The Importance of Therapy for Partners of Addicts

When you think of addiction therapy, who do you imagine is getting treatment? Are you thinking of the person who is suffering from the addiction? Don’t forget about the others who are affected by the addiction. Therapy can be extremely beneficial for partners of addicts as well.

If you’re the partner of someone with an addiction, consider not only being involved in your loved one’s therapy, but get treatment yourself. Many therapists will recommend getting involved in your partner’s addiction recovery treatment as a way to make the recovery more successful. However, it is important not to forget about your relationship problems.

Even when your partner successfully recovers from his or her addiction, it will not make relationship problems melt away, especially those stemming from emotional damage that has been going on for a long time.

Addiction introduces a bunch of problems into a relationship, particularly communication and trust issues. These changes in your relationship will last for some time after the substance abuse or behavioral addiction ends. Just like the way an addiction changes the chemistry of the brain long after use, it changes the chemistry of your relationship. Don’t be discouraged. With patience, love, and professional support, both you and your relationship can be on the way to recovery.

I’m not the addict, why do I need therapy?

Therapy can sound scary, expensive, or like yet another commitment you need to fit into your already packed schedule. If your partner’s the addict and not you, why is therapy so important?

Partners of individuals with addictions have to put up with a lot. Financial struggles, trying to cover up for their loved one’s absences or strange behavior, or covering up bruises from physical abuse are only some examples. Emotional problems include the aforementioned trust issues, but also self-blame and chronic stress.

Coping mechanisms you likely have developed, as the partner of someone with an addiction, are usually maladaptive. While it may have made things seem better in the short term, they are actually non-productive and ultimately damaging to your mental and or physical health.

You may also have become, what is sometimes called, co-dependent. This is an unconscious transformation of your own self-identity due to the impact of your partner’s behavior. Your partner’s needs completely take over your own, and you may be in denial that your partner has a problem because you don’t like to see your loved one suffer when denied the addictive substance. This enabling behavior is damaging to you both.

Even if you recognize yourself as co-dependent, you are not to blame for your partner’s addiction. People with an addiction become very adept at lying and manipulation, and you may not have even known there was a problem for some time. Always remember, you are not to blame. Co-dependency is now recognized as a process addiction; another example of a maladaptive coping strategy. Research shows that 70% of the wives of men with a sex addiction are considered to have post-traumatic stress disorder.

Watching your partner struggle with addiction and recovery is hard, but just because you see what they’re going through is not a good reason to discount your own troubles. Your well-being is equally important, and of valid concern.

Where to get help

If your partner is seeking therapy for his or her addiction, it can be helpful for you to get treatment from the same professional. If your partner refuses to consider therapy, do bring this up in your own sessions. As you become stronger and healthier through therapy sessions, you are empowered to make positive changes in your own life, and your therapist will likely be able to help you find ways to help your loved one as well.