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September 25, 2017 - Welcome Guest!

Advice » Love

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Toxic marriage

Question:

I am a recovering alcoholic. I have OCD and clinical depression. I am married but not sure whether or not the marriage is toxic. I have a son, whom my husband adopted, and I have a step-daughter. My step-daughter naturally isn't motivated to establish a loving relationship with me, and I tend to shut down a lot.

Now that I've been sober for almost a year, I feel so different and my husband is not very happy about it. I understand that this is an adjustment for him too. I have lost 50 lbs., can't eat and know that it has something to do with my inability to confront issues with my husband. I have a therapist, she's good, but our time is so limited that I don't feel like I can really get to the bottom of things. I'm scared and very confused. I can't stand being in this atmosphere and I end up going to a lot of AA meetings. I don't know if it's to avoid or to care for myself. I feel like I've been given a second chance at life and I don't want to live it as a doormat.

How do I know whether my relationship with my husband is helping or hurting me? Thanks for being here.

Anonymous, 31-year-old woman

Answer:

One thing that comes through clearly in your background information is how scared and worried you are. I hope you know this is not uncommon or abnormal for someone newly sober. Remember, you are engaged in a lifelong process - living - and that REAL change takes plenty of time. Give yourself LOTS of credit for being sober and staying so almost a year! This needs to continue to be your first priority, as without sobriety you can't even BEGIN to deal successfully with running a life. So, take a pat on the back and understand that the same strength that let you stop drinking can help you to resolve these other difficulties, provided you take them one at a time.

Your question is interesting in that you ask me for a judgment, suggesting that perhaps you don't trust your own. The amount of detail about your relationship with your husband, on the other hand, seems sparse. I think its difficult for you to think about your marriage because you are looking for a Yes, its good, or No, its not good, i.e., a judgment -like answer. Perhaps this is why you're having so much difficulty deciding.

I think it might be helpful for you to ask questions that don't require a yes or no judgment answer. For example, instead of asking, is this relationship good or bad for me, you might ask: Am I happy being in the relationship, and if not, what specific things don't I like about it, what specific things DO I like, and am I willing to confront my husband with both the positive and the not-so-positive?

If confrontation is difficult for you, as you indicated in your background information, maybe you could discuss or work with your therapist on this. You might also consider bringing your husband into a few of your individual sessions with your therapist. This might enable you to confront him with your therapist's support. Another option would be for the two of you to start couple counseling with a different, "neutral" therapist, where both of you can learn ways which you help you to work together on your problems. Your therapist might even have some other ideas for you, so you might seek his/her advice before making a decision about this. Also, I think it would be helpful for you if you could continue your individual therapy as usual, if at all possible.

At some time in the future , it might be helpful to include your children in meetings with you and your husband. Naturally, all this requires his active participation, but if he is resistant, you might at least let him know you recognize there IS a problem and you are determined to work it out, with or without his participation. If he is resistant, you might wish to point out he can have more choice in how that ultimately goes if he attends to make his own needs and wishes clear.

I am concerned, too, about several issues that you mention only in passing:

  1. Your OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder). How severe is it, and have you consulted an MD for possible medications? The usual medications for OCD are antidepressants, which have NO addictive potential, an important consideration for those in alcohol and drug recovery. There are some reasons to suspect that many addicts and alcoholics use their choice addictive substance as self-medication for depression, obsessiveness and/or anxiety. While doing so is obviously not a good idea (the "cure" here is worse than the disease), I would strongly urge you to discuss more APPROPRIATE medications with your therapist and your family physician, or a psychiatrist. Be careful of those who urge you to "tough it out" without "drugs" - even professionals; ask what their specific experience is in interacting with people taking antidepressants (many people classify all medications as drugs, and "drugs" as bad, or do not understand that antidepressants are not the same as tranquilizers such as Valium and Xanax, for example, which DO have addictive potential).

  2. My second concern is your very large weight loss, especially because you appear to have lost interest in eating. If you have not yet consulted your doctor about this, please do so at once. It is important for both your physical health and your psychological well-being. While it may be appropriate to work on the underlying reasons in therapy, it is not a good idea to leave your doctor out of the loop.

One last point: I'd encourage you to be sure your doctor and therapist have your release to maintain contact about your treatment and progress so they can coordinate with each other.

Good luck in your admirable efforts to improve things for yourself and your family!

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