Spouse of an Addict: How Substance Abuse Affects Marriage

Marriage is a union based on love, trust, and a safe place for either spouse to confide. When an individual is married to a person who is suffering from addiction, it can easily break this marital bond. The marriage can quickly turn into a relationship that consists of fear and abuse. Those who are married to individuals who have drug or alcohol addictions may feel helpless. But, there is hope for those who are suffering from substance abuse. There is also healing for the spouse of an addict.  

If you are married to someone who is struggling with alcoholism or drug abuse, know that we are here for you. At Discovery Institute, we strive to provide support and guidance for those who come to us for help. First, however, it helps to understand what is happening in your marriage, your personal life, and the life of your spouse.

Addiction Can Destroy Relationships

Addiction is one of the greatest challenges a marriage can face. There are many ups and downs in intimate relationships. Being involved in a close relationship with someone who is suffering from addiction can be a roller coaster of emotional stress, chaos, and violence. The behaviors addiction causes include mental and physical abuse to loved ones. This can destroy trust, which is an essential part of any healthy relationship. Addiction can also lead to financial problems. When children are involved, addiction can prompt arguments over parental responsibilities, cause neglect, and even endangerment.

A drug abuse problem destroys everything in a person’s life, especially romantic and sexual relationships. The insidious nature of a substance abuse problem slips its way into an addict’s life under the disguise of a drink to get through the day, or to get high in a social setting with friends. This behavior slowly develops into an everyday addiction.

spouse of an addict

The Impact of Addiction in the Home

A drug problem alters the perspective in which a person views the world around them. Their attention, energy, and focus are directed to satisfying a need for more. The dynamics of the relationship start to change as he or she becomes less of a romantic or sexual companion and more of a tool to further the addiction. Sometimes, individuals may even begin to enable their partners, which can be very problematic.

Excessive use of certain types of recreational drugs, like alcohol, marijuana, and cause erectile problems in males. This effect can also lead an addict to abuse prescription male enhancement drugs to combat the diminished sexual function brought on by their use of other drugs.

A relationship has many components, and sexuality is one of them. The way the other parts of a relationship play out can be determined by how the substance problem impacts the sexual component. Being married to a drug addict means that the chances of emotional and physical abuse between partners increase when intimacy and trust levels are affected by a decreasing sexual capacity, and increased periods of depression and rocky mood swings occur.

Dealing With Harmful Behavior

You may define harmful behavior as just being physical. But it doesn’t have to be physical in order to legally and medically be considered abusive. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, any kind of behavior where one partner attempts to exercise dominance and force over another unwilling partner is abusive.

In this case, when a person is married to a drug addict, this kind of abusive behavior can be when the addict forces a spouse to finance their drug addiction. They may also threaten violence against their spouse, partner or their children if their demands. Other forms of abuse and neglect can occur as well to support the substance abuse habit, such as:

  • Yelling at a partner, insulting them, humiliation tactics, and belittling (emotional abuse)
  • Partners can be raped (even within a marriage), bullied into performing sexual favors, used in a sexually demeaning way, or denied sex
  • Use of fear and threats to manipulate and control a partner by forcing them to participate in drug abuse, or be a part of a drug high

Being Responsible for Your Partner’s Actions

If you are in a relationship with someone who is suffering from addiction, you have seen the horrible effects that the disease can bring. Addiction isn’t just affecting your spouse; it’s also affecting you. Often, the spouse of an addict is responsible for the repercussions of their partner’s behavior. 

Depending on the level of severity of the condition, you may have dealt with irrational behavior, sickness, lying, cheating, and other forms of unacceptable behavior. You are affected by the damages, fines, and other legal matters that can occur. But the addiction problem also affects your emotional well-being. The constant worrying and sleepless nights of fearing a call from the authorities or medical facility regarding your spouse can take a significant toll on an individual’s mental and physical health.

Mental Health and Addiction

When you are married to a drug addict, you witness your spouse not only battling the substance abuse problem, but they may also suffer from a mental health condition as well. Professionals call this a dual diagnosis.

  • An estimated 20% of Americans who have depression or an anxiety disorder also suffer from a substance use disorder.

Mental health problems and substance use disorders are sometimes co-occurring. Some reasons are that certain types of illegal drugs can cause people with an addiction to have one or more symptoms of a mental health problem. Pre-existing mental health problems can sometimes lead to alcohol or drug use because some individuals that suffer from mental health disorders use these substances as a form of self-medication. Both mental and substance use disorders have the same underlying causes, like changes in brain composition, genetic vulnerabilities, or going through stress or trauma early in life.

Over one in four adults that have a serious mental health problem also have a substance use problem. Substance abuse problems can develop more often with specific mental health problems, such as:

Seek Help for the Spouse of An Addict

The Life-Threatening Effects of Substance Abuse

Addiction can come in many forms. Whether your spouse has a problem with alcohol, opioids, cocaine, or other substances, addiction is harmful and deadly. Every year, thousands of Americans are killed, and millions of lives are impacted as a result of addiction. Addiction not only puts the life of the addict in danger, but the lives of their loved ones are at stake as well. Substance abuse can cause violent, irrational, and reckless behavior, which can affect the lives of their spouse, children, other family members, friends, and others.

Addiction Statistics in America

  • An estimated 21 million Americans suffer from at least one addiction, but only a mere 10% receive treatment.
  • Deaths due to drug overdose have tripled since the early 1990s.
  • From 1999 to 2017, there were over 700,000 deaths from drug overdose in America.
  • Every year, alcohol and drug addiction costs the U.S. economy over $600 billion.
  • Over 90% of people who have an addiction started to drink alcohol or use drugs before they reached 18 years old.
  • Addictive drug use is more common among Americans between the ages of 18 and 25.


Being married to someone who has an addiction can seem like a hopeless cycle of emotional, physical, and financial strain. If your spouse is willing to get help to end this vicious cycle, there are treatment options. Some include:

Getting your partner help for drug addiction is one of the greatest things you can do as a spouse for him or her and your relationship. You may need to consider staging an intervention. But, in any case, professional treatment will prove to be important for your well-being and the health of your spouse.

Treatment for a drug addict in a marriage is not only for addressing the individual’s behavior, but it also involves the spouse or partner and treating the relationship as a whole. Research has proven that including partners in the treatment process at some point is very crucial to its success.

Many couples experience disappointment and surprise in that their arguments and fights continue after the substance abuse problem is over. Problems in a relationship that are not related to addiction do not simply go away after treatment. 

Thankfully, resources like family therapy and counseling can help couples to heal. Addiction has a way of penetrating even the strongest and most loving relationships. But, through professional care and guidance, families can experience true healing and freedom.

Seek Help for the Spouse of An Addict Today 

It is important to remember that substance abuse by a spouse or partner causes damage to the marriage or relationship. It’s best to treat these issues because they can lead to turbulence and conflict. 

If your spouse is suffering from substance abuse, you may be wondering what to do. It’s not easy to know how to properly help someone who is struggling with such a severe issue. But, there is hope! You can find the help and support you need when you contact us here at the Discovery Institute of New Jersey. Just call today to take a step toward healing!