My Spouse Lied to Me About Using Drugs – Now What?
(The following is Part 1 of our response to a question we received. To the best of our ability we removed all personally identifying information and have made the situation as generic as possible.)
We understand that it has been quite a shock for you to discover your spouse had lied to you about being in recovery. We hope the following suggestions may help you get “unstuck” from the confusion you are experiencing and help you choose what would be best for you to do next.
The first thing we suggest you do in this situation is to practice the following two understandings. But by “understanding” we don’t mean that you will agree with the behavior, give up on what is important to you, or resign yourself to the situation.
We simply hope you will experience some relief by practicing these two understandings. This relief will come partly from an increase in your ability to be compassionate with yourself and your spouse, partly from the clarity you’ll gain from knowing which actions you may want to take next, and partly by helping you restore trust in your relationship.
Understanding Number One – We Do the Best We Can
The first understand we find important to practice in situations like this is: People are always doing the best they can to have what is important to them. Always!
Before you were married, when you asked if your spouse had a drug problem, they gave you an answer they believed would meet most of their needs in the best way possible. There must have been something that was so important to them that they were willing to lie to you to protect it.
We guess they were protecting their relationship with you. They must have been painfully aware that any other answer than “Yes, I am drug free and in recovery”, would probably have resulted in losing their relationship with you. So in their mind they were faced with losing you or lying. And saving the relationship with you was more important than telling the truth.
Unfortunately, it seems that their lie was not very effective in the long run. Now that you’ve discovered it, they seem in danger of losing the relationship anyway. But, again, it was the best your spouse could do to protect what was important to them in that moment.
This same understanding is also true about their use of drugs.
There is some need your spouse is meeting by using drugs that they have not been able to meet in any other way. We predict that they will be unable to stop using drugs until they discover the need that using drugs satisfies, and then figure out another way to satisfy that need without it costing them so much–such as losing relationships with people they love.
From your message it’s obvious you love your spouse. If you didn’t you wouldn’t be in such pain about this discovery. Helping them discover a less costly way to meet ALL their needs may be the most loving thing you could possibly do for them. But your willingness to help your spouse at this point in the relationship relies on the next understanding.
Understanding Number Two – Trust is “In Here”, Not “Out There”
We could feel joyful as we walk on a beautiful beach, during a gorgeous sunset, hand in hand with the one we love. But our joy is not caused by the beach or by the sunset. And it is not caused by the person holding our hand.
Our joy is springs from the fact that each of these things deeply satisfies something that we cherish. If we did not care about the aesthetics of our surroundings or about being in a relationship, this situation would not produce joy in us.
In the same way, the trust we feel is not created by what is going on “out there.” We believe trust actually comes from knowing we have the ability to take care of ourselves: to feel safe and in control of our well-being no matter what is going on in our surroundings. It’s hard to feel trusting if we don’t think we can take care of ourselves.
In this sense, the trust you think you lost in your spouse was actually your loss of trust that you can take care of yourself in your relationship with them. After all, how can you really take care of yourself when you cannot rely on the information they give you?
But I’ve never met a person who claimed that they had never lied. So it’s a safe bet that people have lied to you your whole life, and probably will continue to do so. You probably already know this. And in spite of this, you have done a pretty good job taking care of yourself, even though people sometimes lie to you.
In your situation, whether you choose to leave your spouse or not, we suggest that trusting yourself is the first kind of trust you need to establish.
Are you able to take care of yourself? Can you do what it takes to live a happy life even though your spouse has lied to you?
Establishing trust in your ability to take care of yourself is important whether or not you choose to stay with your spouse.
But what if you still want to stay in the relationship and you find that you don’t really have that kind of trust in yourself? Then you can use this situation as an opportunity to learn better ways of taking care of yourself as you work through these problems.
For support in this process you may find value in our article titled: Lying – Why It Happens and How You Can Regain Trust as you Rebuild Your Relationships
As you improve your ability to trust yourself, you can begin to focus all of your attention on resolving these issues and moving forward in your relationship. Trusting yourself gives you confidence that you will be okay in the process.
In our next blog post we will discuss ways to reestablish trust in your relationship, and how to use a very specific process for creating genuine cooperation as a way to do this.
Until then, we hope this has helped in some small way. Please let us know if it has. And feel free to post a comment below if you would like us to clarify anything we have offered here.
Committed to supporting your happiness,
Beth and Neill