Enough Is Enough: When Love Turns to Enabling Addiction

by | Jul 25, 2023 | Mental health | 0 comments

Photo by thom masat on Unsplash

Spouses are expected to be supportive of their partners. But when does support become detrimental, and when should they stop enabling addiction?

“To have and to hold from this day forward,
for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health,
to love and to cherish until death do us part.”

These are among the sweetest words anyone can hear in their lives. Short yet magical. Sincere and impactful. But the responsibility they bear after uttering these are also often unimaginable.

Bound by love, a contract, and witnesses, marriage is a connection between two individuals who love each other enough to withstand any challenges that might break them apart. This means they’re expected to choose each other and their vows in any given situation, regardless of their circumstances.

After these words have been shared, couples are expected to stay true to them.

Often, this is when problems start brewing.

If their spouse runs into trouble and develops an addiction, their vows’ validity and responsibility toward each other are tested. Some things are easier said than done. And for married couples, fighting and coping with addiction is one. To an outsider, it can be a no-brainer. It’s easy to say that spouses should stop enabling addiction. But when they’re in the marriage, things can get muddled, especially when children are involved.

A Story of Support and Enabling

This situation is better tackled in My Alcoholic, My Love by Margaret Moschak. The story introduces the author’s family as they struggle because of alcohol addiction. Margaret bears all her hardships upon deciding to leave or stay with her husband. It’s a grapple between seeking safety and a better life far from her spouse or staying faithful to the vows they once shared.

However, with their children being a variable she must consider and protect, “Until death do us part” becomes nothing but words sung in the winds of the past. She ultimately decided to save herself and her children from her partner’s aggressions, leaving him and not enabling addiction. In their situation, the vow had to be broken for their children’s safety.

But not everyone has the courage nor the emotional capacity to break a years-worth of bond easily. Often, the wife of an alcoholic husband might struggle to stop enabling addiction. This decision may be challenging to understand, but this is expected in the eyes of spouses. For numerous reasons, spouses end up constantly enabling or enduring their partners’ behaviors.

Why Don’t Spouses Stop Enabling Addiction?

They say love makes one blind. Perhaps, it can also make people turn a blind eye to addiction. Relationships are built on trust and love, and marriage runs these emotions even deeper.

Emotional Attachment

As half-witted as it sounds, couples can be too emotionally attached. They’re willing to carry the burden of knowing their partners are addicted and bear the responsibility of taking care of them if this means they’ll stay together. Being emotionally attached can also tell they care enough that giving advice and seeking a way to help their partner feel like snitching and breaking the trust the latter has given.

To people outside the relationship, it can be easy burning this bridge. They can easily prioritize themselves and fight for their protection. However, they aren’t the ones in the relationship. So, they could never truly understand the weight of their decisions. But to the two people in the relationship, it can be a bridge too precious to burn or damage.

Codependency

There are also instances when couples fail to stop enabling addiction because of codependency, where two possible circumstances may happen.

One partner develops an addiction, and the other feels the need to take care of them, given the satisfaction this responsibility gives. The caregivers enable self-destructive behavior by developing the savior complex, where their lives revolve around saving and caring for their partner. If someone stops enabling addiction, this also means taking away this opportunity to feel fulfilled in the relationship.

In codependency, partners have built their identities around the other’s inability to care for themselves. While their partners need substance to function, they must care for the latter to feel complete. This toxic connection is a common reason why partners can’t willfully stop enabling addiction.

Dependency

In contrast to the previous point, some partners won’t stop enabling addiction, not because they won’t but because they can’t. This happens when they’ve developed some dependency on their partners, where they can’t thrive outside their support. Hence, they live to endure the addiction because they need the resources which their partners may still provide them. Unless they begin to live independently, they will continue to enable their partners’ vices.

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