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How to Set Boundaries With a Drug-Addicted Spouse

author image Christy Bowles
Christy Bowles has 15 years of experience in the field of education, with 10 years working in mental health and wellness. She specializes in the treatment of depression, anxiety and substance abuse, with a focus on alternative treatment modalities. Bowles holds a Master of Education from Harvard University.
How to Set Boundaries With a Drug-Addicted Spouse
Tense couple looking down Photo Credit: David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images

According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, when an individual suffers from addiction, the issues typically negatively affect his friends and family. It can be especially difficult for a spouse to support a partner's recovery process while still setting boundaries about needs and expectations in the relationship. According to Mental Health America, spouses and partners of addicts exhibit high tendencies to engage in co-dependent behaviors that may enable the addictions, so it is critical to establish boundaries. Spouses should be well-informed about the recovery process and seek support for their own emotional issues associated with the addictions.

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Step 1

Develop clear guidelines and limits regarding the individual's substance use and your relationship, recommends the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. The addict should be aware that continued drug use may result in specific consequences. Such limits can include not covering for a spouse if he misses work, withholding money he may use to purchase drugs or even filing for legal dissolution of the marriage.

Step 2

Seek individual support from a therapist or peer support group, such as Al-Anon. Experts at Mental Health America note that many spouses who are married to addicts may struggle with marked emotional stress regarding the partner's drug or alcohol use. Spouses should seek emotional support from a professional counselor or community group to develop improved coping skills and for support with long-term decision making regarding the relationship.

Step 3

Create a personal plan for physical and financial safety, suggest experts at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. An individual should set aside money and be prepared to separate herself from her partner in the event that his addiction continues or he grows violent due to escalating substance use.

Step 4

Engage in activities and social events that do not relate to the addicted partner. Experts from Mental Health America note that spouses with addicted partners should make an extra effort to spend time and energy on activities and friendships outside the marriage and the issues of addiction. It is important for an individual to develop a balanced lifestyle so the partner's addiction and health issues do not overshadow the individual's own happiness. People who become overly focused on a partner's problems with addiction tend to have a desire to rescue and care for the person. This can create additional difficulties with setting boundaries and following through with stated limits.

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