When living with a partner’s addiction, a spouse may build up coping mechanisms to protect any children and the marriage itself.
Often, because of the shame felt about the situation, the spouse will avoid taking steps to get help for the individual and will instead begin to develop a behavior known as enabling.
As described in a study from the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, enabling behaviors are those that, intentionally or otherwise, enable a person to continue drinking. An obvious type of enabling occurs when a spouse drinks alcohol with the partner who is struggling with addiction, which gives the partner direct permission to continue drinking.
Some forms of enabling are subtler. For example, if the drinking partner is having trouble maintaining family responsibilities, the spouse may take over doing those things, which tacitly allows the person who is addicted to alcohol to continue drinking. The more the spouse covers, the more the person who is drinking is able to get away with continued alcohol abuse.