People struggling with addiction are not only harming their own bodies and minds, but they are also hurt the people around them and their relationships. Marriage is one relationship that can be especially strained through the pain of addiction, turning a happy home into a nightmare.
Marriage therapist Dr. William Harley refers to addiction as a "love buster," because it causes a partner to behave in hurtful ways that can make living with him or her very difficult. A successful marriage demands that both partners have an awareness of each other's feelings, but addiction creates an obsession, as the addict becomes focused on nothing other then their next "fix."
Under the influence of drugs or alcohol, a partner may become neglectful, unfaithful, or even abusive. Marriage to someone struggling with addiction can be a very hard, but here are some things to remember that can help.
Don't blame yourself
Understand what alcoholism or addiction is, a disease that makes creates an obsession over getting a particular substance, and then putting the body at tremendous risk to maintain a sense of high. Such a strong, uncontrollable sense of dependency is not going to be conquered easily.
You may feel the urge to question your behavior, blaming yourself and wondering what you could have said or done to prevent the addiction from taking hold of you both. However, it is not your fault, and you are not helpless. Hope for recovery is there.
Find support for yourself
Just like for the addicted person him or her -self, this is too much for you to face alone. Supportive friends can give you extra strength for when time is difficult, helpful advice for how to better communicate and help your spouse, and the encouragement that you are not alone.
Stay engaged with activities outside the home, and work out a plan for escape if your partner should ever become violent. Just as with addiction, there are support groups for an addict's loved ones, where people facing issues similar to yours are able to meet to help each other.
Because addiction is an illness that can place someone in a situation of tremendous vulnerability, it may be easy for you to simply give everything you have to your partner. You may not even be aware of how the stresses and chaos is affecting you. Stop and take time to take care of yourself first.
Don't stop trying to get support for your partner
Ultimately, you cannot "force" your partner to become sober. Recovery is a decision that has to be made the individual him or her –self. However, there are ways to encourage him or her to recognize the illness and his or her need for help.
Out of a desire to avoid conflict, or a misplaced sense of what feels like "love," you might feel the need to "protect" your partner from the effects of his or her addiction, or give in to their manipulations. Such enabling behavior can prevent an addict from seeing the effects of his or her actions.
Instead, allowing him or her to experience the damage an addiction is causing will be the most powerful incentive to change.
Conversely, you may become so frustrated with your spouse that you lash out and project angry and judgmental attitudes. This can create feelings of helplessness and shame, which can make them continue using out of a sense of helplessness.
By speaking honestly to your partner, and confronting him or her about how addictive actions hurt you may provide can help someone in denial realize they need help, and then offering hope that recovery is possible can help point the way to a better life.