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Addiction and Divorce

Here at Rehab Recovery, your addiction recovery journey is our number 1 priority. In this article, we will discuss the link between Addiction and Divorce, and the steps you can take if you or your partner are struggling.

    Addiction and Divorce

    Divorcing a spouse when they are facing addiction can be painful and stressful for all involved. You may have wanted to offer support but now find the process too challenging. At Rehab Recovery, we understand.

    Going through a divorce can be incredibly difficult on its own, adding substance abuse to the mix can make it feel very hard.

    Whether your spouse has been hiding their addiction from you thus causing your divorce, turned to drugs as a result of your divorce, or you are the spouse who needs help for your substance use disorder, Rehab Recovery is here to help.

    We know how hard it can be for all parties involved, especially if your divorce has turned into a drawn-out legal battle involving child custody or other very important factors.

    What’s the relationship between addiction and divorce?


    Being married to someone who is addicted to substances can place a heavy strain on your relationship. You may find it incredibly difficult to be around them and feel as though you don’t come first anymore.

    In the UK, the divorce rate is estimated at around 42% which is nearly half of all marriages. [1]

    Addiction can destroy marriages in many ways. The foundation usually begins to break when there is a loss of trust. Those with an addiction to drugs, alcohol, or gambling, for example, often lie to their spouses and cover up the severity of their issues.

    This is often displayed through concealing information about finances and money as well as breaking promises to abstain from addictive behaviour.

    Over time, the trust in the relationship begins to deteriorate. Those who are addicted to sex or pornography are more likely to engage in sexual behaviour with others which is an additional breach of marital trust.

    Spouses struggling with an addiction may find that they quickly develop financial issues, spending savings and incurring debts.

    This can also lead to detrimental effects on their career which can cause a lot of stress in a marriage. Financial consequences can also be very tough on a couple who is raising children.

    Working through each day married to someone with a substance use disorder can be an ordeal. If your spouse has an addiction you may feel trapped and overwhelmed, not knowing where you can turn.

    Many people are afraid to reach out for fear that their spouse will react dangerously. There have been many studies conducted showing a strong correlation between addiction and domestic violence. [2]

    Signs of substance abuse in a relationship include:

    • Aggression
    • Emotional stress
    • Financial issues
    • Extreme mood swings

    Types of Addiction That Can Affect a Marriage


    Addiction refers to an uncontrollable urge to engage in behaviour that is hard to control. This usually relates to substances such as legal/illegal drugs and certain behaviours.

    The most common types of addiction are:

    Those with an addiction to drugs often struggle with both physical and psychological dependence.

    Drugs and alcohol can have very damaging effects on the brain and make it feel impossible to stop using them. They can also cause mood swings and irreversible damage to your concentration.

    People struggling with addiction are often so wrapped up in their own issues that they begin to neglect the needs of those around them, as well as their own. In a marriage, this can cause one spouse to feel incredibly isolated and unloved leading to a relationship breakdown.

    If you are currently married to someone who is addicted to drugs or gambling, you may have already experienced this. Your spouse may constantly apologise for their behaviour and promise to never do it again. However, these false promises are exactly that and can cause you to feel very disheartened.

    During this time, it is important to put yourself first and think about what it is you really want.

    Are you ready to proceed with the divorce process or do you want to try and help your partner? Only you will know what to do, but we can offer support.

    We know that living with a loved one who is facing addiction can be incredibly hard which is why we offer support to families affected by addiction. For more information, reach out to our helpline advisers today.

    Alcohol and Marriage


    Many couples use alcohol in moderate ways within their relationship such as the occasional drink at home or going out to a bar to socialise. Some couples, however, struggle to maintain a healthy consumption so much so that it begins to affect their relationship in very severe ways.

    Recent studies have shown that incompatible drinking (where one spouse drinks more than the other) increases the chances of divorce.

    There is also a very strong link between substance abuse and domestic violence. Although alcohol is not a cause of domestic violence, it is also not an excuse.

    There are many ways in which alcohol and domestic violence are related. Domestic violence refers to a one-off incident or repeated patterns of behaviour committed usually by one partner towards another.

    Drinking and domestic violence often occur at the same time, but a lack of alcohol can also cause an individual to lash out, especially if they have a very high dependency.

    Alternatively, some partners will withhold access to alcohol which can cause their spouse to undergo dangerous withdrawals.

    People who experience domestic violence are also likely to turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with the trauma they are experiencing.

    When alcohol is involved, physical abuse can become even more dangerous. This is because, when intoxicated, our senses and self-control are decreased making us less able to solve conflicts and defend ourselves.

    How does addiction affect divorce in the UK?


    It is estimated that most people consider divorce at least two years before the legal process begins.

    Once a married couple agrees to end their marriage, they will work individually with lawyers to negotiate a division of assets, child support, and custody among many other things. If your spouse has a substance use disorder, this will be taken into consideration.

    Usually, this will mean that the non-addicted spouse will have full custody of the children and deny the addicted spouse any visitation rights until they are sober or have completed a rehabilitation programme.

    Some spouses may also request reimbursement of the total funds spent by one spouse on their addiction, especially if this money was taken from a joint account or a savings fund.

    Does marriage always end in divorce if one spouse has a substance use disorder?


    Divorce is never an easy decision to make and often has repercussions on the wider family unit. Whilst some partners work through addiction together, sometimes this burden is far too heavy to carry and thus divorce is the only option.

    If you and your spouse are willing to work together and don’t want to divorce, this can be achieved through professional help.

    Many private rehab clinics in the UK offer couples therapy and family therapy to help both you and your spouse understand more about addiction and how to combat it.

    A person facing addiction is far more likely to recover when they are surrounded by loved ones who trust and support them.

    However, you should not feel forced to remain in your marriage if you are not happy or feel threatened. If you have tried your hardest to support your spouse and attempted to seek help for them, divorce may be your answer.

    The worst thing to do in this situation is to give up and do nothing. With professional treatment, your spouse can recover in a nurturing clinic with a personalised programme tailored to their needs.

    Attempting to deal with addiction alone can be terribly isolating, for immediate support, contact Rehab Recovery today.

    What are the treatment options for addiction?


    When it comes to private treatment, fortunately, there are lots of options. Inpatient treatment is the most widely recommended form of treatment due to the intensity and routine available for all clients.

    With this type of treatment, you will be required to leave home for a temporary period and move into a residential facility. Here, you can gain access to 24/7 high-quality support from a team of medical professionals.

    Most programmes typically combine detoxification with therapy resulting in a well-rounded recovery and long-lasting sobriety.

    During this time, you and your partner can work through issues in couples therapy or you can seek support for your divorce from a licensed therapist.

    Other clients opt for outpatient treatment which involves remaining at home whilst visiting a chosen rehab clinic in your local area. This form of treatment is only recommended for those with mild addictions as it can be difficult to successfully manage triggers.

    If you are ready to begin addiction treatment, call a member of our team today or chat with us via the LiveChat function across our website.

    A huge benefit to private treatment is that the care is immediate. There is no need for waitlists and by phoning today we can help to arrange treatment as soon as possible.

    How can I confront my spouse about their addiction and tell them I want a divorce?


    As a spouse, you may feel uncomfortable thinking about your options and what you can do about your partner abusing substances. When one thinks about divorce, a simple, easy process doesn’t spring to mind.

    However, confronting the situation may be your only way forward. Whilst it can feel easier to fight for sobriety on your spouse’s behalf, this can lead to confrontations if they are not ready to recover. It can also enable their addictive behaviour and cause them to lash out.

    The first step to confronting your spouse is to stop defending them or turning a blind eye.

    Whilst it can be incredibly hard to acknowledge your spouse’s addiction, covering for them will allow them to continue abusing drugs or alcohol. Examples of this include calling in sick for work to care for them.

    The only way for an individual to realise they have a substance use disorder is to allow them to deal with the consequences of their decisions.

    During your confrontation, you must try and remain specific about your divorce and addiction-related concerns. Whilst it can feel tempting to sugar-coat your feelings to avoid upset, this approach is highly unlikely to produce effective results.

    The best time to confront your spouse is at a time when they are sober and calm, not when they are high or under the influence of alcohol. The best way to move forward in your confrontation is to lay out your concerns and discuss why you want a divorce.

    When a spouse has an addiction, the non-addicted partner often offers an ultimatum explaining that the divorce will happen if they don’t seek treatment.

    If you are not ready to end your marriage, explaining what you want and what will happen if your demands are not met is a good way to begin.

    If you are ready and find that your partner is unwilling to change or seek treatment via a rehabilitation clinic then divorce may be the right option.

    At Rehab Recovery, we can help plan interventions to ensure a smooth outcome for all involved. Attempting an intervention alone can result in more damage.

    By speaking to our team today we can place you in contact with a local interventionist who will work with you and your family.

    Get the Right Support for You and Your Spouse

    If you or your spouse is considering divorce due to addiction, we recommend seeking professional help first. For more information and support, call the Rehab Recovery team today on 0800 088 66 86.

    We can source immediate treatment without any delay. We know that making the first step is often very difficult, but the results are worth it.

    By calling our team today, you can begin your pre-admission assessment which helps us source suitable treatment.


    [1] Divorce

    [2] Men with alcohol problems ‘six times more likely to abuse partner

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