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Can A Marriage Survive Drug Addiction? Rebuilding a Marriage Affected by Substance Misuse

Addiction and the many negative consequences it causes are some of the greatest challenges a marriage can face. If your relationship has been impacted by substance misuse, you are probably wondering, “Can a marriage survive drug addiction?”

It has often been said that addiction is a family illness, which is undoubtedly true for marriage and other intimate relationships. Whether the substance in question is illegal, like heroin and cocaine, or legal, like prescription medications and alcohol, the potential devastation is similar.

However, through family therapy and professional counseling, a relationship broken by addiction can be repaired. In fact, we surveyed over 200 people recovering from addiction, and found that over half (63%) are still with their significant other today.

Many people wonder, “Do marriages last after rehab?” Some do, and some don’t. However, marriages are much more likely to last if addiction treatment is sought out.

There is hope!

Download our free Addiction Recovery Guide for Families and learn about addiction, how it’s treated, and how to heal for a more meaningful life.

Click here to speak with a treatment specialist today or call us anytime 24/7 at (888) 534-2295

Stats on Drug and Alcohol Addiction on Marriage

Addiction can have a devastating effect on intimate relationships. Just how detrimental can it be? Here are some sobering numbers on how drug and alcohol addiction can affect relationships, including marriage:

  • Lifetime rates of divorce are significantly higher among individuals who have had a diagnosable alcohol use disorder (48.3%) than for those who have not had a diagnosable alcohol use disorder (30.1%).
  • At least 50% of domestic battery perpetrators have addiction issues.
  • More than 20% of male domestic battery perpetrators report using drugs and/or alcohol before their most severe and/or recent violent acts.
  • Substance abuse is cited as a reason in 34.6% of divorces.
  • Addiction is the third-most commonly cited reason among women for divorce, and the eighth-most common among men.

Warning Signs Your Partner May Have a Substance Use Disorder

Sick-looking man holds a bottle of beer with concerned wife standing by

There are many warning signs your partner may have a substance use disorder, though the exact warning signs present will vary from individual to individual.

It is important to note that most individuals with a substance use disorder are highly secretive about their issues and will go to great lengths to disguise them, especially from the people closest to them. Despite this, loved ones are usually able to tell when something isn’t right.

When we asked 250 recovering addicts how their loved ones first found out about their addiction:

  • 53% said their loved ones noticed changes in their mental/emotional state
  • 49% said their loved ones noticed changes in their behavior around the house
  • 48% said their loved ones noticed changes in their physical looks

Some emotional and behavioral changes that serve as warning signs your partner may have a substance use disorder include:

  • Sudden and unexpected mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Agitation
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • No longer participating in previously enjoyed activities or relationships
  • Secretive and/or evasive behavior
  • Neglecting personal, professional, or familial responsibilities
  • Decline in work or school performance
  • Unexplained money issues
  • Social isolation
  • Changes in social circles
  • Associating with known substance users
  • Dishonesty or denial about activities, whereabouts, and substance use
  • Difficulty keeping promises or fulfilling commitments
  • Increased frequency of substance use
  • Becoming defensive or hostile when discussing substance use

Some physical signs that your partner may have a substance use disorder include:

  • Changes in appearance and/or style
  • Unexplained weight loss or gain
  • Poor hygiene
  • Neglecting personal grooming
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Dilated or constricted pupils
  • Tremors and shakes
  • Tolerance (requiring larger quantities of a substance to experience the same effects)
  • Unexplained health issues
  • Frequent accidents
  • Unexplained injuries or bruises
  • Irregular sleep patterns
  • Insomnia
  • Excessive sleeping
  • Legal issues, such as possession or DUI

Learn more about signs your spouse is using drugs.

Rebuilding Relationships in Recovery: Can a Marriage Survive Drug Addiction?

Some marriages can survive addiction, but unfortunately, some cannot.

Whether a marriage can survive addiction depends on many factors, including the commitment of each partner, the severity of the addiction, and the level of available support.

It is possible for your marriage to survive and thrive after addiction. In fact, over half of recovering addicts we surveyed said they can communicate more openly and honestly with their loved ones, and their loved ones trust them more than before.

Some of the most important factors that make it more likely that a marriage will survive addiction include:

  • A strong commitment to the recovery process by both partners, including jointly seeking and accepting professional help, participating in therapy, and making sobriety-supporting lifestyle changes
  • Open and honest communication between partners about the challenges of addictions, their feelings, and strategies for working together
  • Professional support from addiction specialists, therapists, and support groups
  • Properly utilizing available guidance and tools
  • Healthy and appropriate boundaries that are mutually understood and adhered to by both partners
  • Education of and involvement in the recovery process by family members of both partners

Sometimes, the Best Choice Is to End the Relationship

Silhouettes of a man and a woman walking away from each other with sun setting in the background

Tragically, in many cases where addiction has impacted a marriage, the best choice is to end the relationship. According to our survey, about one in three relationships (36%) impacted by addiction will end.

Because the circumstances of every marriage and substance use disorder are different, it is difficult to make general statements about when it is best to end a relationship because of addiction.

However, certain factors often indicate that one or both of the parties should end the relationship, including:

  • Physical or sexual abuse: If there is physical or sexual abuse in a marriage, it is always advisable to end the relationship, especially if that physical abuse is motivated or worsened by substance abuse.
  • Safety concerns: If a partner’s substance use is causing safety concerns for one or both partners, ending the relationship may be necessary for the safety of all parties.
  • Emotional or verbal abuse: If substance use is causing or worsening emotional or verbal abuse, ending the relationship may be necessary for the well-being of both partners and/or their children.
  • Repeated infidelity: If substance use is motivating or causing repeated infidelity, it may be best to end the marriage.
  • Lack of commitment to recovery: If either or both partners are not fully committed to the recovery process, the likelihood of a lasting recovery, and therefore a healthy relationship, is low.
  • Repeated relapses: If one or both partners experience repeated relapses, it might indicate the current approach to recovery is not working or commitment to recovery is lacking.
  • Unresolved underlying issues: If there are unresolved underlying issues like a mental health condition or trauma that is not being treated, it may be best to end the marriage.
  • Loss of trust: If trust has irreparably been broken, or one partner finds it impossible to trust the other again, the foundation of the relationship has likely been permanently compromised.

Steps to Healing a Marriage That’s Been Hurt By Addiction

Couple talks to a couples therapist about addiction

Even the strongest marriages will struggle when substance abuse is added to the picture. Even if the relationship survives, the damage can be long-lasting and difficult to overcome.

If you are in such a relationship, you know just how hard it can be to recover. The shattering of trust, the loss of intimacy, the financial troubles, and the lack of faith in the relationship can form a toxic mix, which may require dedication from both spouses to overcome.

When a marriage is on the rocks in the wake of alcohol or drug addiction, following the proper steps to healing is absolutely essential. Whether the relationship was strong before the habit, what happens after detox, and behavioral health treatment will be critical to what happens next in the marriage.

The steps to healing will be highly personal, depending on the nature of the relationship and the two people’s personalities. Still, couples can follow some basic guidelines as they begin the process of reconciliation and rebuilding trust.

1. Validating Feelings

When one spouse struggles under the weight of alcohol or drug addiction, they may not see the impact their problems are having on their spouse. The addicted spouse needs to understand and validate their partner’s feelings.

2. Assessing the Damage of Addiction in a Relationship

When one spouse is addicted to drugs or suffering from alcoholism, the damage can be enormous, and quantifying that damage is a vital part of the healing process. This assessment is a critical part of the marriage healing process, from adding up the financial devastation to talking about the shattered trust.

3. Talking It Over with a Qualified Counselor

Getting clean and sober amid a drug or alcohol addiction takes time, dedication, and professional help, and so does healing a marriage once the addiction has been overcome.

As you begin to rebuild and heal your marriage, it’s imperative to work with a qualified professional. Having an unrelated third party can put issues in perspective, giving the two spouses the time and distance they need to talk through their problems and come out stronger on the other side.

4. Identifying the Root Causes of the Addiction

Drug addiction and alcoholism do not typically emerge out of the blue; they develop slowly over time. Recognizing the root causes that fueled those dependencies is a crucial component of rehab and a vital part of marital healing.

5. Avoid Becoming an Enabler

An enabler is someone who makes it possible for an individual with a substance use disorder to continue using through their actions, words, or support.

Most enablers do not do so intentionally. Rather, their actions are meant to help their loved one or are committed out of codependency. However, the results of enablers’ actions are often extremely negative for both the person they are trying to help and themselves.

6. Set Boundaries

Setting and maintaining healthy and appropriate boundaries is critical to helping heal relationships, successfully combating addiction, and to avoid becoming an enabler or codependent.

Consistency is critical, as is learning to say no. However, it is equally important that you regularly reevaluate and adjust your boundaries and celebrate successes.

How Does Sobriety Change Relationships?

Happy sober couple hold hands in a face-to-face embrace

Sobriety can bring massive changes to relationships, which affect both the individual in recovery and everyone around them, including:

  • Improved communications: Sobriety helps individuals communicate more clearly and effectively, develop better listening skills, express their feelings more openly, and address issues in a more constructive manner.
  • Rebuilding trust: Sobriety helps individuals in recovery demonstrate consistency, reliability, and accountability.
  • Increased emotional connection: Without substances, individuals are often more present, empathetic, and emotionally available.
  • Healthier and more respected boundaries: In recovery, many individuals learn how to establish and maintain healthier boundaries with clearer understandings of personal limits.
  • Reduced conflict: Without substance misuse, the many negative consequences it causes, and the deception required to hide them, there is typically far less reason for conflict and, therefore, fewer arguments.
  • Increased empathy: Recovery often increases empathy and understanding, often creating a partner more attuned to the feelings of others.
  • Personal growth: Sobriety and recovery often foster personal growth, which in turn enables those in recovery to bring newfound strengths and insights into their relationships.
  • Increased reliability: Sobriety typically makes individuals more dependable.
  • Positive effects on others: The positive changes from sobriety often have a ripple effect on those around the individual in recovery, inspiring or motivating positive changes in the attitudes, feelings, and actions of loved ones.

Can Treatment Help Your Relationship?

Building back trust that’s been shattered by addiction is challenging. No one can heal entirely on their own, and healing your relationship after a bout with drug or alcohol addiction will require the dedication of both partners.

The good news is you don’t have to go through this journey alone. There is quality counseling available, all aimed at helping you heal your relationship from the difficulties that substance use has left in its wake.

And yes, your marriage can survive addiction with the right support.

Whether you were the one with drug or alcohol dependency or your spouse struggled with addiction, Legacy Healing Center can give you the strength, guidance, and help you need to build your relationship back stronger than ever.

As you work to create a new connection with your partner, we can give you the insight you need to understand what has happened, how far you and your spouse have come, and what comes next in your relationship.

Contact Legacy Healing Center today to learn how our family therapy program can help couples heal from the impact of addiction.

Click here to speak with a treatment specialist today or call us anytime 24/7 at (888) 534-2295

Can a Marriage Survive Drug Addiction? FAQs

Can a marriage truly recover from addiction?

It depends. Some marriages can truly recover from addiction, and some cannot. It depends on many factors, including the commitment of both parties, the severity of the addiction, what actions were committed because of the addiction, the presence of physical or emotional abuse, the presence of children, and more.

In any case, it is highly advisable that partners in a marriage impacted by addiction seek professional help. Doing so increases the likelihood of saving the marriage. At the very least, it can help make the separation as painless as possible.

What are the biggest challenges in rebuilding trust after an addiction?

Rebuilding trust is one of the most difficult and time-consuming processes after an addiction. Some of the biggest challenges to overcome when rebuilding relationships in recovery include:

  • Betrayal
  • Broken promises
  • Lying and deception
  • Repeated relapses
  • Fear of relapse
  • Impact on emotional well-being
  • Communication breakdowns
  • Rebuilding self-trust
  • Reestablishing boundaries
  • Lack of understanding
  • Recovery-related stigmas
  • Addressing underlying issues

How can I set boundaries for my partner without being seen as controlling?

Setting and maintaining boundaries is critical if a relationship impacted by addiction is to be healed and both partners are to maintain their sobriety. However, many individuals fear that doing so will make them seem controlling to their partner. Luckily, there are many strategies you can use when setting boundaries that will minimize this risk when rebuilding relationships in recovery, including:

  • Choose the right time and place.
  • Be clear and specific.
  • Use positive language.
  • Focus on the positive impacts on your relationship.
  • Focus on your feelings and needs.
  • Encourage two-way conversation.
  • Be willing to compromise.
  • Empathize with their perspective.
  • Provide reassurance of your love and commitment.
  • Regularly check in with your partner.
  • Lead by example.

Is couples therapy helpful in recovering from addiction-related issues?

Couples therapy is critical in helping marriages and individuals recover from addiction-related issues. In fact, for many relationships, it is absolutely necessary.

Couples therapy can help foster communication and rebuild bonds and trust. It can provide useful insights and strategies to rebuild the relationship and maintain sobriety. Many couples find that a third, mediating party enables them to better express themselves and understand each other.

What resources are available to support families affected by addiction?

There is a large variety of resources available to support families affected by addiction, including:

  • Al-Anon and Nar-Anon (support groups for loved ones of those who have alcohol and substance use disorders)
  • Family therapy
  • Partnership to End Addiction (formerly Partnership for Drug-Free Kids)
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) – Call 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
  • 24/7 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline – Dial 988
  • Addiction Survivors forums
  • Reddit Communities
  • “Beyond Addiction” by Jeffrey Foote, Carrie, Wilkens, and Nicole Kosanke
  • “Codependent No More” by Melody Beattie
  • Local support services (e.g., nonprofits, religious organizations, government programs)
  • Drug and alcohol rehab programs


  1. American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. (n.d.). Substance Abuse and Intimate Relationships.
  2. National Library of Medicine. (2014). DSM-IV Alcohol Dependence and Marital Dissolution: Evidence from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions.
  3. National Library of Medicine. (n.d.). Substance Abuse Treatment and Domestic Violence.
  4. American Society of Addiction Medicine. (2021). Intimate Partner Violence and Co-Occurring Substance Abuse/Addiction.
  5. Our Happy Divorce. (2020). Addiction and Divorce Statistics to Know During National Recovery Month.
  6. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (n.d.). Homepage.
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About the Author

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Jeffrey Juergens

Jeff Juergens is a leading author in the addiction and recovery field, dedicating the last seven years of his life to helping those struggling with substance use issues find the help that they need. Jeff's work has been used in rehabs across the country as tools to help patients achieve sobriety.

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Dr. Olushola, MSW

Olushola Lawal, MSW, RCSWI Olushola (Shola) Lawal serves as a Primary Therapist at Legacy Healing Detox. Shola was born and raised in South Florida. He is a Florida State University double alumnus graduating with his Bachelor of Social Work in 2013 and his Master of Social Work in 2015. Shola’s...