healing your marriage in recovery

Healing Your Marriage in Addiction Recovery

Published on January 14, 2020 by First Responder Wellness

Marriages are a frequent casualty of addiction. Maintaining a healthy relationship is impossible in active addiction because substance abuse takes priority over family responsibilities and the emotional needs of a spouse. Many marriages will not survive a battle with addiction.

For those that do, there is usually a long road of hard work and healing necessary to rebuild the relationship. While every individual’s circumstances are different, some tools and strategies can be used in every relationship. With practice and proper support, you can move your marriage past the pain of addiction.

Start from Scratch

If you are working on rebuilding a relationship that was once happy and healthy, it can be easy to dwell on those memories and grieve for better times. However, attempting to recreate the exact relationship that existed before addiction is impossible. You and your spouse will always have those fond memories, but they are obscured by the hard times of active addiction.

A spouse with a substance use disorder is likely to become selfish and deceitful, and the relationship will suffer as a result. Instead of trying to bounce back to where your relationship once was, work on building a new relationship.

Approach the situation as if you have just started dating someone new, and you are still getting to know them. This means that, just as in a new relationship, it will take time to build trust and develop intimacy. Looking at your spouse with fresh eyes and having the chance to start all over can also be fun and exciting. This perspective can help keep both individuals more invested in the relationship.

Create Space

Part of rebuilding a relationship that has experienced a great deal of pain is creating a balance between space and connection. While it is essential to spend quality time with your spouse, it is also vital that each individual has time to work through their personal feelings.

The person in recovery must continue to focus on their sobriety. They have to continue to focus on their recovery work and maintaining self-care routines. The spouse of the addicted individual should dedicate some energy to other aspects of life, such as friendships, work, and hobbies.

The goal is to avoid becoming consumed by the other person’s recovery journey. Giving each other space takes a bit of pressure off the situation. It also allows each individual to miss the other, which can be a healthy part of romance.

Express Yourself

Addiction often leaves many unresolved emotions in its wake, and jumping back into a relationship in early recovery can be difficult without finding an outlet to process those feelings. The spouse of someone with a substance use disorder may feel angry, hurt, frustrated, and disappointed by the things their partner said and did in active addiction.

However, while you may sometimes feel the need to yell or lash out at your spouse in early recovery, this behavior will only damage the marriage further. Finding a way to express yourself healthily and work through unresolved emotions is critical to the health of your relationship.

Therapeutic expression is different for everyone, but many people choose to work through their feelings with writing, art, physical activity, mindfulness, or talk therapy. Working these issues out on your own will allow you to approach every encounter with your spouse with more self-awareness and compassion. 

Take it Slow

Relationships do not typically perform well under pressure. Keep in mind that it took time for your marriage to weaken, and it will take time again to find strength. Don’t rush your partner or yourself to trust or display vulnerability immediately. Instead, set realistic goals in the relationship. Work towards these goals steadily, so both partners are on the same page.

It is also important to remember that the relationship, while important, is not the only priority for the person struggling with addiction. The journey back to a healthy marriage will be slowed by the simultaneous journey of addiction recovery, and this is okay. Taking it slow is one of the best ways to set your marriage up for long-term success after addiction.

Seek Help

One of the most efficient ways to rebuild a marriage after addiction is to seek professional help. This may come in the form of marriage counseling, individual therapy, or group therapy for families struggling with addiction.

Most often, it is a combination of these resources that creates a successful foundation of support for a marriage struggling to heal after addiction. Many addiction treatment programs offer counseling services or quality referrals to help families rebuild their relationships.

The First Responders Treatment Program at Simple Recovery uses trauma-informed strategies to cater to the unique needs of law enforcement, firefighters, paramedics, and other first responders with substance use disorders and co-occurring mental illnesses. We recognize that first responders encounter job-specific barriers and obstacles that come with the culture of their careers. Existing stigmas may make seeking help for addiction and mental health issues especially tricky.

Addiction does not have to mean the end of your career. Nor do you have to resign yourself to a lifetime of struggling with your health and relationships. At Simple Recovery, we take a holistic approach to treatment and addressing the underlying causes of addiction. This approach makes it possible for first responders to regain control of every aspect of their wellbeing.

First responders dedicate their lives to protecting their community. At Simple Recovery’s First Responder Treatment Program, we dedicate our time to helping these compassionate individuals find a path to lasting sobriety and mental wellness. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, call us now at 888-743-0490