addiction coaching family

WHY do I spy on my partner?

Why do I spy on my partner?

Ah, the joys of being the wife of an addict/alcoholic.  The lies, and deceit, and not sure what to believe. Chasing them, and/or the truth, and sometimes not believing either of them.


In some ways, we are like Magnum PI (am I showing my age here?) and in some ways we’re like Rose from Golden Girls.


I’ve found that it all boils down to a lack of trust. Obviously part of that is just being in a relationship with someone who’s actively using drugs or alcohol. There’s an awful lot of that that comes hand in hand with addiction.


The thing is – when you go looking for proof – your gut already knows.

You just want confirmation that you’re right. And you’ll find it in most cases. And it will still hurt and make you angry. There’s people who find their partner’s alcohol and dump it out and replace it with water, or destroy their paraphernalia, knowing full well they can just go down to the corner store and replace it. It really can hurt us more than it hurts them.  We can drive ourselves batty looking for proof, when really all we need is our own common sense, or to trust that our intuition is not playing games.

I believe trust has to be one of the pillars of a relationship/marriage.

It’s not easy – and it’s compounded when you add addiction. When your spouse or partner is in active addiction, trust is usually destroyed, then given (albeit too soon) then destroyed again. Until something changes, nothing changes. Even with my hubs having 6 years clean and sober, I still struggle with some of those old behaviors and voices telling me to snoop. But I have to remind myself we’re different people now.


I also have to remind myself that his journey is his.

Say for example if I thought he was talking to another woman – I have to have faith and believe that I’d be OK. That if he made a choice to pursue or follow through with that, that I will be OK and his consequences are his. If I thought he had relapsed, I’d have to take a hard look at the situation.  When he first got clean I told him if he ever used again I would be gone in a heartbeat. And for the first 3 years, I believe I would have followed through. Now though, I’m not so sure. I think it would depend greatly on HIS reaction to a relapse.


I recently read a book called “Boundaries in Marriage” (*affiliate link) by Dr’s Cloud and Townsend.  People – this book is a game changer. Wish I’d had it years ago – very insightful. Many times we’re expecting our partner to complete us –

*I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites

but another person can’t fill that.


In my work with hundreds of addicts and their families we all have holes. A traumatic event can cause a hole. We look for something to fill that. For me, I have a tendency to turn to food (sugar) – others can be alcohol,drugs, sex, gambling. Or other people. And that’s the red flag. When you expect someone else to complete you that’s a huge problem.


You have to be a whole person.


It’s not easy, but it’s necessary that we look at what WE have brought into these relationships.


The Boundaries book outlines a few things – think of them as ‘danger zones’ that I wanted to share with you –


We pretend that everything is OK – wearing masks of the employee that has it all together – the mom that has it all together, the person in the grocery store who has it all together – even when everything is falling apart. I’d spent so much time pretending everything was ok and trying to keep up those appearances. What if I’d spent a little of that time and energy fixing what was NOT alright? Maybe things would have been quicker to change.


Not speaking the truth is similar to pretending. If you don’t speak up, nobody can figure it out. Even though we’re good at anticipating others needs, we aren’t mind readers and neither are they – we have to speak up and stand in your truth – that’s when the dynamics start to change.


Withdrawing instead of bringing up problems. I’d try and be diplomatic but I’d get shut down. Both people have to be part of the conversation.


Not following up on consequences. Your marriage has to be a safe space for both partners. And our jobs are to help each other grow – not as a parent or slave driver or boss, but as a partner. Every time I tried to set a boundary it was if you don’t ____ I’m leaving. Not only was it not appropriate, but I wasn’t prepared to follow through.


Nagging – say it once it’s asking, 2 is reminding, after that it’s nagging. I’ve done (and probably still do sometimes) my fair share of nagging. See the opportunity to improve.


Getting revenge isn’t helpful. If you’re snooping and pouring out their alcohol – how is that building trust?


Being self-righteous – your spouse is your partner, and when you start placing yourself above and the other below – that’s a power trip. It’s not always going to be 50/50. It should be 100/100. You both have to be committed to making the marriage work.


Lastly – when you tell others but not your partner how horrible they are, that’s a real danger zone – opens up the doors to some real issues – not just adultery. But you’ll find people who agree with you – and how is that helping you grow? Having a way to communicate your feelings to your partner before you go talking to everyone else is important.


A tribe is necessary when you need to process – safe people who don’t add fuel to the fire.

My mission is to provide a safe space/container for partners and wives to process what’s going on and figure out what’s best for them. And for those who want to stay married, it’s possible to save it, but it’s going to take a lot of work.  To that end – I’m re-opening my Facebook group “The MRS – Marriage and Recovery Support – Group

It’s a sisterhood of women who want to make the most of their marriages when addiction and/or recovery is present.  It’s a safe space. Because some issues aren’t just addiction issues – they’re marriage issues, or character issues.

I can tell you this with 100% certainty… When you start working on your shit, the dynamics change.  

Erin Hill is a writer, speaker, and healer. She resides on the Eastern Shore of Maryland with her husband and children, who are her greatest teachers. She is currently working on her first book.

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