The Dos and Don’ts of Helping Your Addicted Spouse

Relationship Design

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Joshua Butcher of the Ohio Addiction Recovery Center.
Addictions can tear a marriage apart.
It’s a scary thing.
If you’re dealing with addiction in your marriage right now, take a deep breath.
You’ve taken the first step in helping your spouse through the darkness by researching the problem. Every situation is different, but there are some universal dos and don’ts that can help you understand what to do when you’re married to an addict.


1. Listen and Observe
As with any marital issue, understanding is the best approach. Before you can tackle this problem, you must understand the scope of what you are dealing with. Listen to what your partner has to say about his or her addictions and observe their actions. Understand that someone who is in the throes of addiction may not always speak the truth, so temper what they say with your observations.
2. Seek Guidance
It’s tempting to want to handle this problem alone. After all, there is a stigma associated with addiction. Your gut reaction may be to protect your spouse and marriage by keeping the addiction secret from the rest of the world. In doing so, you isolate yourselves and may even create a situation where you’re enabling your spouse to keep using.
You don’t need to broadcast your business on Facebook or in the local newspaper to get help, though. You can choose to tell a select few people in your lives, but do seek professional assistance. An experienced professional can create a long-term plan to help your spouse recover and stay off of drugs.
3. Let Your Spouse Know You Care
When someone is addicted to a substance, whether it’s drugs or alcohol, it becomes the most important thing in their lives. Threaten to remove that substance from their lives, and they’re likely to get defensive. Let your significant other in on the reasons why you want them to get better. This way, he or she can understand that you’re coming from a place of love. You’re not trying to take away their happiness. On the contrary, you’re trying to help them reconnect with their inner happiness without
drugs or alcohol.
4. Create a Plan
Take some time to carefully consider your next steps. This may include how you’ll approach the subject with your spouse. It’s important to send a message of love throughout all conversations (to the best of your ability).
Once your spouse has admitted that he or she has a problem and needs help, rehab likely is the next step.
You can discuss whether an inpatient or outpatient program is right for your family. Regardless of which you choose, you’ll want a program that spans a minimum of three months. Thirty-day programs off a good kickstart, but there’s still a lot of work to do in the coming months. You’ll want professional help to get you through this tough time both.
Your plan may also include counseling for yourself. Having an addicted partner can really take a toll on your emotional wellbeing. Consider attending support groups or getting one-on- one support.


1. Play the Blame Game
Some of the biggest arguments couples have are founded by unrealistic expectations. Anyone can understand why you’d have bad feelings, including anger and hurt, about your spouse’s addiction but this isn’t about you.
After you find yourself in this situation, you have a few choices. You could choose to feel personally victimized, or you can understand that addiction is a disease beyond your spouse’s control. Self-pity can lead to anger, and neither of these things are going to help your husband or wife get better. Be as supportive as you can throughout this process. When times get tough, remember that this is intensely difficult for your spouse too.
2. Think This is a Cakewalk
Addiction isn’t something you can will away. Your spouse isn’t going to stop using drugs because you’ve given an ultimatum. He can’t. Even if he loves you to the moon and back, he isn’t in complete control. Please don’t expect that stopping is a simple decision.
Addiction is a complicated issue that will never be solved overnight. Allow yourself and your loved one some time and space to heal.
3. Forget About Yourself
Although you’re not the one with the addiction, this process will be mentally and emotionally draining for you. Don’t forget about your own needs. Your partner needs you to be strong in order to come out of this with a healthy marriage. Take some time to relax and tend to your own emotional needs throughout this process.
4. Expect the Relationship You Had Before
A marriage and its partners must be strong in order to sustain a major complication like addiction. You can get through this together, and you may even have a stronger relationship at the end. But it will not be the same relationship you had before your spouse was addicted. This experience will change you both and subsequently change your relationship.
If you or your spouse are struggling with substance abuse, professional help is there for both of you. Having someone who can walk alongside both of you as you go through the path towards recovery will make all the difference.
Read and learn more about Joshua Butcher and the Ohio Addiction Recovery Center by clicking here