Dealing with a Spouse's Addiction

Mediation To Save Your Marriage and Save Your Self

Chapter 1: How is mediation an effective intervention in cases of addiction?

My Partner Suffers From Addiction and I Feel Helpless!

Couples and individuals come to see me and share their stories: an alcoholic husband, a mother who keeps getting into trouble with credit cards, a father who has been borrowing money from his adult children and never paying it back, a depressed partner who has been stuck in a rut and chooses to self medicate rather then getting professional help, or a spouse who began using pain medication for chronic pain but is now addicted.

Spouses describe a cycle of revolving emotions: feeling helpless, angry, resentful, and mistrusting. Alternating between seeing things as they are and living in denial.

Perhaps they have told themselves: “If I give them one more chance, maybe this time they will change.”

There are days of feeling hopeful and days of feeling terrified. There are days when we believe we can save the other person, or the marriage, or to at least help the other to be a good parent. On other days our thoughts may involve a mantra of  “I can not do this any more!”

How is mediation an intervention in cases of addiction?

In mediation we can create boundaries, mitigate damage, and detail a specific time frame for working together.

The mediator can facilitate introspection by the hurt spouse on such issues as the time frame for a transitional period, whether the parties will continue to live together while they pursue recovery or will there be a new temporary residence to create space for both parties to receive help.

Questions are posed such as: “What if I ask her to get her own place until she has 6 months clean?” That question is an example of an issue that is often addressed in this form of mediation.

We can talk specifically about how, during this transition period:

  • Bills will be paid,
  • Maintenance on the the house kept up;
  • Who will pick the children up from school;?
  • What budget will we both commit to in order to hold back monstrous debt?;
  • What type of help is my partner willing to get?
  • How will we pay for treatment?;
  • Is there a timeframe for getting help?
  • Do we want our plans in writing and signed by both parties?

Sometimes it is the person with the problem who initiates mediation. They want to take responsibility but it is a struggle when so much has been lost.

Both the destructive loved one and the helping spouse feel like they cannot climb out of their hole. It may feel like the entire family is stuck, children and parents. We want to believe that the other will stop drinking, gambling, hoarding, lying, or whatever it may be but remaining in denial is s not sustainable or healthy.

In mediation we often begin by acknowledging our actions and acknowledging a shared reality.

“I know how hard you’ve tried to help me and how frustrating this must be for you.”

“I know that your relapse follows five years of sobriety yet it is very frightening for me and I am hurt by your behavior.”

Mediation can be a place to pragmatically acknowledge a shared reality, gain ground, and feel a safe connection in order to build trust.

Mediation is a place where we can be very clear about the specific actions of codependency that we will no longer engage in.

Unlike therapy, in mediation we look forward instead of back. Why our loved one acts a certain way or what diagnosis they should receive may be more appropriately handled in the other’s individual therapy sessions.

In mediation, couples co-create a narrative for moving forward.

There are clear mechanisms set forth for what is important such as minimizing chaos or parenting in a healthy way or sticking with a budget.

In mediation we strategize to minimize the harm that could come our way while we are trying to get back on track.

  • Can we avoid sharing financial investments, loaning money, or falling for the same excuses over and over?
  • Can we ask for space rather than leaving each other for good?
  • What resources will be sought for intervention?

If you find yourself with a challenge or have a partner with a problem, you are not alone.

Many have pulled through their challenges with help and hard work. Change is possible. Mediation can be a pragmatic way to save a marriage or to mindfully and safely find a way to move ahead on our own without destroying each other or hurting our children.