Mind & Body

Joint struggle: How to behave if your partner is addicted?

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Realizing that your partner has a problem with alcohol or drugs is painful. And when your efforts to help are fruitless, the feeling of despair and hurt may become unbearable. Some make a radical solution and end the relationship.  

Breaking up with your loved one isn’t the best option. The best case scenario is that your partner also recognizes his/her problem and you both start seeking help in order to recover from substance abuse or addiction. Engaging in the rehabilitation process will make therapy more likely to succeed.

What treatment is available for couples with an addiction?

A couples rehab program is aimed at treating different forms of addiction and change a relationship for the better. Couples rehabs use tried-and-tested methods of treatment that include:


This stage can be called preparation for healing. An addicted person starts to feel the withdrawal symptoms, and a therapist prescribes medicine that helps to deal with intoxication and cravings. After the detox, an individual can participate in the recovery program.

General couples therapy.

In alcohol or regular drug rehab for couples or partners, you’ll mostly participate in the following types of therapy:

Cognitive Behavioral Couples Therapy (CBCT) is used to improve couples’ interpersonal relations.

Behavioral Couples Therapy for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse (BCT) is used to form a positive relationship in a couple that doesn’t trigger drinking or taking drugs.

The therapist works with both the person who is abusing substances and the non-addicted partner to create a relationship that sustains sobriety. The accent is made on the fact that spending high-quality time together is possible without alcohol or drugs. Partners learn to plan recreational and leisure activities that they might have abandoned because of stressful situations caused by their substance abuse.

Individual therapy.

To help the couple as a whole, therapists often work with the two people individually.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is used to help the patient to better understand their addiction, its underlying causes, develop useful skills to manage interpersonal conflict, and build practical skills to avoid relapse.

What should you know before going to rehab?

Living arrangements of couples drug rehab can differ from one center to the next.  Moreover, the peculiarities of treatment depend on the unique needs of a particular couple.

For individuals with severe and long-term substance abuse, inpatient facilities are a better option. It’s also recommended for people with co-occurring health issues. In rehab, a couple will either share a room or sleep in separate sleeping quarters. It depends on how well the two get along with each other.

If a couple have children, or a non-addicted partner can’t live in rehab facilities because of job or other reasons, they can choose outpatient treatment with an addict receiving treatment as an inpatient and the other participating as an outpatient.

Treatment lasts from 1 to 9 months. A couple usually attends from 12 to 20 sessions of BCT. After completing the program, a person can join 12-step meetings which provide substantial support for people in recovery.

What are the benefits of going to rehab together?

Rehab for couples can benefit you and your partner in the following ways:

You’ll lessen the chance of abandoning treatment.

Those who opt for individual inpatient treatment can miss their loved ones or home. The risk of leaving rehab during a treatment program is always present. Recovering partners need the emotional support of their loved ones while going through a detoxification process and therapy.

You’ll get rid of codependency.

Codependency occurs in couples where one partner cares for and meets the needs of the other, putting them before their own. When codependency and addiction occur together, the two behaviors can reinforce one another. The codependent can help the addicted partner to engage in bad behaviors, they clean up and cover for them. Sometimes, it leads to abusing drugs or alcohol together.

Couples counseling assists in resolving this problem by helping to recognize and satisfy their own needs, breaking unhealthy behavioral patterns, and setting proper boundaries.

The chance of relapse after returning home will be less.

Since family therapy breaks the cycle of harmful effect on each other in the couple, making drug-free choices will be not so difficult. The two partners are educated on how to resist the urges. They learn to understand the triggers better and use various tactics to stop the addiction.

You’ll strengthen your ties.

Addiction can destroy families and relationships. Fortunately, couple’s therapy can save them.

During the sessions, both parties address problems in their couple that relate to drug abuse and codependency. Couples show improvement in their interaction after understanding the effects of addiction and healing the wounds that might have been caused during substance abuse.

Numerous studies have proven the effectiveness of partner-involved therapies. In fact, family therapy for substance abuse treatment works best than treatments that individual approaches. And (BCT) has the strongest evidence so far. Studies say that family-based therapy motivates participation and retention in treatment, decreases alcohol and drug use, improves functioning within a family and society, and prevents relapse.

When couples therapy is not an option

Rehab for couples on drugs is not advised for relationships with a recent history of severe physical aggression. This factor can hinder recovery, especially when couples go through therapy together.

A more passive partner can fear the reaction of their aggressive mate and find it difficult to speak freely about problematic issues. In such a situation, the physically abusive partner is required to undergo treatment for domestic violence.

Quitting alcohol or drugs is a challenging and long-term journey. And starting therapy may seem scary and stressful. But couples rehabs make this path as comfortable as possible. Do not delay! Start your better life! Start recovery!

About the Author

Jeffrey Buckley is a blogger who investigates human health issues and behaviorist anthropology. He researches substance abuse problems and the ways to overcome addictions.

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