Relationships are difficult under any circumstances. They take hard work, good communication, and commitment. This applies to any and all relationships, including people who are married as well as those who are just tentatively beginning to date. When people struggle with substance abuse, however, these principles are all the more important – because relationships are put under a lot of strain when one or both partners struggle with addiction. The negative impact that drugs and alcohol have on relationships can even make you wonder if it is possible for the relationship to recover at all.
Fortunately, with enough care, support, and patience, it is possible for even the most damaged relationships to recover after an addiction.
How Addiction Affects Marriages
Drug and alcohol abuse has a negative effect on any marriage. Drugs and alcohol dramatically change a person’s behavior. Alcohol, for instance, can can people to engage in uninhibited, dangerous, and even sometimes violent behavior. Mood swings can be dramatic and difficult to be around. Individuals who normally respond thoughtfully to situations may be liable to do something destructive instead. This can make them irresponsible with money, poor communicators, unreliable parents, and terrible spouses. At worst, alcohol and other drugs can cause behavior that is absolutely unacceptable in any family environment, such as domestic abuse.
It is not merely the effects of drugs and alcohol, however, that negatively impact marriages. When one partner has developed a psychological dependence on a substance, their behavior changes dramatically. No matter how committed a person was to their marriage and family, addiction completely resets an individual’s priorities. As addiction deepens, people find that they prefer abusing their drug of choice to any other activity – including spending time with their loved ones. The consequences of this shift in priorities can include neglecting family, loss of employment, and even criminal consequences. For non-addict spouses, it can feel like their partner has totally disappeared.
It is not just the person with the addiction who is affected, however. The non-addict spouse often changes their behavior to adapt to their situation. They may coddle their addicted partner and engage in enabling behaviors to prevent them from suffering. Alternatively, or even at the same time, they may berate and rage at their addicted spouse. These behaviors are understandable, but they never solve the addiction problem nor heal the marriage. If anything, the result can be a vicious spiral for both partners.
The Importance of Mutual Respect and Trust When Drugs are Involved
All healthy relationships are based on respect and trust. Rebuilding marriage after addiction brings this point home. After all, during a period of addiction, both respect and trust erode completely. When addicted spouses “cheat” on you with drugs and alcohol, or when they hide their level of drug abuse from you, it is difficult to trust them when it comes to anything. The uninhibited and risky behavior that addicts engage in can also make it difficult to trust them with money, with parenting, or even with staying faithful. Over time, respect can also disappear completely.
Rebuilding marriage after addiction involves rebuilding trust and respect. This is not an overnight process. It is critical to understand that once trust is lost, it is no easy task to earn it back. Both partners must be patient with one another as they grow and make earnest attempts to do so.
How a Former Addict Can Rebuild Marriage
The most important thing a former can do to rebuild their marriage is focus on their recovery. Ultimately, there is no guarantee that a marriage can be rebuilt – sometimes things simply don’t work out. However, it is certainly impossible to rebuild a marriage if one partner relapses and returns to their former drug-seeking behaviors. For this reason, no matter how counterintuitive it may seem, making oneself and one’s personal recovery the number one priority is the most important part of rebuilding marriage after addiction. Enrolling in an outpatient program and participating in therapy and support groups can be enormously beneficial in this regard.
There are also a number of behaviors and ways of thinking that former addicts should learn to cultivate to improve their marriages. Some of these skills are taught and reinforced in outpatient addiction recovery programs. These important new behaviors include:
Creating a Healthy Routine After Addiction
Addiction often causes people to spiral into unpredictable days, where literally anything can happen. As one recovers, it is important to develop consistency. This not only helps build trust in a relationship, it also makes it easier for a recovering addict to develop motivation and achieve their goals. Some aspects of a daily routine may include:
- Healthy meals
- Yoga, mindfulness, or meditation
- Attending support groups or 12-step meetings
Practice Open Communication
Addiction can make people withdrawn or even cause them to lie repeatedly. By practicing open communication, partners can rebuild trust in their marriage after addiction. Open communication involves being as honest and clear as possible. This means discussing even painful or difficult emotions. This may be challenging, but it will allow both individuals to grow.
Follow Through on Commitments
If you say you’re going to do something, do it. This can mean picking up kids from school, going to work, attending a rehab program, or simply doing chores around the house. It is important not only to follow through, but to do things on time – and to do them to the best of your ability. Relationships are all about learning to depend on each other – so make yourself dependable! This may be difficult, especially if your brain is still foggy after getting off of drugs and alcohol, but making an earnest attempt will help earn back your loved one’s respect.
How a Partner of a Former Addict Can Rebuild Marriage
Sometimes partners of addicts think it is the addicted person’s job to fix the marriage. While it is important for the addicted spouse to take responsibility, there is plenty that their partner can do as well. In fact, rebuilding a marriage after addiction involves both partners working together actively to make changes – not just one.
The non-addicted partner should make an earnest attempt, first and foremost, to start taking care of themselves. All too often, when a person’s partner suffers from a mental health condition like addiction, they devote themselves to taking care of the needs of their sick and suffering loved one. This is not healthy. After all, the non-addict is likely suffering just as much. Look inward and listen to yourself – what do you want, regardless of what your addicted loved one is going through? Try to address those needs and wants and take them seriously.
The partner of a former addict can often benefit considerably from starting therapy. After years of being traumatized, neglected, or handling all the responsibilities of a marriage alone, it is important to take time to heal and grow. Therapists can also help you address the challenges of rebuilding a marriage after addiction. Outpatient rehab programs often have programs for spouses and family members. Some even include family therapy or marriage therapy programs so that both partners can work out their issues in safe and comfortable clinical environments.
What if it All Goes Wrong? What to Do?
There is no guarantee that any marriage will work out. Rebuilding a marriage after addiction is difficult. However, it is important to keep a positive and optimistic mindset. After all, it is possible for a person to recover from an addiction, and marriages also can be healed. Keep in mind that no matter how bad things get, positive change is possible as long as it is pursued with determination and honesty.
Healing Marriage after Addiction
If you and your loved one are experiencing the negative consequences of addiction and your marriage is suffering, it is important to get help. Two dysfunctional individuals are rarely capable of healing their relationship entirely on their own. Outpatient programs like NuView Treatment Center provide support, compassion, and evidence-based therapies to help people recover from substance use disorders and rebuild their lives. If you are both ready to make a change, reach out today and transform both of your lives. Your future together is only just beginning.