“Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” – Hebrews 13:4-5
Despite the spiritual and emotional rewards that come with marriage, especially as a Christian, nothing is perfect forever. Even though the first year or two or five or ten may be without issue, eventually something will come along that threatens your beliefs and tests your bond. For far too many individuals, the looming, lurking elephant in the room is addiction.
Even in those with a history of substance use, whether occasional or recreational, the signs of addiction aren’t always clear. It’s easy to live in denial, telling yourself that your husband or wife is fine, in control, or otherwise able to cease use whenever desired, but in reality, this is rarely the case.
In the United States, over 20 million spouses are living with a partner who has an addiction and requires professional treatment. If you are one of them, the right support and perspective can be a critical part of success in recovery.
Addiction and Your Spouse
“But at the beginning of creation God made them male and female. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” – Mark 10:6-9
When you pledge your love and fidelity to your spouse on your wedding day, you make several promises. You vow to stand by in good times and in bad, for richer and for poorer, and, of course, in sickness and in health. As a chronic disease, addiction is as real and dangerous as any other illness, from diabetes to kidney failure.
Seeing the early warning signs can be quite psychologically challenging. The Bible speaks clearly about the perils of substance use and abuse, so watching your own spouse take the first steps to a life of sin and harm is often extremely traumatic. With the potential for emotional, physical, and financial ruin, the perils of addiction are enough to shake the core of even the strongest couples.
Many spouses live in denial, lash out with fear, or even use ultimatums to attempt to change behavior. Unfortunately, none of these strategies are likely to make a difference. In a loving marriage, there is no room for threats, ignorance, or combativeness. If your spouse demonstrates behavior indicative of an addiction, it’s time to start planning how you will move forward with compassion, love, and support.
Identifying the Signs of Addiction
Noting the effects of addiction in your spouse isn’t always easy, but the smallest details often provide the most insight. If you see these signs, it may be time to take action.
- Changing routines. Many adults live with the same schedule, or roughly the same schedule, for decades. If your spouse begins changing how he spends time, like staying out late instead of coming home, leaving much earlier for work, or any other shift that seems out of character, drugs could be the cause.
- Lying and secretive behavior. Most addicts go to great lengths to hide their behaviors. If your spouse is using drugs, he may begin to lie about where he’s going, what he’s doing, when he’ll be home, or why he’s acting differently.
- Erratic shifts to personality. Some people change over time, but any overnight shifts could be a sign of addiction. If your previously level-headed and rational spouse is suddenly compulsive, manic, or paranoid, drugs may be to blame.
- Physical changes. Some drugs can lead to changes in appearance, causing signs like scabs, scratches, and dental problems, while others take focus away from the normal hygiene. Signs like weight loss, fatigue, yellowing of the skin, tooth decay, scabs on the skin, and lack of attention to regular grooming can indicate abuse.
- Financial problems. When your robust savings are dwindling and your paychecks can’t cover expenses, drugs may be responsible. Look for signs like new accounts, a change in account use, changes in paycheck amounts, or any new bills or withdrawals occurring regularly.
- A crisis of faith. Many Christian addicts will begin to pull away from their faith during periods of substance abuse, wrongly believing that God rejected or turned away from them. If your spouse stops attending church, won’t pray with you, or speaks disparagingly about religion, drugs could be a factor.
Speaking With Your Spouse
While some problems in a marriage can be waited out, addiction isn’t one of them. Assuming your spouse will change his ways alone and find a cure for substance abuse independently isn’t realistic and could exacerbate the issues at hand, leading to insurmountable roadblocks in your marriage.
As uncomfortable or awkward as it may be, you need to speak to your spouse about your concerns in a judgment-free, non-accusatory manner. Do your research on the nature of addiction, including usage patterns, potential health problems derived from long-term abuse, and the chances of overdose. Be prepared to face defensive behavior; many addicted individuals become angry when confronted.
When you and your spouse are alone, find a safe, comfortable, quiet place to sit and speak. Talk candidly about the observations you have noticed, any changes in behavior, and the warping dynamic of your marriage. Show concern and love, but do not judge, scold, or belittle. Let him know that both you and God are here to help him and that you will do whatever it takes to ensure he has the support and guidance necessary.
Some abusers will be receptive to this kind of approach, but others will not. If your spouse gets angry or upset, staging an intervention may be the next step. Your spouse might be able to make excuses for his changes with you, but observations from friends, family members, and coworkers are likely to hit home.
The emotional challenges of addiction can also be devastating for the sober spouse. In order to maintain mental strength and spiritual resolve, you may need help as well, both with your spouse and alone. Rather than attempting to fight against addiction solo, consider taking steps like speaking with a member of the clergy, scheduling individual counseling, joining a support group like Al-Anon, or even participating in family addiction therapy with your spouse.
“If a man has recently married, he must not be sent to war or have any other duty laid on him. For one year he is to be free to stay at home and bring happiness to the wife he has married.” – Deuteronomy 24:5
In a marriage, you and your partner are a team. Addiction threatens this balance, taking away from the love you feel for each other as well as the love you share for God.
If your spouse is showing signs of addiction, please contact Road to Freedom today. As a Christian-oriented inpatient rehabilitation center, we can help you overcome the cycle of abuse. Call (844) 402-3605 for a free consultation.