not fully realize the seriousness of their condition. In other cases, they may see the truth about their addiction but they may not feel ready to get help. In either situation, an addiction intervention may prove necessary. You can seek professional guidance from an interventionist to make sure your spouse gets the help they need.

Behaviors and Actions to Avoid

As a person who is married to an addict, It is incredibly important to be aware of the behaviors and actions you should avoid. Enabling comes in many forms. Some actions, even well-intentioned ones, can do more harm than good for you and your spouse. Here are some of the enabling behaviors and harmful decisions you’ll want to avoid as your partner deals with addiction:

  • Avoiding the Problem: Choosing not to address and acknowledge your spouse’s addiction will not help you or the person you love. You must instead choose to face the issue head-on.
  • Covering For” or Making Excuses for Your Spouse: Your spouse may struggle to follow through on commitments. He or she may perform poorly at work, fail to show up for your child’s recitals, be late to family events, and so on. Sadly, these types of behaviors are not uncommon among those who suffer from addiction. But, it is important that you do not enable your spouse when they fail to take on their own responsibilities. This may only encourage them to continue down the wrong path.
  • Trying to Handle It On Your Own: Again, having the support of people who understand and care for you is invaluable. Trying to handle this challenge alone will only wear you out and cause things to worsen. But, with support from family members and guidance from addiction treatment specialists, your family can get through this.
  • Blaming or Judging Your Spouse: Addiction is a disorder. It’s a disease that is not a respecter of persons. Your spouse is struggling with something that is more serious than most may realize. Judging or blaming your partner will not be effective. It will only cause bitterness and misunderstanding to prevail in your marriage.
  • Blaming Yourself: You are not to blame for your partner’s struggle with addiction. You are not the reason addiction has found its way into your home and into your relationship. Avoid placing blame on yourself!
  • Expecting Normalcy, During and After Addiction: It is important to manage your expectations. Your partner is dealing with a life-altering disorder that will change him or her forever. Your lives may never return to “normal”; things may never be the same way they were before. But, with patience and time, your marriage can thrive again.

Married to an Addict

Deciding What to Do About the Marriage

Continuing your marriage continue throughout your spouse’s addiction and recovery is a decision you’ll have to make for yourself. Some couples may need to go their separate ways for the sake of their own personal health and emotional well-being. Some of the reasons why a spouse of an addict may choose to end the marriage may include:

  • Their spouse has become violent or verbally abusive.
  • Their spouse suffering from addiction is not agreeing to get treatment.
  • The couple has children that need to live in a more stable environment.
  • Financial problems are too many to overcome.

If any of these issues (or any others) are present in your marriage, it is best to seek professional counsel. It may be in your best interest to separate from your spouse for your own safety and the well-being of your children.

Again, the decision is yours alone. You should do what is best for you and your family. Your spouse will need to make his or her own choice about getting treatment for addiction. If the individual decides to get help, things may change for the better in your relationship.

Let Jaywalker Help You Today

Being married to an addict is difficult. Individuals in this position often find themselves torn between their deep love for their spouse and the fear of being stuck in a harmful relationship. If you’re currently dealing with these emotional and mental challenges, you can find hope today.

Here at Jaywalker, we understand the hardships people face when living with addiction. Struggling with such a life-altering disease can truly take a toll on a person. It can also change the lives of those who love the person struggling with addiction. The spouses of addicts should not be overlooked when it comes to addiction treatment.

Our Colorado addiction rehab center is here to help people recover from substance use disorders. But, we are also here to help their families find healing. As your spouse is working to overcome drug addiction or alcohol abuse, we will also make sure you have the support you need.

If you are looking for a treatment facility that can help your partner overcome addiction, contact us today. Reach out to Jaywalker to find the hope and healing your family deserves. We are here for you.


author avatar
Stefan Bate, MA, LAC, CCTP Chief Clinical Officer
Stefan Bate, BA, MA, LAC holds a Master's Degree in Applied Psychology from Regis University and is a Licensed Addiction Counselor in the state of Colorado. Stefan has wide-ranging experience in the field of addiction recovery including: working as a recovery coach, therapist, and program director.

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