Wife is riding the tilt-a-whirl of husband’s addiction

Dear Amy: I am married to an addict.

He recently completed treatment for a third time. When he came home from rehab, there was a distance between us. I noticed it almost immediately. I asked him if he had been talking to another woman, and he denied it.

Being with an addict, I’ve been trained to know when something’s not right.

I invaded his privacy and went through some of his stuff. I found call records that he’s been talking to a 20-year-old girl (14 years younger than him). I was livid.

I freaked out on him and gave him an ultimatum. I said, “Cut it off with her, or leave.” That didn’t go well, and I ended up begging him to stay with me.

Now I am unsure if he really wants to be with me. We’ve been to a few couples counseling sessions, but nothing has been resolved.

I’m scared. I don’t want to lose my husband, but I also don’t like living this way, in constant fear that he’s going to leave me.

How can I get him to understand where I am coming from and commit to putting effort into our marriage?

— Devastated Wife

Dear Devastated: I hope your therapist is helping you to see that at this point, your own behavior seems to have taken on addictive characteristics.

Ask your counselor to talk to you about codependency: This describes a person who is insecure, self-sacrificing, enabling, and ultimately desperate to control the object of their attachment.

Your husband seems to have learned (possibly in rehab) that there should be a boundary between his problems and your problems, but here you are strapped onto the tilt-a-whirl of his addiction cycle.

You obviously aren’t capable of delivering an ultimatum, because you won’t deliver the consequence. So perhaps instead, you should work on your own personal courage and emotional development.

If you are constantly afraid that your partner will leave you, the bravest and most courageous response is to release him.

You might find insight by reading the classic, “Women Who Love Too Much: When you Keep Wishing & Hoping He’ll Change,” written by therapist Robin Norwood (2008, Pocket Books).

Dear Amy: In February, my husband began receiving hospice care in our home after two years of his health deteriorating.

We live on the West Coast and our daughters are in NYC.

Our younger daughter calls regularly and asks about us.

Our older daughter rarely calls and when I call her, she seems distracted. She responds to my conversation-starters with monosyllabic answers, and never asks any questions about our lives.

I am particularly hurt because she seems not to care about what a rough time this is for me, especially following a year of isolation due to the pandemic.

I suspect she is in denial about her dad’s impending death.

Both daughters and their partners will soon be visiting.

What can I do to make sure this is a good visit for everyone?

– Concerned Mom

Dear Mom: Instead of trying to make sure this is a “good visit for everyone,” I hope you will put all of your energy into simply being gently in the moment with your husband and children.

Your eldest, who gives the least, may actually need the most — but all of these adults must go through this at their own pace, and in their own way.

Do the family a favor and give your daughters’ partners some errands to run and household jobs to do during the visit. They can be genuinely useful to the family, while giving you and your daughters some time and space to be together.

Dear Amy: Your advice to “Bullet-proof’s Mom” was terrible. This spoiled 18-year-old was placing the entire household at risk by refusing to be vaccinated!

He should have been tossed from the house, immediately.

– Upset (at you!)

Dear Upset: But you’re wrong about that. The only real risk here was that the younger man might get sick, and that’s his risk to take.

Vaccinations will protect the rest of the household from more severe COVID symptoms.