How to Survive Being Married to an Addict

A woman may stay married to an addict for many reasons. Maybe she’s afraid she won’t make it financially. Maybe she has young children and dreads taking them away from their father. Or, maybe she loves her husband and isn’t ready to leave.

There are many reasons, just like there are many types of addictions—pornography, painkillers, drugs, alcohol, gambling. All of these are similar in that no wife can control her husband’s behavior. She can’t be nice enough, angry enough, or diligent enough to change him. But, there are some things she can do to survive being married to an addict.

Safety first.

If you are in physical danger, you have to protect yourself and your children. Period. Have an escape plan in case you do reach this point. Pack overnight bags for you and your children and keep them ready. Ask trusted friends or family about using their home as a safe place if you need to leave.

Get outside help.

AlAnon is a support group for families of alcoholics. You can attend meetings for free and anonymously. You can learn from other women there about what works and what doesn’t. NarAnon can help you if your husband is a drug user. Gam-Anon offers help if your husband has a gambling addiction.

This article from shares five things you can do if your husband watches pornography and this article from shows you the approach a man needs to take to quit porn. Also, consider mental health counseling for you and your children.


Studies show that living with an addict impacts children negatively, and the earlier the intervention into your husband’s behavior the better. We’re not telling you this to make you feel guilty or hopeless, we just want you to have all of the information you need as you weigh your decision to act or not act.

You can look into staging an intervention by calling the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). This is an official department of the U.S. government. This advice from the Mayo Clinic will also guide you in planning an intervention.

Be honest.

You might lie to your children, your family, and your friends about your husband’s addiction. You might make excuses for his behavior and come to his rescue when his addiction complicates his life. This is called enabling. You are protecting him from the consequences of his actions and enabling him to continue as he is. One study found that addicts have a greater chance of getting better if their family and parents know about their problem and their efforts to overcome it.

It is very difficult to stop enabling. You might be afraid that he will lose his job or that your friends will look down on you if they know the truth. If you aren’t ready to stop enabling him completely, be honest with him about the consequences of his choices as far as how they affect you and your children.

If he breaks things in your home while he’s drunk and he doesn’t remember the next day, leave his mess out and explain to him that this is what he did last night. You can tell him calmly. If his addiction is hurting his relationship with your children, tell him when those incidents happen. “Hayden cried last night when you didn’t come to his lacrosse game.”


Being married to an addict can be demoralizing, isolating, and embarrassing. Please don’t go it alone. It’s too much for you or anyone to bear.

Tell us! Which of these do think is most important?

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