Substance abuse is a relationship killer. Drugs can be a huge reason for frequent quarrels among couples, and it could even lead to violence. One or both of you might think that drugs are good ways to relieve stress, but in reality, drugs produce even more stress for both of you.
If only one of you uses drugs, the other might also end up using drugs later on. And if only one of you goes to rehab while the other continues using, the chances of relapse are much higher.
If couples do not address the issue of addiction, it may spiral out of control. Codependence, enabling behaviors, financial trouble, loss of trust, and other problems may well ruin the relationship.
Thankfully, there are addiction treatment programs aimed at couples. If both of you go through the process together, you gain better chances at recovering and saving the relationship.
What if only one of them is addicted?
It would still be a good idea for both of you to enter therapy, even if only one of you suffers from an addiction. That way, the sober partner can learn how best to support the other in the journey to recovery.
In rehab, you would learn how to deal with addiction triggers. Most importantly, you would be educated on behaviors that enable addiction and create codependence.
That way, at the end of the rehab program, the sober partner would have the skills needed to be the other’s support system. The recovering partner can thus avoid relapse and stay on the path of being drug-free.
What are enabling behaviors?
As the name suggests, these are things you do that further contribute to your partner’s addiction. Here are a few examples.
Let’s say you are the sober one, and your partner is suffering from drug addiction. There would be days that your partner is knocked out cold, so they can’t function properly. If you find yourself calling in sick for them at their workplace, making up excuses to miss a family affair, or lying to their friends about how they really are, these are all enabling behaviors.
If you keep giving your partner money to buy drugs, that’s also enabling. And so is keeping their stash of drugs safe from prying eyes.
While you do have the choice of not enabling their addictions further, this may not always be possible. If your addicted partner abuses you physically, verbally, or psychologically, you may have no other option but to let them be. You may even decide to forgo getting help for fear of violent reactions.
Recovery and the relationship
Couples therapy does not only focus on treatments that address addiction. It also deals with issues in the couple’s relationship with each other. The therapy aims to strengthen that relationship, helping the couple deal with issues that may further fuel the addiction.
When the couple’s substance abuse problem is approached from all angles, they have much higher chances of recovery. Not only that, but their relationship would be drastically improved as well.
Also, couples therapy prepares the couple for life after rehab. This way, they can lead healthy lives and help each other stay clean for a long time.
Behavioral Couples Therapy (BCT)
BCT is a common method used in addiction treatment for couples. This method trains couples to interact more positively with each other, which helps ease the relationship stress that might cause one or both partners to turn to drugs.
BCT also helps couples to develop clear and supportive communication skills. If both of you talk to each other openly about your struggles with addiction, the quality of your relationship will be a lot better. Clear and open communication would also help the couple abstain from drug use.
One example of an activity in BCT is called the “recovery contract.” Here, the addicted partner states their intention of avoiding drugs or alcohol every day, while the other partner commits to supporting that goal.
In BCT, couples usually meet with their therapist privately once or twice per week. In each session, they talk about the couple’s goals and develop new coping skills. Other times, the therapist may arrange for group sessions with other couples.
What are the advantages of BCT?
Couples that have gone through BCT are generally happier, and their relationships are stronger. They were also less likely to separate or divorce than couples who only went through individual treatments.
Cases of domestic violence were also significantly lower. This is often a problem in couples struggling with addiction, but BCT does a lot to reduce it.
Also, some couples who went to rehab together ended up spending less money on addiction treatment. That’s in contrast to when each partner attended a separate rehab.
What if my partner is violent?
If your partner treats you harshly as a consequence of addiction, it is never a good idea for you to be in rehab together. Your situation might just become worse.
In these cases, you and your partner will be housed separately. Treatment will be tailor-fit for each one of you as well.
If both of you are committed to saving the relationship, you can still undergo some therapy sessions together. You can also communicate regularly with each other, but you’d still be in separate facilities for the duration of the rehab program.
What happens after the rehab program is over?
If both of you are committed to recovery, you can be each other’s best support system. You can help each other recognize triggers and control cravings. You can develop healthy coping strategies together.
Both of you are essentially each other’s accountability partners. You can remind each other of what you’ve learned in rehab. Also, you can encourage each other to stay on the path of sobriety.
To make sure you stay clean, you can also push each other to join an aftercare program. Here, you’ll work hand-in-hand with professionals to make sure that none of you ever touch any addictive substance again.