If only one member of the couple goes to rehab, the other partner’s continued substance abuse can make it much harder for the first partner to avoid relapsing into drug use after treatment is over. Nevertheless, not getting help can create many risks for the couple, such as relationship challenges, financial loss, and even negative effects on physical and mental health for both partners.
However, if both partners are willing to undergo rehab at the same time, it can help them to learn to recover together. When couples attend rehab together, it can give them tools to manage their own addictions – understanding each person’s individual triggers and cravings, and learning to avoid relapse. It can also offer help in improving the relationship, managing issues such as codependence and enabling, and creating a new relationship dynamic that supports each partner alone and together in maintaining recovery.
Partnerships where both members of the couple use drugs are very common. The National Abandoned Infants Assistance Resource Center states that, in particular, women who use drugs or alcohol are more than two times as likely as men to have a partner who is also a substance abuser.
The relationship itself can be damaged by this substance abuse, even if the couple is committed to making the relationship work. Based on information from the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, signs of trouble for the relationship include:
These issues develop on top of the negative effects that develop for each individual, complicating drug use and often leading to increased abuse. When this gets to be too much, one partner might decide to seek treatment.
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In the case where a couple has a strong relationship, it can be helpful for the partners to go through rehab together. It can be more likely for partners who both use drugs to relapse after treatment if they are treated separately, and a study from Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy demonstrates that a positive relationship can be a motivating factor in both achieving and maintaining recovery.
To reinforce the power of a romantic relationship in helping both partners to get and stay clean, couples can attend or otherwise participate in treatment together in a variety of ways, depending on the couple’s dynamic and the individuals’ needs.
One option for getting help together is to attend the same rehab program. A number of treatment centers and facilities offer this option for couples who have a strong relationship and are equally committed to recovery. Motivation is a key element to having couples in therapy together. As summarized by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), a person’s motivation to change and recover from substance abuse is a vital element in treatment, which makes the person more likely to complete treatment with the focus and dedication needed to maintain long-term recovery.
In a program where couples can attend together, this motivation is reinforced through the couple’s continual reaffirmation of commitment to one another.
Sometimes, attending rehab together may not be an option. In certain cases, each individual may have issues that need to be dealt with separately – issues that may not be managed as easily if the couple is living in the same facility. In this case, the couple may be placed in separate living arrangements. This might be the case if there has been violent behavior between the partners, or if one partner has medical or psychological issues that warrant more intense care.
Still, if the couple is committed to making the relationship work, this situation can involve communication and therapy with the two partners together. A regular schedule might include couples therapy sessions multiple times weekly, along with the ability to visit one another. Otherwise, the two would be in separate parts of the facility, or even in separate facilities, for the main program elements.
A lot of research, such as an article from the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, has shown the benefits of working with the two members of a couple together during rehab. Even when only one member of the couple is abusing drugs or alcohol, this type of therapy has been shown to have benefits for both partners and for reducing the risk of relapse. These benefits are also seen for couples in which both partners are abusing drugs.
Substance abuse affects relationships in ways that make it difficult to go back to the way things were before the substance abuse began. Even when a person finishes treatment, the risk of relapse is always present, and there are emotional and sometimes physical injuries that cannot be reversed or taken back. In addition, a couple might have developed relationship habits, such as enabling substance use or codependency on a partner’s substance abuse, that need to be reversed before either partner can move forward in recovery.
These new behaviors take time to learn, but they can deepen a relationship and provide ways for the couple to maintain a strong bond through supporting each other in maintaining sobriety.
For this reason, one of the main goals of couples therapy in rehab is to help the couple develop a new relationship standard, including new ways of interacting and spending time together that support abstinence.
There are situations in which it may not be a good idea for a couple to attend rehab together. These include situations the followings situations:
Whether or not an individual enters rehab when a partner isn’t ready to do so can be a hard decision to make. However, it is important to remember that a person can never make a loved one ready for change. In this circumstance, getting into rehab alone is a step that can be vital for the individual who gets help, and that may also serve as an example to the partner.
Regardless, the main focus should be getting help for the partner who is ready to change. As described by the National Abandoned Infants Assistance Resource Center information, getting help for one person and getting the other person at least involved in couples therapy may help both parties become more willing to continue with treatment.
Once the couple has completed rehab, and the partners are managing recovery together, they can offer each other a great source of support for future challenges. With commitment, they can keep each other on track, help each other avoid triggers and cravings, and remind one another about the tools and skills learned in rehab. A challenge may arise if one of the partners does relapse, as this makes it more likely that the other partner will relapse as well. However, with continued involvement in aftercare programs and a peer support group, the couple should be able to maneuver through these challenges and continue in recovery.
The strength and love that a couple can provide for each partner in treatment and recovery can be essential. That added motivation can help both partners to achieve recovery, maintain abstinence, and move forward in a supportive relationship that thrives without the need for drugs or alcohol.