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How Does Marriage Change When One Person Enters Recovery?

Even though it’s a positive change, adjusting to marriage with a newly sober spouse is a challenge. Some situations are a little tricky to navigate.

After being with my husband for 15 years, it might seem like there would be few suprises left. We have the kind of relationship that includes conversations like, “Hey, Harmony, will you cut off this skin tag on my back?” followed by, “Um, no; I’ll make you a doctor’s appointment.” And later, “Does this look infected to you?”

Robbie is what people in recovery like to call a “normie.” When it comes to alcohol, he can take it or leave it. He can just have one beer, and he doesn’t obsess over when he’ll have the next one. He likes to have fun, and he doesn’t really care if that fun involves alcohol. By the time I entered recovery, he rarely drank anymore; I was always the one drinking, and one of us had to stay sober enough to drive.

The surprise here is that I am the alcoholic and he is the normie, because everyone who knows us assumed it was the other way around.

My husband and I built the foundation of our relationship on having as much fun as possible. (Read: we partied a lot.) We’ve been to New Orleans, our closest major city, many times over the years, visiting for Mardi Gras, romantic getaways, concerts, plays, art events, and stuff with our kids. In true alcoholic form, I remember very little of any of it.

Since I entered recovery, our relationship has shifted considerably. He is exactly the same as he’s always been, but everything about me is changing — how I react to things, what I do and say, how I view and enjoy my life, and how I relate to my husband. All these changes bring up a lot of questions and discussions, obviously, like if we go to New Orleans, will my husband drink? How much? Will I be able to handle it?

Recently, he scored amazing tickets to an NFL game in the New Orleans Superdome. When he asked me to go, I panicked: I’ve got under two years of sobriety under my belt, and we’ve never been to any major city without alcohol. In fact, the last time we went down there, I started with a hand grenade on Bourbon Street and ended with what I believe to be absinthe. None of this was my husband’s fault — we were just there having fun — but his version of “fun” is a lot less dangerous than mine. When I start drinking, I drink to forget.

Neither of us knew how severe my issues were when we met and fell in love. We got married, had a bunch of kids, and BAM! I was in so deep I almost didn’t find my way out. But that’s the beauty of true partnership; Robbie supports me fully in everything I do, and he wants nothing more than to see me happy and healthy. Even so, adjusting to the evolution is a challenge, and even though it is a very positive change for our family, there are still times when it can be a little tricky to navigate.

So, what does my sobriety mean for us as a couple? What are the rules of marriage when one person is an addict and the other is not?

Find out more about how Harmony and her husband navigate their lives — what’s allowed in the house, how to handle parties, and even how sex is affected — now that she’s in recovery in the original article The Rules of Marriage…In Recovery at The Fix.

How Does Marriage Change When One Person Enters Recovery?

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APA Reference
Guest Author, P. (2018). How Does Marriage Change When One Person Enters Recovery?. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 30, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 31 Oct 2018 (Originally: 3 Nov 2018)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 31 Oct 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.