Do’s and Don’ts for Helping Your Addicted Spouse

Monday, February 10, 2020 | By Admin

married couple hugging

Addiction can be one of the most difficult situations that can occur within a marriage. Living with an addicted spouse can create stress, despair, anxiety, and unhappiness, amongst many other things. Countless couples who experience addiction within their marriage end up getting divorced because of it. In fact, substance abuse is the 6th leading cause of divorce in the United States. Even some married couples who survived active addiction in their marriage find themselves getting divorced during the recovery period. Just because a person gets sober and enters into recovery does not always mean that the fundamental issues that have developed in response to the active addiction are able to be worked out. 

But, despite the “D” word and all the negative connotations that come with it, divorce is not inevitable if you are in a marriage where addiction is occurring. Many couples make it through to the other side and are better for it. Each individual marriage is different than the next, though, especially when addiction is present. If you are married to someone who is addicted to drugs or alcohol, you are not helpless in getting him or her the appropriate care. Actually, it is quite the opposite — you have the power to change the narrative and push for a sober, healthy, and happy marriage. While you might feel completely powerless in the face of your marital strain, you have the ability to inform yourself in ways that help you bring you and your spouse out of the darkness of addiction. 

sad married couple sitting on the beach

Signs of Addiction in a Marriage

You and your spouse are unique in your marriage. Everyone has their own traits that make their marriage what it is. When addiction is occurring, it can impact you and your spouse differently than it can another married couple. Most of the signs of addiction within a marriage, however, are common across the board. Knowing what the signs of addiction in a marriage are can help you save yours. 

One of the biggest challenges that married couples face when one individual is addicted to drugs or alcohol is the other struggling to realize the severity of the issue. Addiction is a disease that is so pervasively hurtful, confusing, and overwhelming that even the most educated people have difficulty in admitting that their spouse is an addict and/or alcoholic. That is why being aware of the signs is as critical as it is. 

The most common signs of addiction in a marriage include the following:

  • Spending more time away from home (e.g. hanging out at bars, going to all the work Happy Hours, going out to parties or clubs) without you
  • Driving while intoxicated despite your pleas not to do so
  • Prioritizing alcohol and/or drugs above other responsibilities like participating in housework and engaging in family-related events and activities
  • Seeing money disappear without explanation 
  • Putting other people’s lives at risk when intoxicated (e.g. your children, yourself)
  • Struggling to succeed at work or losing his/her job altogether
  • Being “disconnected” from his/her surroundings

When your spouse is addicted to drugs or alcohol, he or she can easily exhibit these symptoms. But some of the most telling signs of addiction in your marriage come from you and your own instincts. It can be hard to admit to yourself that your spouse has an addiction, which can make listening to your own instincts even more difficult. The denial that can come over you can be very real. Part of learning what the signs of addiction in your marriage include educating yourself about the thoughts, feelings, and emotions that you can feel in response to your spouse’s substance abuse. 

Rather than chalking your feelings up to something else (e.g. “she works so hard at her job, she deserves to drink whenever she wants”) pay attention to yourself when you are feeling like: 

  • Your spouse cannot control his/her substance abuse
  • You are doing all the work at home because your spouse is out getting intoxicated, is intoxicated, or is passed out due to intoxication
  • Your spouse is disconnected from bonding with the kids and/or you
  • Your needs are being neglected due to your spouse’s substance abuse
  • You worry when your spouse is out drinking/doing drugs and that worry prevents you from sleeping, working, or focusing on anything else of priority

The most important thing you can do when you think your spouse has a substance use disorder is to listen to your gut. Pair that with learning about the common signs of addiction in a marriage and you are placing yourself in a position to help and/or affect change. 


Do’s and Don’ts of Helping Your Addicted Spouse

You will never hear someone in recovery say that his/her spouse got them sober. It simply does not work like that. Your role as the spouse of someone with a substance use disorder is not to get them sober, but to get them to a place where they want to get sober on their own. You cannot get anyone, including your spouse, sober. Every single person who is sober today got sober by his or her own effort and dedication to his or her personal recovery. And while you will play a major role in supporting your spouse in recovery, his/her sobriety is up to them. 

So what can you do? And what shouldn’t you do? This time in your life can be so incredibly complex and distressing that you might not even know where to start. But, if you know that something needs to change, you can help initiate that change. 


  • Get help for yourself, such as through Al-Anon or other community support groups
  • Attend family or marriage counseling
  • Practice “detaching with love” (e.g. actively removing yourself from enabling your loved one, but doing so by continuing to show love to him or her — an example being placing a blanket over your spouse who has passed out on the floor or other inopportune spot but not moving him/her to bed instead)
  • Educate yourself about addiction as a disease 
  • Be clear about your emotions surrounding your loved one’s addiction (e.g. tell him/her that when he/she uses, you feel scared, worried, angry, etc.)
  • Utilize ultimatums but only if you intend to follow through with them


  • Cover up for your spouse or make excuses for him/her
  • Ignore that there is a problem occurring within your marriage
  • Be dishonest with your spouse (doing so can make it difficult for him/her to trust you when the time comes to get help)
  • Drink or use drugs alongside of them
  • Judge, blame, or degrade him/her because of the substance abuse
  • Blame yourself for your spouse’s substance abuse
  • Tell your spouse that if he/she keeps using, you will do XYZ and then not follow through that action
  • Bail him or her out of jail or any other situation that his/her addiction has caused
  • Compromise your wellbeing at the hands of your spouse’s addiction

A huge misconception about what to do and what not to do when your spouse is addicted to drugs or alcohol is that every action that you should take needs to be centered around your spouse. When in this type of predicament, there is an element of having to view your spouse as a ship that is taking on water. If you get on the ship, you will go down with it. This does not mean that you cannot help your spouse, but it does mean that you cannot sacrifice yourself in an effort to do so. Addiction is an insidious disease, and forgetting yourself in the process of helping your spouse will only cause you both to crash and burn. 

Get Professional Help at JourneyPure Emerald Coast Right Now

There is some solace in knowing that if your spouse is addicted to drugs or alcohol, you are definitely not alone. Millions of people nationwide struggle with an addicted spouse, and while some of them are worse for it, many become better because of it. You can survive addiction in your marriage. If you need help getting through this difficult time, reach out us right now. We can offer you support, as well as help you take the first steps towards getting your spouse to accept treatment.

So, do not wait any longer. Journeypure Emerald Coast’s addiction treatment program can help you and your spouse get your marriage (and your lives) back. 

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