Living With An Additcted Spouse

Intimate relationships should be safe havens and places where we can escape danger. However, a partner who is dealing with a drug or alcohol addiction can create an unhealthy relationship that leads to emotional stress and abuse.

One of the most difficult things to admit to yourself and others is that you’re married to an addict. You may have suspected his or her substance abuse problem for a while, or you may have even chosen to ignore the signs. It is not uncommon for a spouse to even become an enabler for the addiction.

In this article, we’ll discuss the signs to look for, the effect addiction can have on a marriage, avoiding enabling behavior, and what to do when your spouse is an addict.

Recognizing the signs that you have an addicted spouse

While some people marry with an idea that their partner may have an issue with drug or alcohol abuse, many do not. It’s not uncommon, even early into a marriage, to be caught off guard by a spouse’s addiction. Many times, an alcohol or drug addict has a unique ability to disguise their addiction from others. This includes their spouse and other family members.

Drug abuse can come in many forms. Some people are capable of using substances occasionally, while others can quickly fall into addiction and severe drug dependence. It is important to learn more about addiction if you are unsure if you are married to an addict.

Substance use disorders often occur in stage. These stages can occur over time or quickly depending on the individual and their drug choice. You may be concerned about your spouse’s drug or alcohol use and not sure if they have a substance use disorder. Here are the stages of addiction.

Casual use

A loved one may occasionally use drugs or alcohol for recreational purposes. Perhaps in social settings, only on the weekends, etc.

Increased use

Your spouse has been using more drugs or alcohol, and is now regularly using them. They may be worried about losing their drug of choice and are neglecting friends, family, and other commitments.

Open use

Your spouse is more open to using drugs and has developed a tolerance for them. He or she is obsessed with drugs and has given up on previous relationships, interests and commitments.

An addicted spouse

Your spouse is dependent on drugs and cannot live without them. His or her mental and physical health have declined. At this point, you’re married to an addict.

A couple tethered together by their necks representing a codependent relationship


Codependency is when a partner or spouse becomes dependent on the other person in the relationship for any reason, whether it be emotionally, financially, or otherwise. Sometimes, the codependent spouse can lose their self-worth in an effort to save their addicted spouse.

If the partner dealing with substance abuse is close to recovery, the codependent might undermine the recovery process to maintain power and self-esteem. Codependent partners may become enablers to someone suffering from drug and alcohol abuse if a couple is going through a substance abuse issues.

If you feel you are in a codependent relationship, there is help in the form of mental health professionals and support groups.

Enabling behaviors

To avoid addressing the drug or alcohol abuse, a husband or wife may begin to cover for the fact that their spouse has an addiction. They may attempt to hide the substance abuse from family members and friends. This can include assuming financial accountability for bills or taking on other responsibilities that their spouse is no longer doing. All in an effort to avoid addressing the alcohol or drug abuse.

When married to an addict, a person may begin to endure certain behaviors that are detrimental to their well-being. They may tolerate being verbally abused, or in more extreme cases, domestic violence. They might even go as far as providing their addicted spouse with illicit drugs or alcohol because they’re in denial about the addiction.

Substance abuse can affect judgment, cause anger, resentment, or create an environment that encourages conflict at the home. Any person who feels they are at risk due to an addicted spouse should immediately seek help from the legal authorities, a healthcare provider or a drug and alcohol abuse treatment professional.

Substance abuse treatment is the only option

Some partners may feel that they should attempt to address their spouse’s addiction on their own. They believe that if they work with their spouse or give them the support they need, his or her addiction will go away. While this is a very noble idea, it may not be practical.

Addiction usually is a result of an underlying condition. It can be the result of a person self-medicating a physical pain. Deep emotional issues may be the cause. Addiction may even be a result of depression or anxiety. Having a professional address these issues as part of the addiction recovery program is essential to overcoming the problem.

Your spouse may not be able to address these issues with you. In fact, not being able to address these issues may be why they have turned to substance abuse. Not discussing these issues with you is not a sign of disrespect or that they do not love you; it is most likely just the opposite case.

Many people find it difficult to address problems they have with someone they love. They want that person to love them and don’t want to affect that by asking their spouse to support them in dealing with a problem that makes them feel flawed. They want to be loved and respected, so they hide their problems and turn to drinking or drug use.

As their spouse, accept that they want you to see them as flawless. Help them get the treatment they need to overcome their alcohol or drug addiction and feel better physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Hand reaching out to another hand for help with a ray of sunshine in the background

Drug rehab can save your marriage

Having your spouse enter into drug rehab can be a good thing for your marriage. As your spouse works with a substance abuse counselor to overcome their addiction, you can also seek counseling to help you get through this tough time. Addressing your fears, concerns, and emotional distress is just as important as your spouse overcoming their addiction.

While your spouse is in rehab, you can work through all of the emotions you have experienced about the addiction. You can also get the counseling you need and join support groups to help your spouse stay in recovery. The recovery process is so much easier for a person if they have the support of a loved one.

While your spouse is in rehab, they are going to learn a lot about themselves. They will work closely with an addiction recovery counselor to discover what has led to their substance abuse, and what can be done to make living in sobriety much easier. Drug rehab is designed to help your addicted spouse face all the physical, emotional, and mental issues that have led to your addiction or result from that addiction.

Facing all of these personal truths can be challenging, but the outcome is worth the effort. For couples, the outcome of a successful stay in a substance abuse recovery center can mean a better marriage.

A Final Thought

It can be very difficult to come to terms with the fact that your spouse has a substance abuse addiction. You may blame yourself, you may blame them, you may even blame the sun or moon, but blame does not help anyone enter into recovery.

Getting help for your spouse is one of the most meaningful and loving things that you can do. Helping your spouse get into an addiction recovery center that has residential inpatient treatment will allow them to regain control of their lives. It will also give them the opportunity to start rebuilding their marriage.

If you are married to an addict, or are concerned that your partner is abusing drugs or alcohol, please reach out for help. Not just for your spouse’s recovery but for yourself as well.

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