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Dealing With an Addicted Spouse – Do’s & Dont’s

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, help is available. Speak with a Recovery Advocate by calling (855) 602-7202 now.

Addiction never affects just the addicted person. It is a “family disease,” says marriage and family therapist, Darlene Lancer. In a couple, the addiction changes life as you once knew it. Finances may suffer, relationships become turbulent, and the non-addicted spouse often takes on much more than his or her fair share of responsibilities.

Addiction treatment in Washington State helps the person suffering from addiction come clean and stay that way. For the spouse left holding the family together, here are a few ways to stay healthy and protected while helping the person you love to come back whole.

Watch Your Actions and Reactions

It is not like you have had training for being an addict’s spouse. There is a learning curve that, at times, seems to be completely vertical. Fran Simone, Ph.D., explains that awareness and acceptance are the first two steps you should master.

Awareness means stepping back from the sometimes frantic pace and ups and downs of being an addict’s spouse. That lets you understand your role. Acceptance is the second step. If your spouse is an addict, you cannot change him or her without help. Trying and failing leads to a greater divide between you.

Simone offers several dos and don’ts for staying focused and avoiding unwittingly adding more fuel to the addiction fire.


  • React in an overly emotional way, such as nagging, shouting, or shutting down
  • Try to communicate when your spouse is under the influence
  • Make excuses for their behavior
  • Make decisions without thinking them through
  • Keep secrets
  • Enable their addictive behavior
  • Feel sorry for yourself
  • Spend time regretting past decisions


  • Be grateful for the positive things in your life
  • Set reasonable boundaries
  • Take care of yourself and others in your family, especially children
  • Look into help for spouses of addicts
  • Try to have compassion for the addicted person

Are you or a loved one struggling with addiction?

Our Recovery Advocates are available 24/7 to help.

Love Your Spouse Without Putting Yourself at Risk

You can love your spouse without putting yourself in harm’s way to be with him or her. Hard choices are part of the package deal. Your long-term safety and that of the rest of your family depend on putting up appropriate barriers that protect you from the addict’s irresponsible and sometimes dangerous actions.

Addicts do not make sound decisions the way that a non-addicted spouse would. For them, life revolves around the next drink or the next fix. As the spouse of an addict, your finances and health might be sacrificed to the addiction. Legal troubles might also be close behind.

LiveStrong recommends several ways to stay safer.

  • Always use protection against contracting an STD, even if you are sure your spouse does not use needles.
  • Encourage your spouse to go into treatment.
  • Learn about enabling behavior and how it contributes to addiction.
  • Identify a safe place to go if you need it and do not hesitate to leave if it is necessary.
  • Separate your money from his or hers, including bank accounts and credit cards.
  • Safeguard valuables that your spouse might sell to finance a drug habit.
  • If you have children, ensure they know where to go and who to call in an emergency.
  • Talk with someone about what you are going through.

If your spouse refuses help, you have another hard choice to make. Will you stay in the relationship or break away and begin anew? You might be dealt a certain hand of cards but it is up to you to learn everything you can and play them in a way that keeps you out of harm’s way.

Addiction treatment in Washington State can help put your spouse on a healthier path that leads to long-term recovery. The more help and support your spouse gets, the more likely he or she will be to succeed. Above all else, do not neglect your own health and safety in the process.

Call now to learn more about admissions and the addiction recovery programs that we offer to help your family heal.