One of the most tragic outcomes of active addiction is the damage it does to your primary relationships, especially the one with your partner or spouse. Drug and alcohol addiction can take a serious toll on a couple, leaving a long trail of domestic issues, broken promises, broken trust, anger, and frustration behind. Whether a marriage or domestic relationship can mend following detox and treatment is highly individual, based on whether there is enough good left in the relationship to salvage and nurture back to health. Some relationships will simply not survive addiction, but many will. Do relationships get better after rehab? Why yes, they absolutely can.
Working on Relationship Issues in Rehab
Chances are a marriage or significant other suffered much torment at the hands of one’s addiction to heroin, illegal drugs or alcohol. Addiction strains even the strongest of relationships, as the addict’s priorities shift toward nursing their self centered active addiction instead of enriching the relationship. Dysfunction replaces normal relating, and with that dysfunction comes disappointment, resentment, and widespread emotional damage.
While going through inpatient treatment, the recovering addict will begin to stabilize and think clearly again, allowing for the therapy sessions to provide new insights about what a healthy relationship should look like. In therapy they will acquire the tools to make vast improvements in their relationship post-rehab, including reestablishing trust bonds and making amends for any damage inflicted. Family therapy or couples counseling within the rehab framework of services can help couples practice these new skills. These recovery tools might include:
- Conflict resolutions skill building
- Anger management
- Effective communication skills
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
Couples Rehab: Some treatment centers offer a couples rehab option for both partners to receive addiction treatment at the same time, in the event both struggle with addiction issues. Couples drug rehab allows the couple to learn the relating skills that will become the foundation of their new life as a couple in recovery, while providing each other the mutual support that can make a real difference in the recovery outcome.
Rebuilding Relationships After Treatment for Addiction
When the recovering individual re-enters their regular life after rehab it can include a phase of adjustment for both partners. While both parties would like for their relationship to immediately return to what it was before addiction disrupted it, this process of reestablishing the partnership of trust and intimacy takes time and patience.
It is an excellent idea to include ongoing outpatient couples counseling for at least a few months following rehab, just to help smooth out the predictable bumps in the road as the partners learn to relax and trust again. Finding new ways to socialize that does not involve using drugs or alcohol, sifting out friends that do not support one’s recovery, and placing recovery above all else will help rebuild their relationship.
Damage Done While in Addiction
Addiction involves a lot of secrecy: lying to a partner about drug or alcohol use, lying about where the money went, lying about who they are with and where they are going. This secrecy compounds the problems in a relationship because, without transparency, the sober partner is often managing their feelings of fear, anger, disappointment, and resentment. Trust bonds are broken, and a couple will drift apart.
To overcome this fallout, a couple must be committed to the marriage or partnership, willing to be supportive and patient as recovery stabilizes and the sober partner slowly but surely puts their life back together. Many times the recovering spouse, or both spouses in the event both are recovering addicts, have lost their job due to the addiction. Restoring financial stability is a key development in early recovery, helping to foster renewed feelings of self-worth.
Support for One’s Partner After Rehab
There are some specific things that a spouse can do to help support a partner in recovery, or that both can do if the partners are in recovery together. These might include:
- Be supportive of their efforts to find work. Assisting with updating a resume, brainstorming potential jobs or industries to explore, or helping them practice interviewing can all be helpful to the partner in recovery.
- Help newly sober partners develop new healthy habits. Encourage them to establish a regular bedtime and rising time to get back into the routine of a workday. Plan healthy meals and get outside and hike, job, walk, or cycle together.
- Plan new clean and sober activities with other like-minded couples who will be supportive of socializing without substances. Plan date nights instead of going to the bar scene. Plan short road trips where you can bond again in a positive, stress-free setting.
What Not to Do After Partner Comes Home from Rehab
Do relationships get better after rehab? Well….they can if married couples avoid these mistakes:
- Avoid rehashing every single thing the recovering partner did while in his or her addiction. While it may be tempting to throw these at someone’s face in the heat of an argument, it will only serve to set the couple back. What happened is past and cannot be changed, so focus on today and remain hopeful for the future instead of constantly reminding them of their failures and bad behaviors during addiction.
- Do not expect addicts to fail. If you resume the relationship after rehab with an expectation that the recovering spouse will fail, you may just set up a self-fulfilling prophecy as your attitude and negativity will only cause strife. Adding new stress to a relationship can trigger relapse in someone fresh out of rehab.
- Refusing to communicate your partner. While understandable that trust issues will likely taint a relationship for awhile, you must allow them to prove that they can now be trustworthy. Allow yourself to trust your partner again, until he or she gives you reason not to.