Substance Abuse and Your Spouse

Here are 5 things Dr. Horvath recommends you consider when discussing substance abuse with your spouse:

1. Take time to notice what is going well in your relationship, and talk about it. Express thanks for what is working.

2. Begin the conversation by identifying the stresses in your spouse’s situation. Is there stress at work, with family, with the children, with money, etc? Acknowledge this stress, and acknowledge the efforts your spouse has made to cope with it.

3. Express your concern about how substance use has (probably) been used as a coping method, and how that use concerns you.

4. Focus on the outcomes you desire (lower stress for your spouse, no substance related negative consequences, a better relationship for the two of you), rather than a specific method (e.g., “You need to go to rehab; You need to go to AA; You need to quit everything”). Leave the methods to be used up to your spouse.

5. Express curiosity about what you could do to assist in the changes you hope to see. Be willing to provide this assistance. Take responsibility for the part you had in adding to stress. If the conversation does not go well, seek professional help. A mental health professional who works with couples may be the place to start, rather than an addiction professional (who may not know as much about relationship work).