You love him/her. Really, you do. But your marriage is marred by addiction. Can you survive this? Can your marriage survive this? What is the loving thing to do? What would Jesus do? It’s not easy to make sane decisions when you’re married to an addict.
When your spouse is addicted to alcohol, drugs, porn, sex, gambling, or anything else destructive your relationship is not normal. Your spouse’s primary relationship is with that thing and not with you. Or with God.
There’s no way to make this easy. Varying degrees of guilt, shame, codependency, anger, frustration, sense of betrayal, loneliness, and hurt wash over you. This was not what you signed up for, is it?
This is a complicated journey, and no single article can tell you everything necessary. But here are few things to know and do that can help you make sane decisions when you’re married to an addict.
Things to Know About YOU
- It’s Not About You. It’s 99.999% certain that your spouse’s addiction has nothing to do with you. In other words, you didn’t cause it, you can’t control it, and you can’t fix it. It’s terribly tempting to believe that if you just did things “right” everything would be OK. But that’s not in your power to make happen.
- Your Heart Matters. You’re not making things up. This impacts you. It hurts you. The heart damage you feel is real. It’s healthy to be honest about that.
- You Don’t Deserve This. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done or not done, your marriage marred by addiction is not punishment. You didn’t wake up one day and say, “I think I’ll choose a destructive marriage.”
- You’re Not the Only One. As isolated and embarrassed as you may feel, you’re not alone. The enemy has used human’s propensity to addiction to steal, kill, and destroy countless lives over millennia. There are other marriages struggling in similar ways to yours.
- You Can Make It! As confused and overwhelmed as you may feel, you are resilient. God has an answer. Others have discovered a way forward, and you can too.
- Your Involvement Can Help. You can make it easier or harder for your spouse to find restoration. Codependency or trying to control don’t help. But dealing with your own stuff, loving wise confrontation, and prayer, have the potential to greatly help your spouse’s recovery.
Things to Know About Your Spouse
- They are Wounded Too. Your spouse didn’t wake up one day and say, “I think I’ll become addicted, and inflict horrible harm on my marriage.” Their past baggage has impacted and impacts them. Addiction almost always comes from somewhere.
- They Are Responsible. Your spouse’s past wounds do not give them a free pass to live destructively now. Overcoming their addiction may be the hardest thing they will ever do, but it’s on them to do whatever it takes. It’s a mistake to believe you must “take it” because your spouse “can’t help it.”
- Recovery Takes Time. Almost always God takes people through a process that includes healing, accountability, truth-telling, repentance, deliverance, and more. They will need to uncover the roots of their addiction and learn completely new ways of living. That may take years. And it does require their choice.
- They Need More than You. As a spouse you can support, but you must not take on “fixing” them. Your spouse needs to develop deep relationships with others who are learning recovery, and perhaps get professional help.
- God Loves Them. Remember that God loves your spouse much more than you do. He knows their past wounds, their current destructive behavior, and the future purpose He has designed for them. God doesn’t give up.
Things to Do
OK, perhaps it helps to know those things. But what now?
Not every marriage marred by addiction can be saved. That’s not because of any limitation on God’s part. But in a marriage both people get a vote, and you can only vote for you. If your marriage is toxic and destructive there are times God releases you from your marriage.
But while married to an addict, there are some things you can do that will make for healthier outcomes for both of you.
- Learn to Set Boundaries. That’s terribly hard for many spouses, especially if you struggle with codependency (which most do!). Setting boundaries is not about trying to control or punish your spouse; it’s about deciding what you will do based on their behavior.
- Nourish Your Soul. It’s likely you’ve spent so much time and energy worrying about or trying to manage your spouse’s addiction that your own soul is malnourished. Intentionally taking in the mental/emotional/spiritual food you need will give you greater resilience, and help you make wiser decisions.
- Get Help! If there was ever a time you needed healthy connections, it’s now. Al-Anon, WivesCare, Celebrate Recovery, our own Fully Alive Group – those are just a few of the places to get support and care for yourself. It’s vital that you do so!
- Consider an Intervention. This is not something to be done lightly. Get input from others before doing so. At times an intervention by people who love and care for an addict will be the stimulus they need to begin recovery.
- Stay On Your Knees. God sees you. He knows, understands, and cares. You must have His perspective on things, and His wisdom and guidance in following through on decisions you will need to make. Don’t stop seeking for His input.
Get Some Help
Being married to an addict is exhausting. But you can experience a better future. And you’re not alone.
Your Turn: If you’re like most spouses of addicts, you’ve suffered a long time – alone. Where are you going to reach out for help? Leave a comment below.
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How’s the Communication Between You?
Whether newlywed or married for decades, communication is the key to the quality of your relationship. But most couples feel their communication is less than what they desire.
Understanding your communication style, and that of your spouse, will allow you to take your communication to the next level.