When a loved one is fighting addiction, it can be hard to maintain a relationship and manage that addiction at the same time. Can you really engage in couples counseling when one person is an addict—or when both people in the relationship are struggling with addiction? Addiction counseling and couples therapy can complement each other.
What Do Couples Struggle With When One or Both People Are Addicted?
Whether you’re living with an alcoholic or with someone who is addicted to drugs, it is a challenge to maintain a healthy interpersonal relationship. Couples can fight, face physical and emotional abuse, and struggle with codependency due to addiction issues. According to Drug Rehab, “one family member’s heavy alcohol use can destroy the fundamentals of the family, sparking feelings of shame, guilt, anger, fear, grief and loneliness.”
If one of the people in the family is not addicted, that person can carry a lot of the financial and interpersonal organizing for the family because the other person is sometimes or always incapable of doing so. This is a serious weight for a partner to carry, and it can be destructive to all relationships in the family, from parent-child relationships to the relationship between the couple. When both people are struggling with addiction, this makes it especially difficult to do the emotional work that a relationship needs. Couples may be struggling more with maintaining housing and food and a semblance of normality, rather than focusing on their relationship.
How Can Couples Therapy Help?
According to Very Well Mind, “sometimes one or both partners are confused or offended by the suggestion that they should have counseling for relationship problems, feeling they have weathered the storm, and that the addiction should be the focus of therapeutic attention.” However, couples therapy can help couples delve into the challenging issues around addiction and relationship, allowing both addiction and relationship to heal together.
What can couples therapy do?
- Couples therapy recognizes that the non-addicted partner needs support. That is why there are support groups such as Al-Anon.
- Couples therapy helps the couple work on enabling and codependent behaviors that do not actually support the addict.
- Therapy can help the couple discover other problems that have come about due to the addiction and actively work on those problems. For example, this could include family debt.
Is Couples Therapy Effective?
Like all therapy, couples therapy is very individual and personal. Its success depends on those involved and their willingness and ability to work through the process. Since emotional issues can lead people back to addiction, couples who have consistent support working through these issues can develop strategies that will allow them to work through emotional issues without turning to drugs and alcohol. An authentically supportive relationship can help both partners develop a more physically and emotionally healthy life.