Here’s What Addiction Does to Your Marriage

Addiction is an illness, but unlike most illnesses, it’s not just the sufferer that feels the symptoms.

Very often, addicts do horrible things either to support their addiction, or because of it. They may lie. They may steal. They may end up having run-ins with the law. They may neglect the people that love them. They will almost certainly struggle to stay in control of themselves and their actions, leading to disastrous decisions that can range from embarrassing and self-destructive behaviour through to infidelity or abuse.

If you are living with an addict, these problems become your problems. Managing their behaviour, and dealing with the fallout, will likely dominate your life. Whether you’re an addict or married to one, you probably feel that the addiction is consuming you.

Worse, the trauma of surviving your partner’s addiction, and the resentment you feel for them for inflicting this on you, will likely linger, even if the addiction itself is brought under control. This means it’s incredibly important to understand the deep-rooted ways that an addiction can damage your relationship, and to take steps to address this, as well as the addiction itself.

For Better or Worse

The stresses aren’t only emotional, they’re also financial.

Firstly, addictions are expensive, and for the addict, access to your drug – whether that’s alcohol, prescription medication, illegal substances, gambling, or anything else – will always be top of the shopping list. The partner’s practical needs will come second.

Secondly, if you’re married to an addict, you will be liable for any debts they run up, and you will be the one stuck supporting them if they are fired or can no longer work. You may be trapped in a constant state of anxiety because you don’t know what situation they might land you in next – whether you could lose your home, for example, or whether they could wind up arrested, fined or imprisoned, either directly due to their addiction or crimes they commit while under the influence.

“One of the greatest tragedies of watching your spouse succumb to an addiction is watching them slip from being your partner to your dependent.”

From Partner to Keeper

One of the greatest tragedies of watching the spouse you love succumb to an addiction is watching them slip from being your other half – your partner – to your dependent. Not only does the addict tend to develop a total dependency on their partner to survive, they also stop being able to give that partner what they need from the relationship.

This kind of imbalance murders mutual respect in your relationship. You simply can’t have a functional marriage if one of you is constantly monitoring the other to keep them from destructive behaviour. If the situation is too one-sided for you to rely on them for what you need out of the relationship.

Feel you could benefit from a little support?

Check out Naked Marriage Online to schedule a chat with a relationship trauma expert who can help you take the first step.

Feeling Betrayed

Once an addiction has taken centre stage in your partner’s life, there will be no room for you in the spotlight. Your needs become background noise. Your marriage is a secondary concern. In many ways, it’s as if your partner is having an affair with someone they are completely besotted with, and now you have to move that person into your home and find a way to tolerate them.

Such a huge, painful betrayal is, again, deeply traumatic. No matter how much you try to recognise this as an illness, for many people it is incredibly hard not to feel that your spouse has chosen this thing over you – and to question your worth as a result.

Forgiving your partner for making you feel that way, recovering from the hurt, and getting past the residual self-confidence issues this brings, will take concerted effort. It won’t simply evaporate if and when they finally kick the habit.

“Whether you’re an addict or married to one, you probably feel that the addiction is consuming you.”

The Basic Ingredients for a Healthy Marriage

Put it like this: for us humans to be happy and content in our lives, we need to have certain needs met. The psychologist Abraham Maslov famously visualised these needs in this hierarchy pyramid:

Abraham Maslov pyramid
Abraham Maslov hierarchy pyramid

At the base of the pyramid is the essential layer, the physiological stuff: food, drink, sleep, shelter and so on. Then, the need to feel safe, both physically and financially. Third is a sense of belonging, feeling that you are part of something, or that you are loved. Fourth is esteem, both in terms of self-respect and respect from others. Last is self-actualisation: the chance to be the best version of yourself, and to achieve the things that matter to you.

Both addiction and marriage to an addict attacks a person at every layer of the pyramid.

As I mentioned above, in severe cases you might go without basics like food, or risk your access to shelter, to fund an addiction. Even if you haven’t hit rock bottom, the uncertainty of what could happen next makes it difficult to feel safe. The loneliness of losing your partner to an addiction, and the social ostracism experienced by the addict, undermine any sense of belonging or love.

Next, as we’ve seen, mutual respect (and self-respect) are quick to go out of the window when addiction renders a person helplessly codependent, or when their partner starts to question their self-worth. Finally, with addiction dominating both your lives, or while you’re forced to sacrifice your own interests, dreams or personal development to focus entirely on someone else, self-actualisation is impossible.

“Living with a serious addiction, or with an addict, undermines your chance of happiness at every level.”

In other words, living with a serious addiction, or with an addict, undermines your chance of happiness at every level. Recovering from the hopelessness this makes you feel at the time, rebuilding your ability to take steps towards happiness, and getting to a point where you are no longer angry with the person or the addiction that did this to you, are not things that simply happen on their own.

Reach Out

Whether you or your partner are trying hard to recover from addiction, you’ve succeeded in getting sober and looking to rebuild your relationship, or you are simply trying to figure out how to avoid repeating the same relationship mistakes again, you can’t do it all by yourself.

Addiction hurts both people in a marriage in very different ways. To have a hope of recovering your relationship, you need to be able to confront this honestly and start trying to get beyond the trauma, together. You need to recognise the ways in which the addiction has attacked your sense of security, belonging, self-worth, respect for yourself and your partner.

And then, just as you need to do when beating an addiction, you need to go beyond talking about the why and the how, and take the first deliberate, proactive steps on your journey to healing.

Ready to start the process?

Check out Naked Marriage Online to schedule a chat with a relationship trauma expert who can help you take that first step.

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