Tools of Therapy: Saving a Marriage Ravaged by Alcoholism
She couldn’t take it anymore. Liz and Dave have been married for 15 years, but for the past eight, Dave’s drinking dominated the marriage. It felt like his addiction finally destroyed their relationship. There was no marriage left – only substance abuse and the fights it causes.
A friend recommended that Liz see a counselor, even if Dave refused to go to therapy with her or seek help for himself. She told herself she had nothing to lose and scheduled her first appointment.
To her surprise, Liz learned some tools of therapy and behavioral techniques from the counselor that were extremely helpful in her relationship with Dave. After attending therapy sessions and learning new behavioral skills for several weeks, Liz could see improvement in their situation.
Saving a Marriage From the Clutches of Addiction
Here are some of the most impactful tools of therapy that Liz learned from her counseling sessions – there are five “Don’ts” and one “Do.”
- Don’t…walk away angry: Yes, it’s smart to take a break if things are escalating. But it’s not a good idea to abruptly cut off communication and turn your back on your spouse. Walking away from someone who is trying to communicate with you can be very damaging to the relationship. Instead, when this happened, Liz simply explained that she was feeling very emotional right then and thought it would be better to have the conversation later.
- Don’t…argue about things that haven’t happened yet: If something hasn’t happened yet, it’s really not fair (or productive) to fight about it. Even if Liz is convinced Dave will drink at the birthday party next weekend, it only hurts their marriage to fight about it the entire week beforehand. There’s enough to deal with in the present. Don’t create fights about possible futures.
- Don’t…keep score. Liz felt like she had made all the efforts over the past few years. She was doing all the work. This kind of thinking isn’t helpful. She needed to remember that marriage is a partnership, with each person bringing different strengths, weaknesses, and abilities. There are no separate team scores. Liz started viewing Dave as a partner who is just as valuable in their marriage as she is.
- Don’t…compare your marriage to anyone else’s: This one is easy to fall into. We all tend to look at others and wish we had what they have. Liz saw other women whose husbands seemed completely dependable, honest, level-headed, and romantic. In her mind, Liz was constantly comparing Dave to these “perfect” men. First of all, we never really know what is going on in other marriages. The perfect picture is rarely as flawless as it seems to onlookers. Secondly, no two marriages are ever the same (nor should they be). We can’t expect our own relationship to look exactly like another. We are different people, and that’s ok. Thirdly, this keeps the focus on the negative. When Liz stopped comparing and started looking for qualities in Dave for which she could be grateful, her view of him began to change. She remembered his unique traits that made her fall in love with him in the first place.
- Don’t…say anything: Sometimes, silence is best. Simply listen. Remain calm. If the only things running through your mind are negative, keep them there rather than unleash them. Liz noticed she and Dave were having far fewer arguments simply because she didn’t fuel potential fights with unnecessary comments. Dave felt less discouragement and depression because he heard less negativity and experienced less frustration.
- Do…prepare yourself: Every couple has their own hot buttons. This is especially true when it comes to substance abuse issues. You know certain things are going to come up again (and again.) So, be prepared. Plan out a healthy action you can take the next time it comes up. Decide ahead of time what you can do differently when a certain situation occurs. Liz began taking this proactive approach and avoided a lot of arguments she and Dave used to have.
The Benefits of the Tools of Therapy
Over time, these methods helped Liz and Dave begin the healing process in their marriage. Liz knew Dave would have to get professional help for his addiction for their relationship to truly be restored, but it was a start.
Thanks to feeling more support and less frustration, Dave eventually agreed to enter a treatment program, and he’s been sober for nearly two years now. What could have been just another broken marriage became a story of recovery.