Having a spouse who is battling addiction can be a heartbreaking and harrowing experience. When you vowed “till death do us part,” you likely never imagined that your soul mate would begin taking actions that could make that a reality sooner rather than later. Few people knowingly marry someone struggling with addiction, and the behaviors that accompany drug addiction can tear a marriage to pieces.

How a Spouse’s Addiction Impacts the Marriage

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health reports that approximately 24.6 million Americans are in marriages where one spouse has a substance abuse issue.  If you are the spouse of a person who is struggling with alcoholism or drug addiction, you may feel frustrated, alone and conflicted. You married this person while promising to stand by his or her side through difficulties, yet your mate’s destructive behavior is not something that you could have imagined at the time.

The truth is that addiction is a disease that is accompanied by some negative and often dangerous behaviors. Your spouse has probably begun lying, behaving irresponsibly and may resort to breaking the law. He or she might steal, cheat, become violent and use the household money to support a drug habit. It is no wonder that many spouses of those affected by drug addiction have to simply throw in the towel and walk away for their own safety and sanity.

Issues That Arise When Divorcing an Addicted Spouse

If you decide that separation and divorce is your best option, do not expect that the process will be a simple one. A spouse who is struggling with drug addiction is not healthy on any level, so there will be no semblance of reason or compromise. Your best course of action is to find a strong support network of your own, such as Nar-Anon, and hire a divorce attorney that understands your particular issues.

When children are involved, it is more important than ever that you make decisions that are in their best interests. An addicted parent should be provided little to no visitation with children if it will endanger them in any way. As you make these changes, you may also want to secure counseling services for your children so that they can deal with their feelings.

Saving the Marriage by Choosing Addiction Treatment

It is common for spouses to blame drug addiction on the person when the real blame lies with the disease. This does not mean that the addicted person should not be held responsible for his or her actions, however. This is a tricky subject that those dealing with addiction and their loved ones debate and struggle with consistently. The fact is that addiction is a disease that requires specific treatment and actions, similar to diabetes or high blood pressure.

If threats of a divorce and losing child custody have finally gotten the attention of your spouse, he or she may be ready to seek help. Loved ones can play a vital role in the ongoing recovery process as part of a strong support system. They cannot be the only support system, however.

The first step is to encourage your spouse to get help by agreeing to attend a drug addiction treatment program.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.