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How Does Addiction Affect Marriage?

Marriage is a challenging, yet rewarding relationship. Traditional wedding vows ask people, “Will you take this person in sickness and in health?”. The people who wrote those vows probably did not think that the disease of addiction would fall under the category of sickness. Addiction is a family disease, and since spouses are one of the most immediate family members, they are at the eye of the storm.


The sad reality for most people is that they hurt the most when they get hit in the wallet. While many addicted individuals can maintain a job or even a career (e.g., law, medicine, business, etc.), many addicted individuals struggle to keep a job. Addiction is a progressive disease. Addicted individuals who are able to maintain employment in the beginning stages of their addiction may progress to the point that they cannot. The weight of the finances may fall entirely on the non-addicted spouse, who may not make enough money to support the entire household.

Addiction rehabilitation facilities and other treatment methods are expensive. Many people do not completely recover during their first stint in rehab. Multiple attempts at getting into recovery can accrue a lot of debt.

Sharing of Responsibilities

In the disease of addiction, the alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex/pornography, shopping, etc. take precedence over any other responsibility. The addicted individual will most likely not prioritize having to pick up the kids from school, cleaning the house, making dinner, doing laundry, etc. The non-addicted spouse will have to take on many -if not all- of the responsibilities, which will put a strain on the relationship.


Alcohol and drugs impair judgment. Excessive alcohol and drug use can make people emotionally or physically abusive, even if they are not typically disposed to such behavior.


Addiction has a significant effect on intimacy because it brews resentment in relationships. Sex and pornography addictions tend to damage sexual relationships because the monogamous partners are appalled by the idea that their addicted partner is cheating and fears contracting sexually-transmitted diseases. Addiction can cause the non-addicted spouse to dread the site of their addicted spouse.

Help for Marriages Affected by Addiction

Though addiction is a bear to overcome, recovery is possible. Since addiction is a family disease, the family members need to get help as well, even if the active user never successfully recovers. Al-Anon, Nar-Anon Codependent’s Anonymous (CODA), and other support groups are available for families. There are also many different inpatient and outpatient treatment options for those who are suffering from addiction. For example, one outpatient solution to help opioid addiction is suboxone, which has helped many opiate addicts to rebuild their lives by allowing them to have the physiological component of addiction addressed while they are taking care of the psychological component. Addiction does not have to be an end to a marriage and the destruction of a family; hope and recovery are within reach.

If your marriage is on the rocks, whether from a spouse’s addiction or any other cause, it may be a good idea to consider counseling before calling it quits. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.






Tim Esterdahl

Tim Esterdahl is the editor of IFCS blog. He is a married father of three and enjoys golf in his spare time.

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