Watching your loved one struggle with an addiction is a heart-breaking experience. Your relationship to the person brings its own unique struggles. Today we will explore what addiction looks like within a marriage, tips for conquering this battle, and resources should you find yourself feeling lost or alone.
But first, let's bring our concerns before the Lord in prayer.
Dear Heavenly Father,
You are the creator of marriage. You designed it to be such a beautiful expression of love and selflessness. Our marriages are meant to reflect the love that you have for the church. Husbands are called to love their wives as they love themselves, putting her wellbeing before his own, loving with a sacrificial love. Wives are called to submit to their husbands, as to the Lord, and to be his helper.
You created this beautiful partnership. Help us to excel in our roles, to honor you by honoring the spouse you have blessed us with.
Lord, it is our prayer that if anyone's marriage is on the brink of divorce that you would move in a mighty way to restore and renew that marriage. We know that the enemy wants to destroy our Christian families.
Lord, we rebuke him in your mighty name. We come before you today ready to fight for our marriage, believing that you can equip us to face any trial we encounter and come out stronger and more united than ever before.
Heavenly Father, if anyone reading this is in a physically abusive marriage, we pray that you would send your angels to protect them. We pray that not a hair on their head would be harmed. That you would cast a hedge of protection around their entire body, oh Lord. We know that it is not your will that anyone remain in a dangerous situation.
So we pray that you would clear a way to safety for each and every person in an unsafe marriage.
We lift our addicted spouse up to you, Lord. We place this entire situation in your hands. We pray that the chains that bind them are broken! We ask that the stronghold that grips them is released. We pray that they would turn away from sin and run to you, Jesus!
Lord, open our eyes. Show us how we should respond in every situation. Give us wisdom to make wise choices. Fill our hearts with compassion and understanding. Renew our strength. Provide us with the endurance to persevere.
Lord, help us to show our spouse love, not the meager love that we have to offer, but the unconditional love of Christ. Lord, if there are any feelings of self-righteousness within us, remove them. When resentment starts to bubble up, remind us that we have failed you so many times, and yet your mercy is new every morning. Please help us extend that same grace to our spouse.
More than anything, we pray that your will be done. Your plan is perfect. Show us the way. We love you. We thank you. We praise your holy name!
In Jesus Name,
When we are married to someone with an addiction it can often times look ugly, scary, unpredictable, and feel hopeless.
It can look like neglect, isolation, deflection, and inconsistency.
Sometimes it can appear totally perfect from the outside,
while in actuality it is completely falling apart within. Covering up those embarrassing parts of your relationship can bring its own unique obstacles and feelings surrounding "living a lie."
But perhaps it hasn't gotten to that point, yet. Maybe your spouse's addiction looks like occasional unusual behavior. Infrequent unreliability. Atypical poor choices or mistakes.
Whatever addiction looks like in your marriage - know that you are not alone. Unfortunately, there are many, many marriages that are negatively impacted by either one or both spouses having an unhealthy relationship with drugs or alcohol.
For today's purpose we are going to assume that you are married to someone with an addiction, but that you are not engaging in substance abuse yourself.
If that is not the case and you are abusing drugs or alcohol then it would be strongly encouraged for you to seek professional help for your addiction, even if in comparison to your spouse, you feel that you have your substance abuse under control.
Two people abusing substances under the same roof is a recipe for ruin. And as we are going to learn, we can only control our own actions.
So, "My spouse has an addiction. I came here for answers! Where do I turn?"
1. You turn to God!
It really is that simple. Notice, I did not say it's easy. I said, "simple." Simply, seek God first.
As humans, it's our nature to want to control everything. The reality of the matter is - we cannot control other people or the choices they make.
If we seek God first, he will provide us the wisdom to make wise choices.
So above all else continue to pray and if you can't find the words, just keep praying the prayer on this page.
After you have prayed, consider the following strategies to cope with your spouse's addiction. We are going to focus on you and what you can do for yourself because remember, we cannot control someone else.
Say that out loud, "I cannot control someone else. I am responsible for myself."
It is our prayer that your spouse will see the changes in your attitude and actions and they will want what you have...
Christ Jesus shining through you and into the lives of everyone around you.
So first let's explore how to relinquish the desire to control our loved one.
2. I am responsible for my attitude and my actions
I may not be able to control what my spouse says or does, but I can control how I choose to respond.
Many phrase this as "let go, let God."
And while that may work for some, if you've ever tried it, you likely discovered that it's just so much easier said than done.
I would agree that it is a cute saying, but without action behind it, it is unlikely to cure your desire to control.
Instead, root yourself in God's word. Bring your cares and concerns to him.
"Cast your cares on him because he cares for you."
1 Peter 5:7
Next, ask God to change your attitude toward your spouse. Just as we did in our prayer. Start focusing on areas of your life that you can improve. When we are so focused on our spouse's flaws we may forget that we have character defects of our own.
Here are the defects of character:
Anything jumping out at you? If you don't feel that you can relate to any of these on even a small scale, then you definitely need to revisit number 10. Lol
I see a few calling my name. But I'm okay with that. Progress, not perfection.
Whether you relate to one or all 20, the point is not to harp on our short-comings , but to strive for improvement.
The first step is identifying our character defects. The next is being mindful of when we are allowing any of those defects to creep in and rue their ugly head. Becoming more aware of when you are engaging in negative thinking, being critical, gossiping... We can't repair what we don't acknowledge. Allow others to point out your character defects without becoming defensive. Objectively listen to what they are have to say and when warranted, accept the constructive critique.
*Side note* If the criticism is coming from your spouse, who is under the influence or not willing to do some self-reflecting of their own - seek a second opinion.
This is a time for you to do some growing, not a time for you to be put down or manipulated. When receiving constructive critiquing always, always consider your source. It should come from someone that loves you, wants the best for you, and genuinely wants to help you improve.
Now that you've identified your character defects and are practicing mindfulness - give yourself a positivity boost by completing the following worksheet.
Use this free resource to do some enjoyable self-reflecting and creation of a self-care routine. Self-care is so vitally important when you are living with someone who has an addiction.
At times a life of chaos can become your normal. Regain control by starting with yourself.
Once you've practiced some self-care and are in a good mental space, try identifying specifically what you can control and what you cannot control. Getting it down on paper will help you visualize what you are going to work on and what you are going to give to God.
Use this worksheet to determine what is within your control and what is not. Then focus on what is!
Create your own and come back to let us know how it worked for you!
3. Start a new routine
With your new attitude, you need a new routine to match. One that encourages growth as an individual, growth as a spouse and growth in your relationship with God.
Let's brain storm some ideas:
Can you be more mindful of your words? How about implementing a health regimen through meal planning and/or exercise?
Could you seek out support groups that are going to pray for your marriage?
(There are two under our resource section at the bottom of this page that will do just that- Women Connect and Your Praying Friend Community Page)
What about a goal to read a chapter out of the Bible each morning or a devotional each night?
Start out small and gain momentum by completing little goals. As you achieve what you've set out to accomplish, set a new, slightly larger goal.
The sky is the limit!
Want some ideas on how to get started implementing your new goals?
Here is a great article written by James Clear.
It details what is known as the Seinfeld Strategy.
I've used it in my work as a Substance Abuse Counselor to help my clients accomplish their recovery goals.
I've also used it in my own life. It's tried and true.
It really does work!
The strategy goes something like this...
Start by thinking of a goal that you want to accomplish.
Let's use one that is relevant to our topic:
A healthier marriage.
Next, choose an action that you can complete each day that will help you reach that goal.
Let's say your action will be -
"I am going to pray for my marriage."
Now, to implement the Seinfeld Strategy.
You take a calendar and hang it where you can easily see it.
This is one of those out of sight out of mind type deals, so make sure it's visible!
Draw an "X" on each day that you accomplish this task. After a few days of completing your your small goal - you will have a chain.
You are motivated to continue praying each day or else your chain will break.
Don't let your chain break!
You can set a goal for how many days you want to work on this goal.
For example, "I will complete this goal for one month."
Then you can add to that goal or choose a different goal the following month.
And then come back and tell us about your experience!
4. Goal setting
We need to expand here if we are going to be successful in accomplishing number two.
Our example was "I am going to pray for my marriage."
That's a great goal that can definitely be accomplished, but what is the likelihood of you completing that task each day?
It's so vague!
We need to get specific if we want to be successful.
In 1981, George Doran, Arthur Miller, and James Cunningham created the concept of
SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and
If you follow this strategy when creating your goal, the likelihood of accomplishing your goal skyrockets!
Let's correct our above example to make it meet the criteria of a SMART goal.
"I am going to pray for my marriage"
"I am going to pray for my marriage at 6 AM each morning for at least 5 minutes."
Now, because "pray" is a general term this one is tricky.
If we wanted to make it more specific we could perhaps journal our prayer to ensure that we are able to measure our goal.
"I am going to write down three detailed sentences about what I am asking God to work on in my marriage at 6 AM each morning."
Here, we have something that is specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound.
At the end of each day I can clearly look at my journal and see whether or not I completed this goal. If I did, then I can put an X on my calendar. If I didn't then my chain breaks!
If you miss a day... don't throw your entire calendar away. Get right back on track! Build your chain longer and stronger than it was before!
Goal setting is definitely a trial and error process. You should evaluate your objectives often and these two techniques are great tools to help tailor your goals.
If you find your chain is frequently breaking, then it is time to tweak your goal. Don't be discouraged, just remember to start with something so small that it is impossible to fail.
Once you have mastered that, move on to your next goal.
Sometimes we have to love our spouse from a healthy distance, if they are not living life according to God's word.
Typically when we speak of boundaries in therapy, we are speaking of guidelines that you set for yourself or your relationship. Boundaries can sometimes feel like building walls. Don't let your boundaries become a wall between you and your spouse. Rather, think about boundaries as a fence of protection for your marriage. Have a conversation with your spouse about healthy boundaries. Together build a strong fence that will keep out the bad habits that try to creep in and destroy your relationship.
Having a hard time coming up with boundaries? No worries! God has already laid the foundation for us!
Let's look at a famous Bible verse and admire the beautiful boundaries God has put in place.
We know what love looks like by reading 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails."
We are to live by these instructions and when we do so, we are honoring God and our marriage. Whether or not our spouse is doing the same is between them and God. But ensure that you are doing what God has required of you and he will see you through this uncertain season in your life.
Some boundaries to consider that apply specifically to addiction:
- I will not engage in drinking or drugging with my spouse.
- I will not make excuses for abusive behavior.
- I will report abusive behavior.
- I will not tolerate threatening language toward myself or my children.
- I will not respond with threats.
- I will let my spouse know that I do not condone substance abuse in our home and come to an understanding or consider our next steps should they refuse.
- I will not be manipulated into giving money to be used on drugs or alcohol, nor will I provide my spouse with drugs or alcohol.
- I will not allow my children to be subjected to language or behaviors that involve drugs and alcohol.
- I will not remain in an adulterous relationship with someone that is not remorseful, willing to attend counseling, and change their behavior.
These are just some ideas. Every marriage is different and everyone's boundaries are different. God hates divorce, but there are some allowances.
Only you and God know how long and how much you are able to endure.
God calls us to forgive and reminds us that love covers a multitude of sin.
Just remember, God does not want you in an unsafe marriage.
If your marriage is not safe, please reach out here.
Separation does not necessarily mean divorce.
There is so much support available now. Addiction is not the stigma that it was once. Reach out! Find a place where you fit in. You are not alone!
Married to Addiction is faith based support for the wife of an alcoholic. Here you will get equipped with the tools and strength you need to navigate your husband's addiction without losing yourself in the process.
Women Connect is a FREE online support group. Many of the women are in recovery themselves, but it's main mission is women helping women. That simple. Pop in and try it out. The host, Kendall Boysen, is an amazing motivational speaker. She has a knack for making everyone feel welcome!
Your Praying Friend is available to men and women. Let us walk with you through whatever the day may bring.
Matthew 18:20 tells us that where two or three are gathered, Jesus is with us!
We want to be Your Praying Friend!
Hope & Joy in Christ is offering 70 marriage resources! Just click below!
The Lasting App - Disclaimer, this app does not present itself as a Christian Marriage app and I get the feeling that it is trying to appeal to a diverse group of people, perhaps living alternative lifestyles. That being said, I did my research and the creator is a Christian and reports that Christian values were the basis on which the app was built. While I wish it was screaming "give your marriage to God" I am a subscriber and do find it beneficial in my marriage.
There are great conversation prompts each day, questionnaires for you and your spouse to learn more about yourselves and one another, as well as live webinars to attend, if you so wish. My husband and I participated in one on Valentine's Day and it was a great experience!
The app is super user friendly and offers simple, yet effective ways to face your struggles and build on your strengths.
Have you heard of the 5 love languages?
The 5 Love Languages is a New York Times best seller written by Dr. Gary Chapman.
Here is an excerpt from his website summarizing what the 5 love languages are and how they came to be discovered:
In his early years as a marriage counselor, Dr. Gary Chapman noticed over and over that couples would voice similar complaints regarding their marriage. One spouse would say something like, “I feel like he doesn’t love me. The other would protest, “I don’t know what else to do! I’m doing everything I should be doing.” Recognizing a pattern, Dr. Chapman pored through years of session notes. He asked himself, “When someone said, ‘I feel like my spouse doesn’t love me,’ what do they actually want?” Surprisingly, their answers fell into five categories, revealing a unique approach in how to effectively love another person.
Take this quiz to find out your love language and ask your spouse to do the same. Then compare answers and learn how to better give love the way that one another receives love!
We hope you found today's tips and resources helpful!
We'd love to continue connecting with you!
Send us a prayer request, so we can pray specifically for your marriage and make sure to subscribe for our latest posts and events!
Until Next Time,
Your Praying Friend
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Substance Abuse Counselor