Ask Ammanda: my husband’s weed habit is ruining our marriage
I am so fed up with my husband of 16 years, our marriage is at rock bottom. I cannot communicate with him or get him to see how my needs are not being met in the marriage or why I’m so unhappy. He has been habitually messy, unreliable, irresponsible and unhelpful and I am unsure if there is a future for us. He does work full time and has held the job for 15 years. He takes an interest in our three children and I would say he is a good Dad. However he has often said that he is hanging around for his children and even said at our wedding if it wasn’t for them we probably wouldn’t be getting married!
He is a long term and every day weed smoker which seems to make him forgetful; unmotivated; moody; aggressive; messy; unreliable; low / no sex drive (sex once in the last two years) and isolating (he is in his own world.) He sleeps badly, he doesn’t really look after his health, and he suffers from Cannabinoid Hyperemesis which has ruined several holidays. His mood swings and withdrawal symptoms have ruined ALL holidays and family outings.
Over the years he has chosen to abuse porn, and rebuff all my attempts to make love. He stays up late watching porn, getting high and playing computer games, whilst I have spent many nights crying and lonely in bed. After many years of this I now have no interest in sleeping with him at all. We haven’t slept in the same bed for over a year now.
Because of all the problems above, over the years I have taken control of all the finances, household and family matters to the point where I am now a fully-fledged single parent. I am the main breadwinner, run my own business, work part time, take the kids to and from school and look after our 15 month old two days a week. I do all the cooking, cleaning, take all the financial responsibility, arrange for the bills to be paid, so all paperwork, car care, house insurance etc. I do all the school assemblies, sports days, etc. I chauffeur the kids to all of their activities. He has always point blank refused to help with dropping the kids off to school / childminders (as he needs to go to work early or work late) so I’ve always had the stress of running around, doing a full day’s work and running back to collect the kids. This has, in the past, resulted in me nearly having a breakdown. I had to go part time and rearrange my whole career as I just couldn’t cope with everything with very little support from my husband or anyone else for that matter.
He has a history of being terrible financially and has in the past run up big credit card bills and cannot repay them. He had a CCJ when we first got together which I worked hard to bring him out of and give him good credit but have babysat our finances ever since for fear it will happen again. He is the type of person who will let a £80 speeding fine escalate to £400 (until I take control and pay it). I am an accountant so this is totally unfathomable to me.
We really have lived separate lives for many years. I try not to talk to him for fear of being screamed at and the neighbourhood hearing our rows. He will also slam doors, throw things, call me names and try to damage the property when he flies into a rage – anytime I approach him about something I’m not happy with. Any days out with the children are ruined as he gets aggressive and grumpy after a few hours as his weed fix has run out. So I prefer to take them out on my own – we have such lovely days.
When I try to talk about our problems he shouts me down at the top of his voice and I never feel heard. I arranged marriage counselling for us two years ago. It was an absolute nightmare, he spent the whole hour screaming at me in front of the counsellor and suggesting her and I were conspiring against him.
After 16 years together, I’m so tired and frustrated of this. He has now left the house at my request and we are living separately. He pops in after work to eat dinner and see the kids but pretty much nothing has changed for me, I’m still doing it all, at least now I do not have to clear up after him or see him on the sofa every morning.
He says he has now stopped smoking, but the proof is in the pudding whether this remains the case and whether this addresses some of the problems between us
I am no angel but I always try to improve myself and my relationship – I am typically a high achiever and big believer in personal development. He doesn’t seem to acknowledge how his drug use and behaviours have contributed to the demise of our relationship. In our last conversation he said he loves me and feels like we need to start from scratch which I agree, then proceeded to tell me that he has put his career aspirations aside for mine (totally untrue) and that I’ve never supported him in his work (again untrue I’ve written CVs for him, done job searches, spoke to him about setting up his own business etc).
He cannot seem to take any responsibility for his life or behaviour. I am starting to think we will never be able to work together to build a happy and successful marriage. I just don’t know how much longer I can suffer this debacle of a marriage. Life is too short. Part of me thinks we have the potential to have a very happy and content marriage and family if we could tackle the behaviours and improve communication. The other part thinks that we are just in two different worlds and that my dreams of a happy marriage are not possible with this man.
It sounds like over the years, you’ve acquired all the attributes of a carer and a parent and applied them to your husband. This is often the lot of spouses who essentially live with an addict. They may love them, do everything for them, make allowances for them and sort out their life. But if that wasn’t enough of a workload, on top of having kids and working too, they get overwhelmed by the anger and frustration that also goes hand in hand with being the spouse of an addict. That’s where you seem to be right now.
I’m afraid there’s no easy way to say this but you absolutely have to make it clear to your husband that he, alone, is entirely responsible for his drug habit and therefore, he’s entirely responsible for sorting it out. Of course this is always more difficult to accomplish in the cold light of day.
The life you describe with your husband is one that many people will recognise. Often events go on for many years. Sometimes they’re interspersed with pleas, protestations and allegations from the addict that it’s the responsibility/fault/duty of their spouse, who has essentially become their carer, to keep the show on the road. Often there are promises that things will be different. It’s not at all unusual either for an addict to say that they need the support and forgiveness of their partner before they can possibly embark on getting professional help towards the road to recovery. And often, addicts refuse to acknowledge that what they do causes grief and problems for the whole family.
The tone of your letter is that of a critical and frustrated parent. I know that probably sounds like a tough thing to hear but all I’m trying to do is feedback what you’re saying, so that you really understand the importance of putting down some very clear boundaries by moving away from what is essentially contributing to him carrying on regardless. Put simply: absolutely nothing will change unless your husband accepts he has the issue and when he wants to do something about it. All of your coaching, organising and admonishment will continue to amount to nothing since he doesn’t get what you mean because you keep sorting everything out. As I say, this is so often what happens in families where someone is an addict of whatever description.
The couple relationship in situations like this is often complex. Occasionally the partner of the drug user thinks they can somehow change their partner by constantly telling them they’re in the wrong. Language like this, although understandably very tempting to use, given the level of grief that usually accompanies life with an addict, is usually counterproductive. It only adds to the general lack of self-worth that theyalso d so often have but so often find difficult to expresses productively, choosing only to further engage with their habit of choice.
So, I would suggest a few things. First, you’ve asked him to move out and he has done so. This sounds like a positive move because the verbal abuse you’ve been on the receiving end of, as well as witnessing damage to property, is going to affect your mental and emotional wellbeing, so putting some distance between you sounds like a good move.
Secondly, and this is really challenging, I would like to suggest that your sense of being a high achiever understandably means that you are solution focused when it comes to problems. It’s a touch of “there’s the problem – now I can find a way of fixing it”. But this particular problem is not yours to fix. With this in mind I’d like to encourage you to either get some individual therapy or join a support group for the partners and families of addicts. You need to let go of being the one to make changes. I can acknowledge your point of being no angel (none of us are totally blameless) but the essential and deep seated issue that needs addressing is your husband’s chronic use of weed.
Thirdly, you need to consider the impact on the kids. I’m sure you’ve already given this a great deal of thought but the legacy of family drug problems on children can be immense. Your daughters need to see that it’s possible to love someone but also require that they take responsibility for themselves and their actions.
Finally, at some point you will need to move away from the mind-set of “the fine gets bigger if I don’t deal with it on his behalf”. He knows you do this and will continue to take advantage of it until you finally feel able let him bear the brunt of the consequences of not sorting something out. This is difficult and often means that you have to put in place clear and separate systems so his failure to do important things does not impact on you and the family finances.
He says he loves you and wants to start from scratch. I can clearly see that despite everything you have deep feelings for him and just want it all to stop. He says he’s stopped using weed, which is all well and good except for the fact that he now has the vast, enormous journey of providing the evidence that he really means it. The only way he can do that is to get professional support and stick with it. Of course the love of a spouse in overcoming an addition is important, but your love has been severely tested already, so best not test it further until there’s something to base this on.
Despite any effort he might make, it’s very unlikely he can start this new chapter of being weed-free on his own. Getting the help he needs is his responsibility. Don’t make the appointment, find the group or in any way mop up after him anymore. You’ve been doing that for years so time to stop now. Although this sounds like tough love – it is in fact probably the most loving thing you can do for him, for you and for the kids.
I am so fed up with my husband of 16 years, our marriage is at rock bottom. I cannot communicate with him or get him to see how my needs are not being met in the marriage or why I’m so unhappy. He has been habitually messy, unreliable, irresponsible and unhelpful and I am unsure if there is a future for us. He does work full time and has held the job for 15 years. He takes an