This is the fifth article in our six part Common Causes of Divorce series. Links to the other articles are at the bottom of the page.
Drug addiction and alcoholism can have many different harmful effects on marriages. The stress of dealing with your spouse’s drug addiction may be taking a significant toll on you and your children if you are a parent. Additionally, drug addiction can make other issues in marriage much worse. Finally, drug addiction can cause safety issues and cause financial, emotional, and physical pain.
If your spouse is addicted to drugs, your marriage is likely suffering tremendously. You may be wondering whether you should stay in your marriage or begin thinking about divorce. We will discuss some of the issues you may want to consider when deciding whether to pursue divorce.
Types of Addiction that Can Affect a Marriage
There are many different types of addictive behavior that can seriously harm a marriage. Addiction is a behavioral and mental condition that involves our Reliance on addictive substances, such as alcohol and illicit drugs. Drug addiction has been on the rise in the United States for the last few decades. Addiction to cocaine, methamphetamines, opiates, over-the-counter medicines, heroin, and more have all had a devastating effect on marriages.
People with a drug addiction typically have a chemical addiction to the substance and a behavioral addiction to taking the substance. Researchers are still trying to understand how addiction can be psychological, physical, and mental. Drug and alcohol addictions all affect a person’s brain, making it difficult for them to stop.
If you are married to a person addicted to drugs, you probably experienced the cycle of addiction. Your spouse may apologize if you threaten to leave, promising they will stop using drugs. They may even stop using drugs for a period. Unfortunately, those addicted to drugs often fall back into using drugs and start the cycle again.
Signs That Addiction Has Damaged a Marriage Relationship
Drug addiction can have many different adverse effects on a marriage. If you are considering whether you should seek a divorce, you may want to sit down and carefully consider all of the ways that your spouse’s drug addiction has impacted you and your children. Drug addiction can affect someone’s ability to work, often resulting in being fired and unable to find a job.
Job loss due to addiction can be extremely stressful for the other spouse in a marriage relationship, making it hard to meet basic needs, including housing, food, and transportation. Additionally, the bill can be extremely high when a spouse goes in and out of drug rehabilitation facilities. The cost of purchasing drugs is also expensive. In addition to the financial burden of being married to a person with drug addiction, there are many other consequences, including:
- Changes in sex life
- Loss of trust
- Emotional abuse
- Physical and verbal abuse
- Feelings of guilt and shame
- Worsening communication
- Deceit and lying
- Physical abuse
- Pressure to hide your spouse’s addiction from friends and loved ones
Enabling and Drug Addiction
When a person becomes addicted to drugs, it can be easy to become co-dependent. Your family Dynamics may become dysfunctional. This type of dysfunction could negatively affect your relationships with your parents, siblings, co-workers, or friends. People who become co-dependent have low self-esteem, struggle with adjusting to change, and are quick to anger.
Codependency often shows up in all stages of recovery and addiction, including when someone is receiving treatment and after completing an addiction rehabilitation program. Without intending to do so, a spouse who becomes codependent may help their loved one continue using drugs, even if they wish they would stop using drugs. Examples of enabling behaviors to drug addicts include the following:
- Cleaning up after someone after their drug misuse
- Getting someone out of the financial difficulty that’s resulted from drug use
- Taking on the responsibilities of a spouse who is addicted to drugs
- Line or hiding your spouse’s addictive behaviors
- Allowing your spouse to misuse drugs around you
- Giving the spouse money to purchase drugs
If you have noticed that you have been involved in any of these behaviors, remember that these behaviors can hurt you and your spouse. Even if you mean well and are trying to help your spouse through recovery, engaging in these behaviors can stop your spouse from getting the true help he or she needs and progressing in their treatment. If you are struggling with coping with an addicted spouse, pursuing a legal separation could be beneficial to help you have space and time away from your spouse to get the help and support you need. Discussing codependency with a substance abuse counselor can help you make clear boundaries in the present and consider your future more clearly.
Is Addiction a Good Reason to Seek Divorce?
Unfortunately, there is not a clear-cut answer to this question. This question is complex, and every couple will need to be honest with themselves and think about the role that drug addiction has had in their married relationship. A significant aspect of answering this question will depend on whether both spouses are willing to work on their marriage and whether the addicted spouse is serious about getting help.
Some couples may find that they are both dedicated to working on the marriage, pursuing marriage counseling and that the spouse addicted to drugs is willing to go through rehabilitation. These steps could offer the healing and support for their marriage needs. In other cases, the couple may decide that their relationship is too dysfunctional, the addiction runs too deep, and that divorce would give them both the best chance of having a healthy future.