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I’m Sober and My Spouse Is Not: Will Our Marriage Work?

I’m Sober and My Spouse Is Not: Will Our Marriage Work?

Marriage can be hard. Learning how to communicate your thoughts and feelings with another person, finding time to engage in your personal hobbies while also making sure you’re putting forth enough effort towards the relationship, and even simply getting used to the idea that your single life has now become a partnership are all aspects of marriage that can be difficult to deal with. But when you add a substance use disorder in the mix for just one of the partners, marriage can become an entirely different beast altogether. And while you may think that there simply isn’t any way you’ll be able to make the relationship work because of it, the truth is that just because your partner has a substance addiction doesn’t mean your marriage is doomed. In fact, your bond can grow stronger because of it. But in order to get through this trying time in your partnership, you need to know just what to expect and how to overcome it.

Acknowledging Your Own Denial

The first step towards getting your marriage on the right track is dealing with your own feelings of denial. It can be hard to admit that the person you care for the most has a serious drug abuse problem. And even if all the signs are there, willing yourself to really see your partner as they truly are, not just how you want them to be, can take some serious soul searching. But even if you don’t want to see the truth because, well, you’re happier this way, it’s important to realize that by denying the fact that your husband or wife has a problem, you’re actually enabling them at the same time. You may make excuses for their behavior like, “She’s been really stressed at work so she deserves to blow off some steam,” or maybe, “At least he doesn’t drink as much as some of his friends do.” And while these justifications might make it easier for you to sleep at night, the truth is they aren’t doing anything to change your partner’s destructive tendencies. That’s why one of the first steps towards a sober marriage is dealing with your own denial and ceasing all enabling behavior.

Educate Yourself

The next step is educating yourself about the intricacies of addiction. Contrary to popular belief, substance dependency isn’t as cut and dry as many would like to think. In fact, addiction is a complex process that affects the entire spectrum of the mind: the physical, emotional, and intellectual. What’s more, you may find yourself asking over and over again, “Why don’t they just stop? Can’t they see how much this is hurting their marriage and themselves?” But the truth is, addiction is not a choice – it’s a disease. Just like you can’t will yourself to recover from diabetes, an addict also can’t simply choose to rewire their brain so that they won’t need to use anymore. You have to realize, then, that they aren’t choosing drugs over you. In fact, they aren’t really choosing at all because their disease is making the choices for them. Only once you understand this crucial point can you see your partner’s addiction for what it really is. After that, you can truly commit yourself to the recovery process.

Confronting Your Partner About Their Addiction

Confrontation can be an intimidating thing, especially when it comes to such a sensitive topic like a substance abuse problem. But rest assured, confronting your partner is the only way to move forward with your life and the life of your marriage. One of the most difficult parts of this step comes from the fact that oftentimes an addict is in denial about their condition. They may make the same excuses you made for them earlier in fact. In order to help convince them, it’s best to prepare a bit beforehand. Jot down some specific instances where they demonstrated addicted behaviors. Point out how they continually say they plan on sobering up with no real improvements. Call them on their bluffs. While it might be a tough conversation to have, there are two other important points to communicate here as well: that you are coming from a place of love and support and that they need to make an effort to change. An intervention without love is ineffective and one without steps taken towards sobriety will only end up disappointing. If all else fails, or if you anticipate your loved one simply won’t be open to the discussion, you may need to set up a formal intervention. These highly structured meetings are often overseen and officiated by a professional counselor. Their presence will help keep conversation directed and productive rather than slipping into an emotionally charged argument.

Support, Support, Support

Depending on the extent of the abuse, the recovery process can be a long and difficult one. There’s the initial detoxification, the subsequent intensive counseling, support groups meeting multiple times a week, and not to mention the incessant threat of relapse looming overhead. And while dealing with all the ups and downs of recovery can be tough, it’s important to remember that a partner’s love and support can be the driving force for change and the ticket to a sober and healthy life. Want proof that a marriage can survive addiction? Read this story for some inspiration.