Addiction rarely affects only one person. Those close to someone struggling with addiction must also cope with the consequences of addictive behavior.
This can be particularly challenging in the context of a romantic relationship. In some cases, both people in a relationship may struggle with addiction, which adds further complication.
If an expert suggests couples therapy to you, there is no reason to be concerned. It is not a judgment on the state of the relationship. Rather, you are coping with addiction, even if only one person has an addiction. For this reason, couples therapy is often offered as part of addiction treatment.
Couples therapy can help identify and address issues contributing to the addiction. The treatment can help determine how the addiction affects the relationship and develop progressive methods for coping. It helps to replace destructive coping mechanisms in the relationship with positive, progressive ones that will benefit both partners.
In a relationship where at least one partner has an addiction, there will often be problems such as resentment, damaged communication, enabling, or co-dependency. These problems often occur in loving, supportive relationships. Often, issues of enabling and co-dependency emerge out of the desire to support a partner. However, these behaviors will ultimately damage the relationship. Couples therapy can help partners support one another more progressively. It can help both partners as individuals and the relationship as a whole, making it more supportive of lasting recovery.
Many addiction treatment providers offer couples therapy as part of their treatment. However, if you decide to participate in couples therapy that is separate from your addiction treatment, you should let both treatment providers know so that they can coordinate their support.
Addiction affects every aspect of the life of the person with addiction and their partner. Couples therapy for people affected by addiction not only addresses problems in the relationship but also identifies and supports the needs of both partners.
Couples therapy can play a crucial role in addiction treatment. Alongside the many other benefits discussed here, it can help to identify the underlying causes of the addiction and to develop methods for both partners to cope with them progressively. For some reason, the roots of the addiction may be related to the relationship. However, in situations where this is not the case, the addictive behavior will still deeply affect a relationship. Analyzing it may help to address the factors contributing to the addiction. This is an immediate positive step that creates the opportunity to develop methods for coping with the identified issues. Understanding the underlying causes of addiction and developing strategies for dealing with them is crucial to achieving lasting recovery.
Partners of people struggling with addiction who are not addicted themselves face many complex challenges. They will often have to cope with the consequences of their partner’s addictive behavior. They may also struggle to trust their partner if they have failed to communicate honestly, keep promises or maintain established boundaries due to their addiction. People with addictions will often attempt to deceive those close to them about the extent of their problems or the nature of their behavior. This makes honest communication extremely difficult. Partners may also be complicit in lies and excuses made to others in the addicted person’s life, such as their family members or employer.
It can be difficult not to blame and judge an addicted partner for their behavior, even if you understand on an intellectual level that they are not in control of their addiction. In some cases, the partners of addicted people will also ignore or understate their partner’s addictive behavior to cope with themselves. This means that resentment will build on both sides of the relationship.
Even if the non-addicted partner fully understands their partner’s struggles and supports their recovery, addiction will impact the dynamic of the relationship deeply. In many cases, a co-dependent relationship is formed, with the non-addicted partner prioritizing supporting the addicted partner above their well-being and the addicted partner developing an unhealthy dependence on this support.
Couples therapy can help to address these problems. It allows couples to work towards healthy modes of support and communication. The relationship as a whole and both partners as individuals will benefit significantly from this.
Communication is one of the most important aspects of a relationship. Couples will work with their therapist to restore trust and honest communication. They can develop more progressive methods of conflict management. This will help bridge the emotional distance created by addiction.
Couples can also establish accountability for problems and work towards forgiveness where one partner has hurt or let down the other. This helps to restore balance in the relationship and to achieve mutual support.
It is also important to acknowledge the stronger aspects of the relationship and the positive behaviors within it. Couples therapy should address the elements of a relationship that require work and the positive aspects of it, which the couple can build upon.
Isolation can occur for people struggling with addiction both before and during recovery. The reasons for this are discussed here. It is common for one or both partners in a relationship to become isolated due to addiction. Open and honest communication, and a willingness to ask for help, are powerful antidotes to isolation. Couples therapy will help to identify and address this problem by working on communication and developing a system of mutual support in the relationship.
Couples therapy should incorporate discussion on handling problems that might emerge in the future. For example, couples can work with their therapist to form a plan for handling a potential relapse. While these conversations can be difficult, expressing fears and creating strategies to manage adverse situations will make both partners more comfortable and secure. As recovery is a lifelong process, couples must be aware that they may face challenges even after long periods of sustained progress.
Couples therapy can establish goals for the addicted person’s recovery and the couple more generally. During treatment, you will hopefully identify some methods for working on the relationship, such as improving communication and accountability. Establishing some specific goals can help to work on these methods. Goal-setting provides a path toward the changes you want to make. A therapist can help you establish specific goals and update them as the relationship progresses.
In cases where only one partner in a relationship has an addiction, it is vital that the other partner also receives support. Couples therapy provides a space where the non-addicted partner can discuss their thoughts and emotions and how they are affected by their partner’s addictive behavior. It also allows them to focus on other aspects of their well-being.
Often, the partner of someone struggling with addiction will neglect their own needs to support that partner. This usually creates an unhealthy, codependent dynamic in the relationship. Trafalgar offers Partner Support Therapy at no additional cost as part of our residential treatment programs. These weekly sessions allow the partners of our clients to work on progressively supporting their partner while taking care of themselves. As well as attending couples therapy, it can be a good idea for the partner of the person with an addiction to participate in individual therapy.
Relationships in which one or both partners has an addiction at risk of becoming co-dependent. An addicted partner may depend on the other to support them through their addictive behavior and repair any damage this behavior causes. A non-addicted partner may neglect their own needs and base their lives around offering this support. While well-intentioned, this support will ultimately have a negative impact. It will prevent the addicted person from facing the full consequences of their addictive behavior, making them less likely to pursue lasting recovery with the necessary dedication.
Couples in which both partners are addicted may also become co-dependent. The relationship may be mainly based on obtaining and using addictive substances and engaging in addictive behavior. Both partners may avoid conflict and not genuinely confront problems but deal with them by using substances instead. Someone involved in a relationship based on addictive behavior is unlikely to achieve lasting recovery unless the relationship is fundamentally altered through hard work and evidence-based treatment. Couples therapy can assist in changing a co-dependent relationship into a progressive, mutually supportive one.
Addiction can complicate the boundaries around what is acceptable and appropriate in a relationship. Discussing boundaries in a safe, open environment is healthy for couples and can prevent complications and conflicts. Couples therapy provides an opportunity to discuss and establish boundaries and consequences within the relationship.
Discussing consequences when established boundaries are not observed is also essential. For example, a non-addicted partner might say they will no longer make excuses for their addicted partner’s behavior. They might state that they will no longer drop their personal or professional responsibilities to help the addicted partner. This will help the addicted partner understand the consequences of their addictive behavior. It will improve communication and help prevent resentment from building on both sides.
If relapse occurs for one or both partners in a relationship while participating in couples therapy, this should not be taken as a sign that the therapy is not working. Rather, we should regard relapse as a learning opportunity and an occasion to recommit to recovery. Discussing it with a therapist will help you to make any necessary adjustments to your recovery plan. Therapy will help both partners to understand what caused the relapse and what they can learn from it to avoid similar problems in the future. The roots of relapse usually begin to emerge sometime before the event. Identifying the causes is an essential step toward preventing future relapses.
As well as helping one or both partners to achieve lasting recovery, couples therapy can also help the relationship adjust to sobriety. Healing can sometimes reveal new problems within a relationship. There may be anger or resentment in the relationship due to the addictive behavior of one or both partners. The partners may not have confronted these feelings previously, and they will not simply go away once the addictive behavior has stopped. If one or both partners previously avoided confronting issues by using addictive substances, these problems must be faced in recovery.
Addiction is also often related to underlying mental health conditions. Treatment will help to cope with these conditions, but they will still be present in recovery. They may also manifest themselves differently in the absence of addictive behavior. This will require an adjustment from both partners.
Sobriety can also change a person. These changes are difficult to predict. Both partners may require support to adjust to these changes. Recovery can reveal new issues in a relationship previously obscured or ignored.
Problems created by addictive behavior, such as loss of trust or financial pressures, will not simply disappear in recovery. Frustrations or resentments the couple has previously neglected may now emerge, for example. The couple must confront and work through them. Couples therapy provides a suitable setting for doing this healthily and progressively.
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Alyssa Mueller is an Associate Clinical Social Worker. She holds a Master of Social Work with a concentration in Community Mental Health from California State University of Fullerton as well as a Bachelors of Arts in Communication Studies with an emphasis on intercultural and interpersonal communication from California State University of Long Beach. Compassion, empowerment and unconditional positive regard are the foundations of her clinical practice, Alyssa has a passion for helping others and her priority is to hold space for clients to feel heard, to feel safe and to find fulfillment and self-love on their recovery journey. Alyssa specializes in addiction treatment, self-esteem building, mindfulness practices, grief and loss, trauma informed care, and self-compassion as well as individual and family therapy. She has extensive experience working with high risk populations in various clinical settings such as partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient care, outpatient treatment, schools, and community outreach. Alyssa uses a client centered and holistic approach to address the client as a whole person in order to help them to feel empowered and facilitate their confidence and independence.
Charee has worked in the recovery field for 10 years.Charee is dedicated to supporting and inspiring clients to live a healthy lifestyle filled with meaning and purpose.Charee has extensive clinical experience within the recovery field in both inpatient and outpatient settings.She specializes in working with individuals and families affected by the disease of addiction however she has also clinical experience in assisting individuals,couples and families in working through a variety of concerns,including: depression,anxiety,relationship & communication issues,substance abuse,grief & loss,trauma, life transitions, and many others.Charee works with each client to specialize their treatment plan with what works best for the client in a compassionate and effective way. She emphasizes the strength of every individual client and fosters an environment of personal growth and internal healing from a mind, body and spiritual approach.Charee received her Bachelor of Arts from Seton Hall University, Majoring in Psychology and Minoring in Women and Gender Studies, in addition to her Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy from the University of Southern California.
I began my journey to recovery back in 2011 when I moved to California from New York.Along wiht my recovery and beginning a new way of life,I began to develop a heart for others struffling with sobriety.My journey to California was filled with many trials and lessons learned, but most of all, personal growht.I truly believe i would not have found success if I didn’t come to California.I started CPR as a way to work with people in recovery on a daily basis and it evolved into something much more beautiful. I have also come to realize that my own personal happiness and recovery depends on being involved in the lives of people in recovery. Helping others recover is a cornerstone of many 12 step programs, as it is here. Giving back to those still suffering, is the only way not to lose what you have gained. It is the paradox that we live by every day.