Mental Health Healing Man

Walking a Thin Line

Marriage is a relationship between two people who love each other, who care for each other, and who have made the commitment to be with each other threw everything no matter how good or bad it may be. How do you manage to maintain a healthy supportive relationship with your spouse through thick and thin without becoming co-dependent?

engagement ringThis question can be a very difficult one to answer, if you are married to an addicted person, you’ve made a commitment to stay with them to be there for them and to help them through any hardships.  Finding the strength to help them get the treatment they need to recover and live a happy life without the assistance of drugs or alcohol can be difficult. It can easily turn to controlling behaviour demanding change, hiding addictive behaviour, and resentment towards to the one that you love. The problem is that when you pair an addict with a spouse who is insecure, or unsure of themselves they will lean toward pressuring and demanding rather than encouragement and support. When this happens co-dependency is nearly unavoidable.

This is not to say that a co-dependent addict can’t find their way into treatment. Many times an addicted spouse will enter a treatment program as a result of the pressure that was put upon them by their spouse.  They will go with the flow, enter recovery and come out of treatment a new person.  However, they didn’t get treatment for themselves; they did it in order to get away from the nagging and judgemental behaviour of their spouse.  Because of this flaw in their treatment the chance of relapse is great.   Of course it may not be right away, often the marriage will go through a renewal in which both partners find themselves happily moving forward together refreshed, renewed, revived.  The problem is that recovery was incomplete, the addict has to want to recover for themselves, and the enabler is still angry and resentful of the life they have been living. Soon, the controlling behaviour of the enabling spouse will creep out again, and as a result of this the recovered addict returns to their old habits.

Knowing this, how do you go about helping a spouse seek recovery from an addiction?  We know that this can be one of the hardest things for any couple to overcome; doing so together will ensure the most likely chance at a full recovery.  

Take care of yourself!  While your spouse is dealing with the disease of addiction, their actions impact everyone around them.  As a result you will find that you are suffering just as much as they are, you will need to ensure that you are taking care of yourself as well.  Do not hesitate to seek out professional help for your own well being.  Learning to care for yourself is just as important for your spouse’s recovery as it is for your own.  Just as they have to enter rehab for themselves you also must realise that this treatment is for YOU! If you don’t take care of yourself then you can’t be there for your spouse when they need you the most.  And thus, you’ll never be able to fulfil your marital promise to one another.

Be supportive, not judgemental.  You can still be there for your spouse and aid them in their recovery by taking the appropriate steps.

Become educated – learn about the steps of recovery.  What are the 12 steps of recovery programs?  What are the risks associated with addiction and the potential for relapse? What will your spouse need from you to stay on the road to full recovery?

Communicate – Talk to your spouse about their addiction, how it has impacted you, and how you hope to be able to assist them in recovery.  Don’t judge them, for their addiction, support them in their recovery. Seek counseling as a couple and open your hearts up to one another with the guidance of a professional.

Don’t fear change – Even the healthiest of relationships will face change. Don’t rush it however, recovery can be slow, it is better to allow treatment to take its natural progression rather than pushing for a speedy recovery.  Things will not be the same, explore new things together, talk about roles and expectations but don’t allow fear to hamper your recovery or theirs.

Forgive your spouse – Addiction is a disease, it is not a choice that was made willingly. While you may have spent many years together living in co-dependence anger, resentment and confusion will be strong influences on your relationship.  Let them go and allow yourself to forgive your spouse and move on.

Don’t point your finger – For every finger you point at someone else, three more are pointing back at you.  You are where you are in your relationship because of your behaviour as well as that of your spouse.  They have an addiction, and you are a controlling enabler. Accept that you both hold blame for the situation and accept that as such you both hold responsibility for recovery.
long roadThere is a long road to happiness in any marriage; it requires both parties be fully invested in the health and well being of one another.  That being said there is a very fine line between caring for one another and allowing on another to become something they never intended. In the event that you find yourself in a co-dependent relationship know that there is a way to recovery.  But both of you must be invested in helping one another as well as yourselves.  This is the way to happiness, and maintaining a healthy relationship.  Be prepared for some rough and rocky roads along the way, learn to forgive one another, and in the event that your spouse refuses to seek treatment or if enter treatment and relapse know that while there is help for you both you may not be able to pick the pieces back up and may in fact find that you are both better off to part ways.  No matter what happens, always keep in mind that only you can be responsible for your own wellness.