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The Role of Addiction in Divorce

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To say that marriage can be challenging would be an understatement. Even the best of marriages that experience stressful times can develop conflict and communication struggles.  A marriage is full of complexities, changing expectations, emotional journeys, and much more. These circumstances may present obstacles and stressors for couples that sometimes may require the help of an outside party to resolve, such as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) or other behavioral healthcare professional. At Encore’s drug rehab in Northern Virginia, we routinely see and hear patients cite substance use as a source of conflict in their relationships or marriage. Given that marriage can pose many of its own inherent challenges and can be difficult for many people, one or both partners having a substance use disorder or addiction challenge can then further complicate the relationship leading to people considering their partners addiction and divorce thereafter.

Addiction and Divorce: Contextualizing the Divorce Statistics

Barring addiction-related issues, divorce rates in the United States are already some of the highest in the world, but estimating the percentage of overall relationships (both married and unmarried) that end in divorce is tricky for statistical reasons.

Statistically, the CDC has cited for 2020 a divorce rate of 2.3 persons per 1000 people. These are some of the lowest rates observed in decades. Yet, the average person may still believe the rates are as high as they once were observed in the 1980s and 1990s. One of the challenges in assessing the true rate of dissolution of serious long-term relationships rests in the fact that less people are getting married than in prior decades. According to the PEW Research Center, the number of people who are or have cohabited with a partner is increasing. These stats are often separate from the discussion of divorce and are typically not included in statistics regarding divorce rates.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, two trends were occurring in society. The first is that the quarantining and subsequent urging of social distancing left many people who were cohabiting with a partner to spend unusually prolonged periods of time with their partner, thus potentially exacerbating existing issues. The second is that both casual and problematic drug and alcohol use greatly increased during those months.

How Substance Use Disorder Complicates Long Term or Marital Relationships

A study by Scott et. al (2013) presents findings from 52 divorced individuals who received the Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program (PREP). The study also aggregates other resources that reinforce the findings that “divorced individuals, compared to their married counterparts have higher levels of psychological distress, substance abuse, and depression, as well as lower levels of overall health.”

Substance use disorders introduce numerous conflicts into relationships that alone would be troublesome. It is precisely this reason that they are a driving factor in divorce.

SUDs or Alcoholism is a Financial Burden

Financial woes are enough to stress anyone out. For many partnerships and marriages, finances top the list of factors that lead to conflict. Experiencing financial difficulties is one factor that can be challenging for a couple. Another area of stress could be having differences of preferences and habits for how money is spent between two people.

Apart from being detrimental to a persons’ health, addiction can be financially costly and dependency on a substance can even reach a point where the person affected can no longer financially support the habit, and subsequently goes into debt. When it comes to addiction and divorce, financial concerns can be a major contributor to the breakdown of a relationship.

Arguments and Emotional Volatility

While many TV shows, music, and popular media intentionally or unintentionally glorify alcohol and drug use, the reality of addiction is far more bleak. What started out as a way to unwind or cope with difficult circumstances can quickly spiral into dependency. A person who is in the throes of active addiction can experience a rollercoaster of powerful emotions, and this can present a level of volatility and conflict in marriages.

Loss of Trust

Addiction and divorce go hand in hand particularly from the loss of trust that follows. From the perspective of the partner, learning the full degree of your significant other’s addiction can be frightening, and can impact the level of trust in the relationship if aspects of the use was hidden, or if the addiction manifested in lying or secret keeping.

This goes for any addiction. Addictions are not always related to using substances. Process addictions can also present many of the same difficulties mentioned in this article. Financial difficulties and trust issues can be brought on by process addictions such as gambling addiction, sex addiction, shopping addiction, gaming addiction, and others.

The common thread in any addiction and its role in destroying a relationship is that the addiction can start to take priority over the significant other and the significant other may feel as if they are losing their partner to the addiction.

Addiction and Divorce: Get Help by Visiting Our Drug Rehab in Northern Virginia

Encore Outpatient Services’ alcohol and drug rehab in Northern Virginia offers several programs aimed at assisting patients suffering from substance use disorders and behavioral addictions. Our dedicated staff supports patients and their families throughout the recovery process. Addiction is an issue that affects the entire family unit. Contact Encore Outpatient Services today at 703.436.8158 if you or a loved one are struggling with addiction and need help.

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