A romantic relationship is supposed to be your safe haven — a place of trust, respect, and support. However, for millions of Americans, their relationships are impacted by alcohol on a daily basis.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, in 2017, approximately 14.1 million adults ages 18 and older had alcohol use disorder. Of these individuals, an estimated 6.5 percent received treatment in the past year.

This means, if you can relate to these statistics, you’re certainly not alone — and more importantly, help is available.

How Alcoholism Impacts Relationships

Of the millions of Americans living with an alcohol abuse disorder, many are in cohabiting relationships. Unfortunately, these partners often suffer from the many associated consequences of alcoholism.

Each case is unique, especially in relation to the dynamic between spouses. However, there are some common concerns that many of these couples can relate to, including but not limited to:

  • Reoccurring financial challenges that arise due to the cost of alcohol, and in some cases, related drug use.
  • Legal issues that occur as a result of alcohol abuse, such as drunk driving charges, theft charges, and domestic abuse charges.
  • Ongoing shame in social situations, as the alcoholic partner may show up to family or public events highly intoxicated.
  • A pattern of deception, in addition to broken promises, ongoing denial, and an overall lack of respect.
  • Sexual dysfunction as a direct result of heavy alcohol abuse.
  • Worsening feelings of anger, betrayal, and resentment — which can lead to a vicious cycle, and in some cases, a history of verbal and/or physical abuse.

How to Assist Your Spouse Throughout Their Recovery

There is a fine line between supporting a spouse during their recovery and enabling them. Although your main goal may be to help your spouse, it is imperative that you’re also mindful of your own well-being.

When you offer ongoing support to your alcoholic spouse, this can take a significant toll on your own emotional, mental, and physical health. If you burnout, you will not be able to properly care for either of you. So, how do you support your spouse without losing yourself in the process?

1. Set Clear Boundaries and Stick to Them

In many cases, the relationship between an alcoholic and their spouse is highly codependent. It is necessary for you to set clear boundaries, separating yourself as an independent individual. This will help protect your own emotional and physical needs.

To begin, make a list of boundaries and why they’re important. If and when you need to enforce this list, try to remain calm. The goal here is not to try and control your spouse, but rather establish the ways in which you wish to be treated.

Some of the boundaries you may want to set will include:

  • Maintaining the safety of yourself and/or any children in the house. For example, zero tolerance for any form of abuse, drunk driving, or the presence of strangers in your home.
  • Being in their company when drinking and/or using drugs. Although you can not control whether or not your spouse relapses, you can set boundaries in regards to your overall tolerance and willingness to be around them.
  • Not giving them money or favors that will enable their ability to drink.

2. Commit to Therapy

Many recovery centers offer family and couple therapy, which can help you better understand the needs and struggles of your partner — all while addressing your own personal needs. Therapy can help you work through emotional trauma, as you identify and solve core issues that arise from your spouse’s alcoholism.

While your spouse is in recovery, take part in any special events and counseling opportunities. After treatment, continue to see a therapist to improve communication and address possible triggers. The ultimate goal will be to resolve the damage that has been done so that you can both move forward in a positive direction.

3. Create a Safe Home Environment That Supports Their Recovery Process

Recovering alcoholics require structure and ongoing support. Following your spouse’s recovery program, you’ll want to create an environment that will help sustain your partner’s sobriety. This means being more mindful of alcohol in your home, even if others do not suffer from an issue with alcohol.

Not only does this mean removing alcohol from the home, but also any decorative items that encourage alcohol use (i.e. posters). In addition, encourage a healthy routine. Whether that means slowly transitioning back to work or being more hands-on with household responsibilities, the structure is key.

4. Encourage Substance-Free Activities

As a couple, it’s important to reignite the spark and do fun things together that don’t involve alcohol. Whether that means you go to a sports game or the zoo, spending quality time together will remind you why you fell in love.

The key is to identify high-risk situations and activities, understanding what triggers your spouse. Sit down together and make a list of activities you both enjoy, checking one or two off a week.

If you and your spouse are ready to take the next step in regard to treatment, learn more about the alcoholism treatment and recovery process today!

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