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Sometimes Addiction Recovery Ends a Relationship


Letting go can be difficult in recovery; especially if it’s your marriage.

This morning as I was doing my gratitude ritual, I reflected on my two previous marriages that ended in divorce. I used to view them as failed marriages but today I see that they were both huge successes.

They fulfilled the expectations we both had for them.

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As I look at my past from a place of love today, I see a great story. It’s filled with comedy, tragedy, suspense, and drama. Being able to detach from my story allows me to be thoroughly entertained by it. Some of the best parts involve my two previous marriages. I used to view them as tragic love stories, but today I realize that love didn’t really play a role in either of them. We were simply reacting to fears that we created in our own life stories; stories that we became addicted to.

Addictions are spawned from fear and fear cannot coexist with love.

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The term love addiction is very misleading since it really has nothing to do with love. It’s used to describe an addiction that occurs when someone becomes dependent on another person to shield them from pain. Like any other addiction this always leads to harmful consequences. In my case it was two divorces and years of struggles as I tried to maintain healthy relationships with my children. Love, in its true form, has no harmful consequences. Because it encompasses so many things in our lives, sometimes its meaning gets a little cloudy so I like to describe it like this…

Love is everything that isn’t fear.

For me, that makes it super simple to distinguish. As someone who has spent the majority of his life battling addictions, I’ve become very familiar with fear. Fear is only capable of creating three responses, fight, flight, or freeze, none of which can support a healthy relationship for very long. In my role as a recovery life coach I see many relationships that were formed solely to support the addiction. In this case they need to be completely overhauled and started over from scratch. Unfortunately, this often results in one or both of them arriving at the painful conclusion that it’s time to part ways.

Just because it’s painful doesn’t mean that it’s wrong.

I’d love to be able to sit here and tell you that my marriages ended amicably with both of us agreeing it was time to move on but that rarely happens, if ever. I’ve had people tell me theirs was mutually agreeable and acting as if it was some seamless separation but I find that really hard to believe. Any time we’re investing ourselves in a partnership there are these things called emotions…the most powerful forces in nature. I remember knowing that I didn’t belong with my ex-wife but still being so devastated from the breakup that I couldn’t eat or sleep for weeks because of the fear based emotions I created.

There’s no easy way to deal with such a significant change in one’s life as divorce but there are ways to empower ourselves and help us move into the amazing future that awaits us much quicker and with a minimum amount of pain. We do this by shifting our emotional state from a place of weakness (fear) to one of strength (love). I don’t mean to over simplify this because it is a process that requires effort. With that said, it can also be the greatest emotional and spiritual growth you’ve ever experienced.

Sometimes the greatest act of love is in letting go.

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There are a number of exercises and practices that I do with my clients to help make that shift and allow them to begin creating daily rituals of their own which empower them. For every fear based thought there is always a corresponding love based one. It’s simply a matter of which you decide to place your focus on.

I’m so grateful for the experiences I shared with both of my former wives and I’m happy to say that we all love and support each other today. In fact, they both agree that I’m a much better ex-husband than I was a husband. Divorcing them allowed me to create love based relationships with them for the first time.

Sometimes, divorce is simply allowing the ugliness to exit in order to make room for the beauty.

Rock On!

This guest article originally appeared on When Recovering From Addiction Means Breaking Someone’s Heart.

Sometimes Addiction Recovery Ends a Relationship

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APA Reference
Guest Author, P. (2018). Sometimes Addiction Recovery Ends a Relationship. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 28, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 27 Mar 2017)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.