Loving your Spouse through Recovery
One of the lowest points in a marriage may come when a spouse is battling an addiction of any kind. Challenges arise throughout the process of addiction recovery, from the feelings of hopelessness of a spouse while their partner is actively involved in their addiction, to the optimism (as well as anger) that can arise when a spouse begins recovery. With the persistent threat of relapse lingering, the emotional roller coaster in marriage during recovery can continue for many years.
Recovery is never easy for an addict or their spouse but getting support and giving love and support are two ways to overcome difficulties and keep your marriage intact.
An important key to loving your spouse through recovery is to first take care of yourself. Self-care, or meeting your own needs and wants, is key to being supportive to your spouse. Your spouse’s addiction most likely has had a devastating impact on you personally. Through self-care as well as educational workshops, family therapy sessions and family visits, spouses learn new skills right alongside their loved one and can practice those skills to strengthen themselves and the marriage. Recovery programs often recommend resources in the local community as well, including therapy and Al-Anon, S-Anon, or other meetings.
When you’re living with a spouse who is addicted to something harmful, you’ve likely grown accustomed to dysfunction in your marriage. You may have alternated between being the spouse who tries to fix all of the addict’s mistakes to the disengaged spouse who just wants some peace. Without intending to, you may have assumed some unhealthy roles, such as an enabler or codependency. Through therapy and counseling, you can identify unhealthy patterns and learn more positive ways to get your needs met that will ultimately help your spouse as well.
Loving and supporting your spouse during the first months – during early recovery – can prove to be the most challenging and difficult. Many significant life changes happen in the first year of sobriety. During that time, addicts in recovery need to be somewhat “selfish,” focusing on themselves in order to maintain sobriety and rebuild their lives. This can leave some spouses feeling neglected and resentful.
What a recovering spouse needs more than anything is the support and love from their partner.
You can be there for your spouse – and help preserve your marriage – by doing the following: educating yourself, taking care of yourself, keeping communication lines between you open, being patient, avoiding blame, working toward forgiveness, and preparing for setbacks. It’s also important to understand that your relationship may change; in fact, it may end all together. Your spouse’s progress may be slow, or it may be surprisingly quick. They may meet new friends, excel at work and perhaps even outshine you. Allowing your spouse some freedom to explore who they are without their addiction, can bring a positive shift in responsibilities and dynamics to your home.
For most couples with a spouse in addiction recovery, life won’t miraculously fall into place without a lot of hard work by both partners. Recovery can deepen and strengthen the bonds of marriage, but taking care of yourself and each other is key. Loving your spouse through recovery is difficult and draining, but the rewards and benefits are often worth the effort.