Print Posted by Kathleen Shack on 02/06/2017

ADDICTION AND LOVE: Hope for Relationship Recovery

ADDICTION AND LOVE:  Hope for Relationship Recovery

Trust and forgiveness are essential components to a healthy relationship. When there is an addiction, those qualities are tested and the relationship inevitably suffers. The divorce rate in couples with addiction is four times higher than average. While some relationships may seem damaged beyond repair, the good news is that there is hope for recovery from the addiction and for the relationship. With patience and cooperation from both partners, a couple can heal from past negative behaviors and move towards a healthier relationship with positive experiences.

The first year of recovery is the most difficult for a couple, with 80 percent of relapses occurring within the first 90 days. It is crucial that partners of addicts remember that a relapse is not the partner’s fault and that the partner cannot cure it. Relapse happens because the addict has a progressive disease that impacts their brain. 

If you allow a minimum of two years to work on the addiction and relationship, then the roller coaster will have a chance to level out as you both build a healthier connection. You may be experiencing confusing feelings as well as multiple ups and downs. Your relationship will likely fluctuate between a honeymoon period and challenges. You and your partner may feel like strangers to one another as you are each navigating how to recover and relate to one another. Here are few Dos and Don’ts to help you on this journey.

DO

  • Be patient with one another and the process of recovery
  • Identify, manage, and share emotions
  • Honor your feelings and respect the feelings of your partner
  • Empathize with your partner
  • Have compassion for one another
  • Spend quality time with your partner
  • Develop communication and problem solving skills
  • Balance addiction recovery with tending to your spouse and the relationship
  • Be open with one another about expectations
  • Work together as levels of functioning change
  • Define roles and responsibilities
  • Apologize and ask for forgiveness
  • Address fears of relapse
  • Anticipate high risk situations and work together to try to prevent them
  • Be open to building a new relationship
  • Give benefit of the doubt
  • Accept and respect your and your partner’s feelings
  • Gain support from friends, family, groups, and professionals
  • Individual counseling for both partners, including addiction work
  • Couples counseling with an experienced specialist


DON’T

  • Try to address the addiction on your own
  • Assume that things will naturally fall into place once the addictive behavior has stopped
  • Allow denial, guilt, shame, fear and pain to control your decisions and communication
  • Be completely self-absorbed
  • Isolate from your partner
  • Cast judgement on your partner
  • Try to control one another’s behaviors and feelings
  • Continue negative habits
  • Be stuck in victim-mode
  • Make extreme changes within the first two years of recovery
  • Ask for praise or expect a reward for not continuing the addictive behavior
  • Expect perfection from yourself or your partner


Through hard work and time, addiction-riddled couples can build stronger, healthier relationships.  Love is an action word. To save your relationship, you need to be active and intentional about connecting with your partner, apologizing and asking for forgiveness, and working towards a trustworthy union.  It is possible to balance and integrate relationship needs with addiction needs. The addicted individual and the partner need support and professional guidance to overcome addiction and its effects on the relationship.  Remember, there is hope for recovery from the addiction and for your relationship.


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Kathleen Shack, MS, LMFT, is an experienced Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Certified Discernment Counselor, Divorce Coach, Child Specialist and Divorce Mediator. Kathleen is undergoing Certification Consultation Training in Gottman Method Couples Therapy and uses the Gottman Method Couples Therapy along with the 4-step assessment process that gives couples clarity and confidence about next steps for their relationship. She has over 17 years of experience working with couples. Kathleen helps individuals and couples “Minimize the Negativity and Find Solutions”. Through marriage counseling, couples are able to regain benefit of the doubt, understand one another's perspectives, and find lasting harmony. Common areas of focus include conflict resolution tools, affair and addiction recovery. She works to help individuals recognize that the only way to find meaningful understanding and resolve matters with one another is to listen to the perspectives of the other, articulate one’s own perspectives, and find a way to satisfy both. As a Divorce Coach, she helps families minimize the negative effects of divorce and guides them through the process of finding lasting solutions that work for their family. Kathleen uses therapeutic skills and knowledge to support, educate and prepare clients for the successful negotiation of a divorce settlement agreement. Coaching helps to reduce the emotional intensity of the divorce and helps the client separate legal and practical issues from emotional issues. As Registered Divorce Mediator, she facilitates confidential resolution between divorcing individuals and helps parents develop a Parenting Plan regarding their children.

Kathleen has been interviewed on FOX5 Good Day Atlanta and WTV21 Talk of the Town. She is also a sought after public speaker. Kathleen is the current President of the Collaborative Law Institute of Georgia. Other professional memberships include the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, Georgia Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, International Academy of Collaborative Professionals.

To reach Kathleen, please email her at kathleen@mftga.com or leave a voicemail at 678-220-0090. You can read more about her practice, Family Solutions Counseling, at www.FamilySolutionsCounselingGA.com.  Her office is located at 3534 Old Milton Parkway, Alpharetta, GA, 30005. 

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