It’s long been recognized that substance misuse and marriage (or other long-term, committed relationships) don’t mix. Having a spouse who drinks excessively or does drugs is akin to tossing a stone into a calm pond: the ripples affect everything nearby. When a partner abuses drugs or drinks excessively, his or her children, relatives, friends, and coworkers are affected. However, many would say that, aside from the abuser, the abuser’s partner pays the highest price.
How much will it cost?
Couples in which one partner abuses drugs or alcohol are frequently unhappy; in fact, these partners are frequently more dissatisfied than couples who do not abuse drugs or alcohol but seek therapy for marital issues. As drinking or drug usage worsens, it begins to take more and more time away from the marriage, taking its toll by establishing an emotional divide that is difficult to bridge. These couples also report a lot of fighting and arguing, which can sometimes turn violent. Fighting itself can frequently create a setting or situation in which the partner with drinking or drug problems turns to these substances to relieve stress. When substance abuse becomes one of the main reasons for fighting or arguing, we see a vicious cycle emerge: substance abuse generates conflict, disagreement leads to further substance abuse as a way of decreasing tension, conflict over substance abuse intensifies, more drinking or drug usage happens, and so on. Couples with a partner who abuses drugs or alcohol have a difficult time breaking out of this downward spiral; luckily, we also know of proven techniques to support these relationships while also assisting the substance abuser in his or her recovery. There is hope if you or your partner are struggling with alcohol or other substances.
When Drinking or Using Drugs is Endangering Your Relationship
There are various telltale symptoms that a partner’s drinking or drug usage is causing harm to the relationship to the point that professional help is required. The following are some of the most prevalent warning signs that a spouse has a substance abuse problem in a relationship:
Many fights involving drinking or drug usage, or topics linked to drinking or drug use, such as money issues, staying out late, failing to take care of household tasks, and so on.
Having to “cover” for a partner who has been drinking or using drugs excessively by making excuses for him or her, such as reporting to an employer or coworker that the substance user is “sick” and will be absent from work.
A partner admitting to drinking or using drugs to relieve strain or stress caused by domestic conflicts and fighting over alcohol or other drugs.
The only or one of the few things the partners like doing together is drinking and using drugs.
When one spouse has been drinking or using drugs, he or she may engage in domestic violence or “angry touching” by the other.
Finding that one or both partners need to be drunk or high in order to express affection or talk about their relationship’s troubles
To hide the drinking or drug problem, the relationship or family as a whole gets secluded from friends and relatives.
Although most couples may not exhibit all of these warning signs, if even one of them is present in your marriage or relationship, it may be time to “take stock” of the situation and consider how to improve it. This will almost certainly necessitate the cessation of drinking and drug use, as well as the identification and treatment of relationship issues. If you or your partner are exhibiting signs of a drug or alcohol addiction, as well as relationship issues, it is typical to believe that these issues will resolve themselves over time. Regrettably, this is a rare occurrence. The best thing you can do is seek treatment as soon as possible, or at the very least contact and inquire about treatment options. If you don’t, the difficulties will almost certainly worsen.
Is Treatment Effective?
There are a variety of treatments that can be useful in lowering or eradicating alcohol or other substance problems. Individual counseling, group counseling, and self-help meetings and support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are also used in some treatments. If you have a drinking or drug-abusing issue, it is worthwhile to get therapy, not only for yourself, but also for your partner, children, friends, and others. Getting your partner into treatment if he or she has a drug or alcohol issue could be one of the best things you can do for him and your relationship. What if your partner has a drinking or drug issue but refuses to seek help or go to treatment because he or she does not believe there is a problem or does not want to participate in counseling? This is a rather typical issue. Alcohol and drug misuse treatment programs, it turns out, include resources for worried family members and deal with this particular issue. They can provide you with ideas and information on how to persuade your partner to seek help; these methods are frequently effective in persuading family members who are hesitant to seek help to eventually join treatment.
What about our relationship, though?
Many treatments for those who have an alcohol or drug issue will involve their partner in some form. According to research, integrating partners in the treatment at some time can be extremely beneficial to the treatment’s success. It’s also critical to address the relationship’s issues; these issues don’t go away just because the drinking or drugging has ceased. Many couples are both astonished and frustrated that once the substance misuse has stopped, they continue to have numerous disputes and arguments.
The crucial point here is that a partner’s substance usage damages the marriage or relationship, and these issues must be addressed as well. If the problems in the relationship are not addressed, they might lead to more tension and, as a result, a relapse into drinking or drug use. As a result, improving the connection is necessary for long-term recovery from substance abuse. Eliminating drinking or drug use is only the first step; after sobriety has been achieved, a supportive caring relationship can be one of the most important aspects in maintaining that sobriety.
- Alcoholics Anonymous (AA): Site devoted to information about 12-step recovery from alcoholism.
- Narcotics Anonymous (NA): Site provides information about 12-step recovery from drugs other than alcohol.
- Recovering Couples Anonymous (RCA): Provides information about couples in which one or both partners are in recovery from addiction to alcohol, drugs, and other potentially destructive behaviors