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Rebuilding Trust With a Recovering Alcoholic Spouse

by Karen Kleinschmidt, studioD

Your spouse is in alcohol recovery, and it seems you should be able to start to relax because a great deal of tension has been lifted. However, you can't seem to trust your spouse. You want to believe that he will pass by the bar and come straight home after a stressful day at work, but your nagging doubts and fears make it difficult to do that and move forward. You've seen what this illness has done to him, your relationship and your lives, and rebuilding all of that requires time, energy and patience from both of you.

Recognize the Journey

Most spouses recovering from alcoholism realize they need to earn back the trust they shattered during their addiction, according to Carole Bennett, a family substance abuse counselor and author of "Rebuilding Trust in the Recovery Process," published on the "Psychology Today" website. In addition, they need to trust themselves. You can help the process by recognizing that this is a journey for both of you, and at times, it may feel like an emotional roller coaster. Setbacks may occur, and re-establishing trust will likely occur over an extended period of time.

Forgive Your Spouse

It was a huge step for your spouse to stop drinking and to seek help to change his behavior, and while you may love him and forgive him, it doesn't mean you have to trust him, according to Drew W. Edwards, a clinician and expert on addictive diseases, in his article "Rebuilding Relationships in Early Recovery" on the "Psych Central" website. Forgiving your spouse is a huge step toward healing your wounds, avoiding resentment and opening up your heart for future intimacy with him. This is a necessary step in the process of rebuilding trust with your spouse, Edwards says.

Examine the Circumstances

The ability to trust a recovering alcoholic spouse varies from person to person as the amount of deception and damage to the relationship has to be assessed. For example, if your spouse lied to you about going on a business trip, when in reality he was gambling all of your hard-earned money away in an intoxicated state, you may need more time to trust again than the spouse whose husband drank after dinner every night and failed to communicate with her. As your spouse continues with treatment and begins to prove he can be trusted, little by little you will be able to let your guard down.

Get Professional Help

After surviving an addiction, you and your spouse will likely want to seek out marriage counseling to help repair the damage to your relationship. It can be difficult to repair your marriage on your own. A counselor can help you both sort out what is important to each of you, what each of you will and will not tolerate as well as what each of you is willing to compromise on. You and your spouse will have the chance to speak and be heard, and the counselor can help you both separate facts from feelings. She can also objectively point out any potential roadblocks toward rebuilding trust within your marriage.

About the Author

Karen Kleinschmidt has been writing since 2007. Her short stories and articles have appeared in "Grandma's Choice," "Treasure Box" and "Simple Joy." She has worked with children with ADHD, sensory issues and behavioral problems, as well as adults with chronic mental illness. Kleinschmidt holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Montclair State University.

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