Starting a conversation about addiction with your spouse is never easy, for either side. For the concerned spouse, starting a conversation about such a sensitive topic can be extremely difficult. The concerned spouse faces a flurry of mixed emotions—loving the spouse who’s addicted while being uncomfortable or angry with the behaviors of addiction.
On the other hand, the spouse who is suffering from addiction may either not recognize the problem, or may not be ready to deal with it. Often the addiction stems from other causes, which could include issues in a relationship.
With all this in mind, starting a conversation about addiction with your spouse can seem to be an overwhelming task. However, with the right mindset and approach, you can not only start the conversation, but start the healing process as well.
The Right Setting To Start a Conversation about Addiction with Your Spouse
It’s important to keep the setting of the conversation in mind when talking about addiction. Is the atmosphere comfortable for both you and your spouse? Are there other people, things or topics which might overwhelm them before starting? Are they in the right state of mind—calm and sober—for this conversation?
These questions and a bit of planning can help make the first conversation helpful and productive, as opposed to unpleasant or difficult. Making sure that the setting, be it at home, work or anywhere else, is a comforting and welcoming environment for both yourself and your spouse. It may also help to have friends, family or even professional interventionists attend the conversation about addiction with your spouse to help ensure that everyone is on the same page.
Attitude Is Everything
In order to have a successful first conversation about your spouse’s addiction, adopting the right attitude is key. Before even starting the conversation, take time to ensure that you understand what your spouse is going through as much as possible. Doing some background reading on addiction and the accompanying emotional experience can be helpful.
The next step after doing some research is to try to go into the conversation with an open-minded and non-judgmental attitude. Often the most difficult part of the conversation is starting it, and if your spouse recognizes that you won’t judge them, it will make it much easier to start.
Honesty from Love
The most important part of starting a conversation about a spouse’s addiction is to come from a place of love and to be honest. It may seem counterintuitive to be emotionally honest with a spouse suffering from addiction, especially when those emotions are not only powerful but often painful. However, when the honesty comes from a place of love and not judgment, it makes a world of difference.
While addiction is often thought of as a selfish disease or condition, the person suffering from it is often not aware of their impact on friends, family and spouses. Being honest about the emotional impact of the addiction can help begin the healing process between spouses and serve as encouragement for the spouse to seek recovery.
Being honest only works if it comes from a place of love. Showing genuine concern for your spouse and repeatedly identifying that you love them will show your spouse that, though you may be frustrated, hurt or even angry, the conversation you are having is driven by love. Letting that love shine through will often overshadow any difficulties or pain that the conversation may create.
While it is difficult to speak to a spouse about their addiction, there is no question that starting the conversation about it is essential. Making sure that the setting is comfortable for both you and your spouse is an essential first step, and having a positive, non-judgmental attitude can go a long way. Finally, making sure that you express yourself in an honest and loving manner can help not only start a conversation about addiction with your spouse but also establish a path toward healing and recovery for the both of you.