Addiction can come between couples and break them apart–often in irreparable ways. Addiction can push very far apart people who once loved each other so deeply, to the point that they do not recognize each other anymore: one only sees the drug, while the other only sees the addiction.
Even as the addict chooses to go to rehab, the partner still suffers. They feel the sting of distrust, the pain of betrayal, the shock of revelation as the many puzzle pieces start falling into place, the ache of wondering if ever things will ever be back to the way it once was before the addiction. Indeed, the hurt of addiction cuts deep.
Now the question is: Will you ever bring back you spouse’s trust–and maybe even love–after you have undergone rehab?
Absolute assurances are as impossible to give as they are impossible to fulfill to the tee, especially in addiction and recovery. Even with the best intentions and the strongest recovery, relapse may still occur, and this is only part of the process.
During addiction, the addict’s partners may have been given thousands of promises of change from their partner, only to have those promises broken time and again. The spouses would then start to believe that their partners have chosen the drugs over their love, their relationship, and their family. Soon, they succumb to the feelings of being hurt, used, deceived, unloved, ashamed, and always waiting for that next blow of betrayal.
Frustration and Fear
Once in recovery, the addict would have to deal with frustration, while the partner has to face fear as they tiptoe around each other. Take this couple for example:
The recovering addict: “That’s it. I’ve had enough. Whatever I do, she never believes that I’ve changed and I’ve stopped using. She is suspicious of my every move and questions me all the time, and all this is stifling. I might as well go back to doing drugs if she treats me this way. Even if I have changed, she still accuses me anyway!”
The recovering addict’s spouse: “I’ve heard it all before. He will just tell me what I want to hear so that I’ll get out of his way and so that he can continue doing drugs. Even if he says it will never happen again, I don’t believe it anymore. There will always be a next time, and I will be hurt again. I can’t let myself be that stupid and vulnerable anymore.”
This type of relationship dynamics is common in a couple where one is recovering from addiction. The sober partner will always feel the need to be on guard, and this frustrates the recovering addict, to the point that they would feel the efforts are futile.
Trying to control their recovering partners may do more harm than good as it causes stress, anger, loneliness, and resentment because the recovering addict would feel that their hard work in recovery is meaningless. These feelings can then drive relapse.
Meanwhile, their partners may try to protect themselves by emotionally and physically withdrawing from their partners, as the memories and the fears build more and more walls that keep the couple apart.
What you can do:
For the person in recovery:
- Be patient and steadfast in your commitment to recovery. You know this is really it this time. It can be frustrating but give your partner room to keep up with you. They cannot read your minds and your feelings, and you have broken so many promises before, so give them time to heal.
- Earn their trust. It is a hard road, but it is one you must take. You have to give them plenty of reasons to trust you again, and you can start from little things. Do what you say you’ll do and when you say you’ll do it. When you’re apart, don’t give your partner a reason to doubt or be suspicious. Be in contact with them frequently.
- Be open about your thoughts and feelings. Say what you feel in a constructive and honest manner. Secrecy can scare them back to isolation, so the secret is to keep them in the loop of what you are feeling so that they can also understand you and be there to support you.
For the partner of the recovering addict:
- Be patient and trust your instincts. Do not beat yourself up for not trusting your partner, but create a compromise where you can show that you are also making an effort to be trustful again.
- Give your partner the chance to earn your trust. Give him a few responsibilities at a time, and once he succeeds in these, you will feel a lot better. Give it time and let your relationship build a new and strong foundation.
- Be open about your thoughts and feelings. Be open about them to yourself too. Feeling upset and angry is understandable, but try to express it in a positive and constructive manner. Know that things will be different this time and in order to be a strong support system for your partner, you have to be positive about the recovery process.
Remember this: at this point, not only does your partner have to be in recovery for drug addiction; your relationship has to heal too. It takes a lot of patience and hard work, but everything is going to be worth it.
If you are worried about your loved one’s addiction or is struggling with problems in recovery, don’t hesitate to give us a call. We’re here to help.