5 Ideas for the Spouse of a Recovering Addict

Living with an addict is no walk in the park.  With addiction, everything is placed in “plus one mode”.  Sometimes this can be part of the attraction.  Usually, addicts are funny, witty and charming.  They are generally seekers.  The magnitude of these qualities may be part of the reason you fell in love with your spouse in the first place.  Thus, when an addict enters recovery, finding a way to walk a new balance in your relationship is important.

Learn New Patterns of Communication

In relationships with people struggling with drug addiction, it is important to see your own character traits in interactions, as well.  Usually, the spouse of an addict knows the things to say to immediately start an argument.  Pay attention to your communication patterns and look for ways to communicate your point without being attacking.  Experts generally recommend sticking to “I language” and sharing how you FEEL instead of what you think.

Support Meeting Attendance for Your Spouse

Your spouse was gone all the time in one form or fashion.  Even if they were physically present, they were often high and unavailable.  Now that they are clean, it is easy to feel entitled to their time.  However, one of the most important things your spouse can do in recovery is attend meetings and seek ongoing help through recovery connections.  Finding ways to support and encourage meeting attendance will be important for your loved one.

Limit Expectations

Recovering Addict

Take part in healthy activities with your spouse.

Relationships with addicts are rife with disappointment.  So many times, families are left dangling in the wind.  Parties are missed.  Promises are broken.  In recovery, a spouse should feel hopeful and look forward to the possibilities of a new life together, minus the heartbreak.  It will bring greater peace and harmony to the household if you can limit your expectations and allow healing to take place gradually.

Some examples of expectations may be:

  • Wanting your addict spouse to respond in a loving, nurturing manner.  Your spouse will need practice to master appropriate responses.  This will take time.
  • Expecting your loved one to start back to work right away.  This may not be feasible at first depending on the type of addiction your loved one experienced along with the type of work he/she does.
  • Desiring consistent family time.  Often addicts are experiencing mental and emotional changes that are ongoing.  When issues arise, talking about them with other recovering addicts or a special counselor is necessary for continued recovery.

Embrace a New Hobby or Activity Together

In recovery, it is possible to find new shared interests.  You may discover you have the time and the money to take up a couples sport like tennis or golf.  You may also just enjoy reading the same books or watching movies that you missed while your mate was using.  Whatever the activity, finding things to do together can build a new, exciting friendship in your marriage.

Find Your Own Support System

Recovering from addiction is ridiculously involved for everyone.  Addicts have to consider multiple facets of the disease while family members are often left holding the weight of everything else.  Guilt, anger, resentment, sadness and loneliness are all extremely common.  Spouses of addicts can find comfort in setting up their own network of support.  Having someone to talk to with similar experiences can be invaluable.

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Some Valuable Resources

Regardless of how long your spouse has been addicted to drugs and alcohol, or even how long they have been clean and sober, help is available.  While some programs are available in the community, sometimes reaching out to someone specializing in rehabilitation from addiction is necessary.  If you find yourself struggling with difficult situations and feelings even after your spouse is in recovery, reach out for help by calling 888-414-2380 (Who Answers?) .  Compassionate professionals are available and willing to take your call today.


Naranon Family Groups (2017). A 12-step program for families and friends of addicts. Naranon. Retrieved on April 20, 2017 from:  http://www.nar-anon.org/

Joolaee, S., Fereidooni, Z., Fatemi, N., Meshkibaf, M., et al. (2014). Exploring needs and expectations of spouses of addicted men in Iran:  A qualitative study. Global Journal of Health Science. 6(5): 132-141. Retrieved on April 20, 2017 from:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4825508/