Sometimes it’s easy to know when it’s time to leave an addicted spouse. Ending things with your partner is a no-brainer when you have problems with money, cheating, or incompatibility. But what happens when your partner is addicted to drugs or alcohol?

Addiction is one of the most complicated situations that anyone can face pending a breakup. After all, addiction is a disease that can be brought on by a number of factors. Some of them may be out of your partner’s control, like family history of substance use. So, how can you know for sure when to leave your addicted partner?

The Reason Most People Stay with an Addict

Most people who make the decision to stay with an addicted partner do it out of fear. Even when the relationship itself is as unhealthy as the substance misuse problem, the people who aren’t sure if or when to leave are afraid of bringing about other more serious problems. If you are rationalizing why leaving your addicted partner is a bad idea, you may be thinking:

  • I’ll be a terrible person if I leave
  • I don’t want him/her to feel abandoned
  • I’m afraid of what might happen to him/her
  • I’m worried that no one else will take care of him/her
  • I’m scared he/she might do something drastic or harmful

Facing the Fear of Leaving

Fear is not a healthy component of any relationship, regardless of whether substance abuse is involved. If you’re afraid of leaving an addicted spouse for any of the “rationalizations” listed above, or for any other reason, then it’s time to step back and examine the situation more in depth.

Talk to friends and loved ones to gather an outside perspective of the situation. Go over your concerns and your options. Getting to the root of what makes you afraid to leave will help you determine whether or not you should.

Reasons Why You Should Leave Your Addicted Spouse

If you’re on the fence about leaving an addicted spouse, you should take the following factors into consideration. It’s also helpful to gain insights from loved ones and coworkers who know what you’re going through. You might want to think about seeing a therapist so that you can discuss your concerns about leaving an addicted spouse.  

Abuse

Addiction often causes people to act in unpredictable and uncharacteristic ways. A generally nice person can become mean and petty when under the influence. Unfortunately, some of this behavior can even become abusive. You shouldn’t tolerate any type of physical, mental, or emotional abuse from your addicted partner.

Not Taking Responsibility

If your partner constantly places blame on others for their problems, you need to reconsider your relationship. People need to accept the consequences of their actions and learn that they are responsible for what they do. 

Denial

A major characteristic of people with substance use disorders is denying that they have a problem. They might feel like they have their drinking or drug problem under control and that they can stop using at any time. 

Dishonesty

Someone with a drug dependency can be secretive about whereabouts and sources of money. Individuals who misuse drugs also frequently lie about taking substances. This dishonesty could turn into stealing and cheating, and your addicted spouse could even be having an affair with someone else.

Possession

Your partner should never try to control where you go, who you see, and how you receive money. A healthy relationship allows both people to pursue activities and interests of their own. A possessive partner could be a recipe for disaster.  

Questions to Ask Before Leaving Your Partner

Leaving your addicted spouse is a difficult decision to make. However, you shouldn’t decide right away. This is something you need to seriously consider, and it could take months or even years to figure out. Below are a few questions that might guide you in knowing when to leave.

  • Is your spouse/partner willing to change? This is probably the most important question you can ask yourself. If your spouse knows he or she has a problem, there must be a desire to change habits.
  • Am I enabling my spouse? You could be encouraging your partner’s drug habit without even knowing it. This is done by giving them money for drugs, covering up for them when they do something bad, and excusing their troubling behavior, and taking care of them.
  • Is this an equal relationship? You need to ask yourself if your partner is putting the same amount of effort into your relationship as you are. If you don’t feel valued and appreciated and you take on 90% of the responsibility, you should think things over. 
  • What will happen if you stay together? There’s no way to predict the future, but you can get a good idea of what could occur if your partner still has an addiction years from now. If the behavior is getting worse, there’s no way to tell that it will get better. 
  • Is this negatively affecting your children? When you have children together, you have a responsibility to give them a safe environment in which to grow up. Your spouse might be at the point where they are too dangerous to be around your kids. Even if your children are young and you think they don’t understand what’s happening, they do. They can become depressed by seeing your partner in a downward spiral. 
  • How much more can you take? It’s one thing if your partner hits rock bottom. Have you hit rock bottom, too? Are you tired of dealing with this and being treated badly? If this is the case, it might be time to leave your addicted spouse.

Making the Decision

It’s always important to remember that addiction is a disease that you yourself have no control over. You are not responsible for your partner’s addiction. So, you shouldn’t blame yourself for your partner’s choice to start using or the addiction that developed as a result.

If fear is the only thing stopping you from leaving an unhealthy relationship with someone, consider the following:

  • If your partner fails to recognize the problem, nothing will change
  • If your partner refuses to seek help, nothing will change
  • If your partner “becomes a different person” while under the influence, that will never change

You might be tempted to stay just so you can be a caretaker for your partner. However, you should be focusing on yourself and what is best for you.

For example, if your partner is violent when under the influence and you are genuinely afraid he or she will hurt you or someone else in the event of a breakup, leaving may be the only thing to guarantee your safety.

Ultimately, you are responsible for yourself and your own happiness, self-worth, and safety.

Parting Ways 

Ending a relationship is always a challenge, especially when addiction and health is a major factor behind the separation. If you decide to leave your addicted partner, the key to recovering from it and moving on is detachment.

Detaching from a toxic person or situation is, unfortunately, easier in theory than in execution. Still, it’s possible. When you detach, you put physical and emotional distance between yourself and your now-ex struggling with addiction. It may seem selfish, but the reality is that you’re shifting your focus off of your ex and the addiction in order to take care of yourself.

Remember the Three C’s of Addiction

The Three C’s of addiction is a mantra that every loved one of an addict should take to heart.

You Did Not Cause It

When your spouse has a drug dependency, it’s easy for them to blame you for it. You must remember that you’re not the cause of your spouse’s substance use disorder. Blaming you is just a way for them to justify their actions. Accepting this can help relieve some of your guilt and hopefully force your spouse to take responsibility for their behavior.

You Cannot Cure It

Unfortunately, addiction doesn’t have a cure. Like most diseases, it can only be managed. However, this can be done with the help of a quality treatment facility like Discovery Institute. Your spouse can keep his or her problem use at bay with the help of detox, therapy, and aftercare programs. 

You Cannot Control It 

Someone with a substance use disorder cannot control their drinking or drug misuse. Substances have affected their brain to the point where they can’t function without drugs or alcohol. You also can’t control your spouse and force him or her to enter drug treatment. This is a decision your partner must make for themselves. 

It’s also important to remember that addiction is a disease that affects everyone. You may not be the one with the substance abuse problem, but it affects you just as much as it affects the person who drove you away with their poor choices.

What If I Decide to Stay?

Knowing when to leave an addicted spouse is one thing. Deciding to stay with your partner, on the other hand, means you’re committed to getting him or her help. There are cases in which couples can overcome addiction together. For your relationship to be successful: two things must happen.

First, the both of you must be committed to your spouse’s treatment and recovery. He or she must be attending regular recovery support meetings (and you should, too). Your partner must also be dedicated to staying sober for the good of you, your family, and themselves.

Second, your spouse cannot exhibit any kind of abuse toward you or, if you have them, your children. No kind of emotional, sexual or verbal abuse is acceptable in a relationship.

Substance Use Treatment for You and Your Spouse

If you and your spouse are looking to manage addiction, look no further than Discovery Institute. We offer family therapy and support groups for drug misusers and their loved ones. We can also provide you with resources for Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous groups. These will help keep your spouse accountable for their actions.

Discovery Institute has intensive outpatient treatment, residential treatment, and sober living homes that all provide their own levels of quality care

Know When to Leave it to Discovery Institute

Knowing when to leave or if you should leave an addicted partner is never easy, but it’s not always sour, either. In the event that your ex-partner does decide to get sober, you can still show support without being in a relationship with him or her.

At Discovery Institute, we offer a wide variety of programs and services to ensure that all of our patients get the treatment they need to live a long, sober life. If you are worried about your former partner even after the breakup and would like to learn more, please contact us today.

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MD

Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MDDr. Jeffrey Berman is a psychiatrist in Teaneck, New Jersey and is affiliated with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. He received his medical degree from State University of New York Upstate Medical University and has been in practice for more than 20 years. He also speaks multiple languages, including French and Hebrew.

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