Forward Thinking Family Law Since 1994

What to Do About the Addicted Professional Spouse?

The pressure that many highly trained professionals feel, including physicians, financial professionals, lawyers, business executives and other highly compensated individuals can lead to alcohol, marijuana or drug addictions. Sexual addictions in the form of spending hours viewing pornography and having many partners is fairly common. Sometimes, these addictions appear in combination.

In many marriages where one partner is a highly compensated professional, the other partner is not employed or under employed, because the demands of the job are so high. The stay-at-home spouse or partner or under-employed spouse or partner feels dependent on the professional. They also see the toll that the addiction(s) is taking on a person they love and the toll their addiction(s) is taking on their personal relationship and on their family life. They are torn. If they seek help for them, they fear disclosure and potential loss of job. If they do not insist they receive treatment, the condition will continue to deteriorate.

Fortunately, we are learning more about chemical imbalances and addiction treatment. The treatment is confidential. Depending on the circumstances, a highly-valued employee will be given time off to deal with the dependency. Or the treatment can be scheduled during routine time off the job.

The difficulty is that dependency gone untreated will become more severe. The professional can lose his/her position. The family will lose the income stream. The stay-at-home or under-employed spouse is unlikely to be able to return to work and replace the income that is lost.

Though it is frightening, when you first notice that your spouse/partner has developed an unhealthy chemical, sexual, gambling or other dependency, for the sake of the spouse/partner and for your family's sake, try to get help. Often professional organizations, such as the medical association or the bar association have confidential assistance programs that can get the spouse to qualified professionals in your area, without jeopardizing their positions.

I see many couples whose marriage ended because of dependency. It is tragic. Many have waited too long to get help. The family is limited to dividing what assets they have accumulated because the spouse's earning capacity has been curtailed. This can have tragic consequences for the family.

Though it is very difficult to confront the addicted spouse, it is definitely worth the effort. If they will not confront the addiction, then seek help for yourself. Get counseling. Return to school or work. Make yourself as independent as possible so that you can provide for yourself and your children if you have them.