Mental health professionals have identified dozens of addictive substances and behaviors: alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex, and food, just to name a few. Some addictions don’t sound particularly negative, such as an addiction to work, but they can still create a burden on the marriage. Learning how to save your marriage from an addiction is a long process that requires personal strength and dedication.
If your husband is addicted to an activity or substance, there are a few ways to save your marriage if you are both committed to the end result.
1. Get Educated on Addiction
Read books, magazines, web articles, and any other literature you can find on the addiction your husband suffers. Knowledge is power when it comes to many common marriage problems, but this is doubly true in terms of addiction.
Professional literature isn’t the only way to learn. Expand your knowledge base by connecting with other women whose husbands suffer from an addiction. Hearing their stories and commiserating with their plights will help you understand your situation better.
2. Don’t Make Any Threats You Don’t Intend to Carry Out
Addictions inspire plenty of negative emotions, including resentment, anger, fear, and blame. While these are all natural, healthy reactions to your spouse’s addiction, they can also cause you to make empty threats in the heat of an argument.
Never make any threats unless you plan to follow through. For example, don’t say, “If you use drugs one more time, I’m filing for divorce.” If your husband does use drugs and you do not file for divorce, he will feel that your statements carry no weight.
Instead, avoid threats in favor of constructive tactics that promote effective communication. A few possibilities include:
- Expressing Your Feelings: Turn the conversation inward by focusing your words on how you feel. Threats might be destructive, but telling your spouse that you are furious or depressed is healthy.
- Framing Your Statements: You might not want to tell your husband that you will leave him if he continues to indulge in his addiction, but framing that sentiment in a different context might produce positive results. For example, you might say, “Marriages often fail because of addiction. I don’t want that to happen to us.“
- Asking for Help: Men are natural “fixers;” they want to repair the damage they have caused. Tell your husband that his addiction is causing you distress, then ask how he can help make you feel better.
3. Join Support Groups Separately and Together
Support groups put you in the same room with people who are experiencing similar circumstances. There are support groups for addicts and alcoholics as well as loved ones of addicts. Not only does this provide you with a like-minded community, but it also allows you to say things that might be destructive if voiced in front of your partner.
Some support groups have both open and closed meetings. During an open meeting, you can bring your spouse to the group for a more holistic approach. Try multiple groups if the first one doesn’t meet your needs. Every group has its own dynamic and atmosphere.
4. Practice Compassionate Praise
Now that you have studied addiction, you know that a “cure” doesn’t exist. An addict is forever an addict; he simply switches from the active phase of his addiction to the recovery phase, which is the point at which you can begin learning how to fix a broken marriage.
During the recovery phase, practice compassionate praise as often as possible. Remind your spouse that you are proud of him for making an effort and staying clean. Don’t follow a set schedule (such as offering congratulations every Monday evening). Instead, praise him at unexpected moments so he knows his efforts are on your mind.
Many women experience difficulty with compassion when they live with addicts or alcoholics. This is understandable, but it is important to switch gears from resentment to compassion. Remind yourself why you love your husband and why you are working so hard to save your marriage.
5. Pick Your Battles
You learned this conflict-avoidance tactic in Kindergarten, but it still applies to your adult relationships. An addiction is a serious issue in a marriage, and it can become dangerous. If your want to save your marriage, you must focus on the addiction first, even at the expense of other things that irritate you about your spouse.
If he forgets to take out the trash or neglects to pay a bill on time, let it slide. Focus on the compassionate part of helping him cope with his addiction. Next week, when he remembers to take out the trash, recognize this and thank him. It’s a positive way to let your spouse know what behaviors are most pleasing.
Understand the Odds
Of all the types of marriage trouble, addictions are among the most difficult to overcome. If your husband has become abusive or has put you in danger in any way, take care of yourself first. As important as it is to save a marriage whenever possible, it is more important to protect yourself and your children.
Some people never beat their addictions, while others slip in and out of recovery on a weekly basis. Set limits for yourself, decide what you will and will not tolerate, then develop a game plan for rescuing your marriage. Approaching the problem with compassion and determination will increase your likelihood of success.