A reader asks if it’s time to leave a marriage marred by alcohol abuse.
Dear Dr. McKinley,
I have been married for 15 years. Left him three times because of his drinking and love him to death. He is my best friend. We have four children, but I met someone who is exactly my twin flame. I never knew about it and was researching the feelings that we felt and found twin flame. Should I leave my husband?
For the sake of all six of you, I’m saddened that your husband has fallen prey to the seduction of alcohol. This is challenging in numerous ways. Does “till death do us part” include the deathlike feeling of being trapped in a one-sided relationship in which one partner is betraying the family by pursuing the mistress of sedation? I can’t recommend which choice you should make, but I can give you a few observations as you consider your options.
1. Addictions are rarely overcome without monumental effort by everyone affected.
People who successfully recover from an addiction tell us they couldn’t do it without a support system and a higher power. The reality is that it’s extremely difficult to break free from the claws of addiction. Despite this, many people have found freedom from addiction. You already have an awareness of this, but be reminded that overcoming addiction will be a battle that will require extraordinary effort.
2. Freedom from addiction is possible if the conditions are right and the desire is strong.
Change or Die: The Three Keys to Change at Work and in Life is a great book that outlines the elements of permanent change. In short, I call them the 3 Rs: rapport, reputation and reframing. It is no wonder that AA programs are so effective. They often include all three patterns. Rapport refers to having a person who cares deeply about you and your change effort. Repetition refers to being diligent with new behaviors, as it takes dozens if not hundreds of tries to form a new habit. Reframing refers to the new insight that will inevitably take place. Eventually all change includes a new way of thinking about the problem you’re facing. Both you and your husband may need these three keys to change.
3. A twin flame may be a real thing, but all relationships can be challenging.
Twin flame concepts are widely written about and may, in fact, be a real thing. What the websites and books don’t talk about regarding twin flames are the inevitable realities that all relationships experience. Soul mates or not, relationships are never easy or perfect. Many so-called ideal marriages have ended due to poor life choices, addictions or any number of distractions. Please don’t assume that finding a twin flame will guarantee a great relationship. I’ve observed that, rather than pursuing the right person to be married to, often one is much better off being the right person for the relationship they’re in. Many times our focus needs to be on how to navigate relationship challenges rather than finding the perfect person.
4. Many people leave relationships because they’re drawn to something or someone else.
Second and third marriages trend toward ending in divorce about 60-80% of the time, far exceeding the first-marriage divorce rate of around 50%. I recommend that people only leave a relationship if they’ve resolved that remaining married is unworkable, not because they found something or someone better somewhere else. If you and your husband cannot find a path forward due to his drinking, then you are far better off ending that relationship because it wasn’t working. The allure of something better rarely, if ever, brings more clarity and resolve, both of which are needed to make such a significant decision.
I wish I could simply tell you to leave or not to leave, but that is not my place or my decision to make. However, I will say this: be at full choice whatever you do. Take responsibility for your decision and live out that decision in the best possible way.
Have a question of your own? Ask Dr. McKinley, and we may feature it along with his answer in an upcoming article.
This information is for educational purposes only. For questions or concerns regarding your health, please consult a doctor or mental health professional. If you need to talk to someone about alcohol or drug dependence, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence is available to help.