Watching your spouse or partner struggle with addiction isn’t easy, but this challenge doesn’t have to mean the end of your relationship. With patience, commitment, and determination, your marriage can emerge from this struggle stronger than ever before.
Start a New Chapter in Your Relationship
Try to look at your spouse being in recovery as an opportunity to build a new marriage and start a fresh chapter in your own personal love story. Let go of past mistakes, hurt, and anger. Focus on discovering who your partner is as a sober individual and give yourself permission to fall in love all over again.
One way to build a new marriage with a spouse in recovery is to set aside a regular “date night” to talk and reconnect, just as you did when you first met. Some great sober date ideas to consider including going for a walk in the park, visiting a museum together, going bowling, checking out an arcade, or volunteering for a non-profit organization you both support.
Listen Without Judging
Addiction is difficult to truly understand unless you’ve struggled with substance abuse issues yourself. However, being willing to listen without judgment can go a long way towards creating a better marriage when your spouse is in recovery.
In today’s fast-paced world, we’re often guilty of multi-tasking instead of taking the time to truly communicate. At the end of the day, put down your phone, turn off the TV, and give your spouse your undivided attention. Recovery is an ongoing process, so setting aside 15 to 20 minutes each day to reconnect in this fashion can go a long way towards keeping your spouse on the path of sobriety.
Make Time for Self-Care
When you’re the spouse of a recovering addict, it’s easy to become so overwhelmed by your partner’s needs that you neglect to take care of yourself. However, self-care is an essential part of building a strong marriage. You can’t be a supportive partner without creating a strong foundation for yourself.
Self-care includes eating healthy foods, exercising regularly, and getting the rest that your body needs, as well as finding time for activities you enjoy apart from your partner. This may include solo pursuits such as gardening or reading as well as catching up with old friends. When your own mind, body, and soul have been nourished, you’ll be able to bring your “best self” to the marriage.
Start a Journal
Keeping a journal can be a wonderful way to explore your feelings surrounding your spouse’s recovery without creating additional tension in your marriage. When you’re feeling hurt, angry, or disappointed, writing in your journal can help you work out your issues before you’re tempted to lash out at your spouse.
If you don’t consider yourself much of a writer, try making lists or creating an art journal that combines doodles and collages with words that express how you feel. If you’re not fond of writing by hand, create a special folder on your laptop for journal entries. There’s no right or wrong way to journal—all that matters is you choose an approach that works for you.
Marriage counseling is so much more than just a last-ditch strategy to avoid divorce. Any couple going through major life changes can benefit from marriage counseling. Having an objective third party to offer advice, guide discussions, and teach communication techniques can help you feel more confident as you work towards your sober future together.
If you have children who are struggling to understand your spouse’s addiction, family counseling sessions may be beneficial as well. An experienced therapist can help your family address parenting challenges and brainstorm ideas for how you can all support each other.