Is it possible to get your marriage back after a spouse’s struggle with addiction?
Whether it’s pornography, alcohol, gambling, or drugs, addictions are really widespread.
I recently met blogger Leah Grey, and her story is SO inspirational. She stuck with her husband after a drug addiction, and is blogging about how they’re putting their marriage back together. And today, while I’m on vacation, she’s generously joined us to talk about what she learned after her husband’s bout with drug rehab.
Going to treatment for addiction is not something you’ll hear preached about at church on Sunday mornings. Drug and alcohol addiction, gambling addiction and pornography addiction are all things that we Christians are expected to “Just not do”.
Yet, there are hundreds of thousands of Christian men and women struggling with an addiction every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday afternoon and Evening.
Addiction is More Common We Think
Addiction is isolating. It can be hard if you have a loved one struggling with addiction to know where to turn for relationship advice because addiction damages the natural dynamics of a healthy relationship. The foundational keys to a healthy relationship–namely, intimacy and trust–are often completely destroyed. After the storm of addiction blazes through, you’re left to rebuild your relationship based solely on commitment.
This is not the way of the world.
To be quite honest, a healthy relationship with an active addict is impossible. Although there’s a lot of reasons I say this [Read: “How to be a Peacemaker without being a Pushover” ] amongst other things, your spouse’s addiction will always take precedence.
What about a relationship with a recovering addict?
Assuming your loved one is in or working toward recovery from an addiction, after trust has been broken and intimacy remains a fond memory, how do you begin to rebuild your relationship?
Shoot… I bet you hoped I would say, “Romance”.
How Do I Know?
When my husband came home after nine months of treatment for his addiction I knew that this time, things would be different. Not because he had made such a drastic lifestyle change (it was pretty major), but because I was different.
I used to think the solution to the problem was simply to fix the problem. In our case, that meant that my husband needed to stop using drugs. What I realized in his nine month absence was that it was my attitude about the problem that would change the outcome.
I had to decide if I was going to patiently pick up my cross and bear the weight of my relationship or if I really thought that freedom would come by leaving it. Realistically, leaving a problem behind rarely brings freedom [Read: “Why I Stayed With My Drug-Addicted Husband” ].
Freedom from addiction, for everyone involved, is found in complete and total healing.
And God is the only one who can change a heart. Look back on your own life for a moment and consider how God has changed you through your adversity. Recognize how brave you are because of the pain you’ve suffered! God didn’t cause that pain but He did strengthen you to go through it.
When your spouse starts to act selflessly, you can be confident they’re on the road to true recovery. It’s a sign God is softening their hardened heart and holding them accountable. You don’t need to police their progress; All you need to do is take a step back and keep your expectations realistic.
Selflessness will bring back the sizzle.
It’s almost romantic.
If you can relate to this and you’re like, “Woah! This girl totally knows where I’m at!”, here’s a list of my:
Top Ten Tips for Relationship Recovery after Addictions
1. Treat your marriage like a new relationship.
The person you fell in love with in the beginning of your relationship may never come back but that means, neither will the monster who came out during it.
2. Recognize that you’re no longer “one” but two separate people.
The Bible teaches that when a man and wife are joined they, “Become one flesh” with one another (Gen. 2:24). Well, addiction breaks your “oneness”. You’re now two people in completely different places and you’ll need to meet in the middle (and hopefully, get busy becoming one flesh again!).
3. Don’t rush sex with a recovering addict.
Wives submit to your husbands and husbands submit to your wives (Eph. 5:22-24)… how many times has this passage been used to make you feel condemned? Condemnation is not from God! You’re not obligated to submit to your spouse sexually when the foundations of your relationship have been destroyed. Don’t feel pressure to work on your sex life before work goes into restoring the foundations of your relationship.
4. Reassure your spouse that you love the “new him”
Recovery will make your spouse sensitive and insecure. They’re unsure of who they are and they’re not totally comfortable with where they’re at. Your spouse may need reassurance that you love the “new” them and that they are valued. Build up your spouse and help them to feel confident in their new selves. It will go a long way.
5. Find a hobby, alone.
This might seem counter-productive but in all likelihood, you’ve spent the last thirty days to twelve months alone. You might of been busy taking care of children, surviving on one on income, vying for insurance, without much support (because nobody brings you a casserole when your husband goes to rehab). It’s time for, “Me-Time”. I suggest both you and your spouse pick two to three hours a week to do something that makes you happy.
6. Date again.
Remember, this is a new relationship. My husband and I actually got into a huge fight on our first date night post-rehab, but you know what? We worked out whatever it was we fought about (I have no idea what it was now but it was probably silly) and we ended up having a great night. Even if you’re only able to go out once a month, make sure you go on a date. Think of it as cheap therapy. If arguing is an issue for you, you can always go to the movies!
7. Take the pressure off.
I’ve heard it said many times, “Do not let the sun go down on your anger”. In fact, it’s even Biblical (Eph. 4:26). The old adage is obviously great advice but when your relationship has gone through the turmoil of an addiction, it takes a lot more than a sweet word and a soft kiss to make things better. What we really need to do is to focus on the first part of the verse, “Do not sin in your anger”. It’s okay if things are not okay but it’s not an excuse to lose your self-control. Take the pressure off and talk about it in the morning or better yet… with a therapist.
8. Forgive daily.
Do you remember the movie Groundhog Day with Bill Murray? If you haven’t seen it, I don’t know where you’ve been since 1993 (Woah, wait. Am I showing my age?) (Sheila chimes in: if so, I’m old too, because that’s totally one of my favourite movies, Leah!) It’s about a reporter who has to live the same day over and over until he’s finally humbled to change. This is the ultimate picture of relationship recovery after addiction. What you and your loved one have gone through will change you both. It doesn’t happen immediately and it can feel like you’re living the same day over and over but keep trying. Make daily forgiveness a priority. One day, you’re going to wake up and realize, you’ve changed for the better.
9. Accept that trust takes time.
Just as your spouse should not demand trust be given, you can’t force trust to happen. Don’t give trust where trust is undue just because you feel guilty. Stay aware. That said, trust after addiction is a leap of faith. If you see your spouse is making an effort to change and live righteously, it’s on you now to try to trust them. Start with the little things and work your way up to the big ones. Pray often and operate within a healthy boundary. Remember: boundaries are healthy, “putting up walls” is not.
10. Don’t ride the rollercoaster.
As I’m sure you’ve heard over and over again, recovery is a long process. There will be highs and lows for everyone involved. You can’t control how your loved one is feeling or reacting but you can choose to get off the rollercoaster of emotion. Focus on finding peace and joy in each day. This doesn’t mean your situation will always be rosy but laughter gives relief to most pain. That’s the real key to a healthy relationship after rehab; Laugh often.
After all these things, the romance will come. Romance is the delicious strawberry (so much better than a cherry) on top of your relationship sundae. Yeah, maybe all you’ve gotten is nuts lately and you really just want some sugar but relax… change takes time.
If you’re consumed with worry or having trouble getting past the past, I have a free Bible study called, “Be Still & Know” made just for you! It’ll help you to settle into the Rest of God and take a step back from the trouble overshadowing your joy. It’s four weeks of self-study that goes straight to your inbox and comes with a twenty-page workbook you can either fill out online or be old school like me and print it out. See it here!
So, can you get your old relationship back? No… but do you really even want it back? What you can do is take the time to get to know the new (and improving) version of your spouse.
Recovery for a relationship after rehab is possible, it just takes a lot of patience and some good old hard work!
Leah Grey runs a faith-based online ministry for women with loved ones who struggle with drug and alcohol addiction. She challenges popular beliefs about addiction and encourages women to support their loved ones’ recovery, without abandoning them, by creating healthy boundaries. In March 2016, she launched her website, leahgrey.com and community for women in crisis, “Live, Love, Hope”.
And I’d like to introduce you to Sarah Ball, too, who has guest posted for me before! She has written a ton about anxiety, and she’s a great friend who is going places and has such an important message. This week, while I’m away, Sarah’s going to be jumping into the comments and participating a bit since I’m not around. Thanks, Sarah!