Suspicious Spouse

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Dear Hoopers,
I’m concerned my spouse is doing drugs. There have been a few alarming signs where I MIGHT have found evidence drugs – but it was impossible to know for sure. I have asked my spouse on two separate occasions, looking square in the eye, if she was doing drugs. She said ‘no’ both times. But the signs remain… They are very small signs though – she acts perfectly normal, not erratic or agitated liked you’d expect of someone on drugs. On a few occasions that I thought I might have found evidence of drugs, I discovered it in a place where it could only have come from her because she was the last person in that spot. I confronted her both times and asked her what it was; both times she said she had no idea what it was or where it came from. When I pressed further – saying that she was just there, didn’t she notice? She offered explanations like “maybe it fell out of this” or “maybe it came from that” – suggesting things that really made no sense.

One of these times, she became defensive and emotional and spun the conversation off about something else (namely, that I never make her feel ‘wanted’). I remained calm and didn’t raise my voice or become combative – I acknowledged her feelings and explained that I was just really confused about said evidence I’d just found and was trying to figure it out. I love her but I have this gut feeling that I’m being lied to. Now I feel like I’m always on the lookout – ready to catch her in the act. I’m worried my suspicions (paranoia?!) could drag us down a dark and unhealthy path for our relationship – especially if she told me the truth that she is not doing drugs. On the other hand, if she’s lying – I think this would equally damage our relationship (not to mention, her physical health). What do I do? Is it all in my head? Should I let it go and…if it really is happening, just come to terms with it? I can’t talk to anyone about this – if I’m wrong, I don’t want anyone to think about her in that way or treat her differently. I’m all alone in my suspicion and I need help!
-Suspicious Spouse

Dear Suspicious Spouse,
Our gut feelings are often quite accurate at noticing changes in people around us even when we aren’t consciously aware of them. My one caveat to this is if you find yourself often being cautious and paranoid towards others. People who have been hurt in the past sometimes become overly cautious at the chance of being hurt again. Unless you are this naturally suspicious person who is always on the lookout for being taken advantage of, your concerns could very likely be valid.

The whole situation sounds quite odd as you describe it. Her unconvincing explanations of “maybe it fell out of this” really aren’t too relieving. It’s not impossible that she is telling you the truth here despite your concerns otherwise, but I think it may be time to begin acting from the perspective that she is using. I have worked with many substance users who developed serious problems and were able to hide their use for quite some time from their family members.

I think it may be time to begin acting from the perspective that she is using.

-Dr. Ryan

So what does that mean to you that she may be using? This could be quite alarming and concerning for you, depending on your personal values around drug use. Depending on the substance she is using, the possibility for developing problem use varies. It is possible that she could use her substance of choice without developing a problem, but the more regularly and secretly she is using the more concerned I would be personally.

Regardless of your feelings about substance use, I would become increasingly proactive about the conversation. I think it is fair for you to directly share your concerns with her including specific behaviors you have noticed. Give her an open door to share with you and let her know that you just want to know what is going on. She may not come clean to you in that moment but knowing that you are open to the conversation will make it an easier one to have. In the event that she is struggling with drug use and is looking for help, SAMHSA has an extensive list of resources in addition to AA and NA meetings in your area.
-Dr. Ryan

Dear Suspicious Spouse,
As a spouse, I understand wanting the best for the one you love. When suspicions arise it is typically because our gut is telling us that something is off. In this case, you’ve identified strange substances as well as witnessed combative behavior when addressing your concern.  Whether or not she is doing drugs, something isn’t sitting well and it’s understandable for paranoia to start creeping in.

Does your wife have a history of drug experimentation? If she is using she may feel ashamed, or confused, or guilty for partaking in these drugs. If she’s not, where did these drugs come from? Is there reason you believe she would begin using drugs?

If she is in fact using, don’t drop the hammer of shame on her, but rather let her know that you are there for her.


Because you haven’t outlined specifics around what kind of drugs you believed you discovered it’s a bit harder to address, but trying to catch her in the act isn’t going to solve the problem. It may only make it worst. I would seek out a confidant, whether that be a friend, a family member or a therapist. Also take the time to tell her just how you are feeling. Let her know that you love and care about her and want to embark on a healthy relationship together.

If she is in fact using, don’t drop the hammer of shame on her, but rather let her know that you are there for her. If she has verbalized that she does not feel “wanted” then I would start putting extra effort into investing in the relationship. If it is a feeling of disconnection she is experiencing, this may bring her back in as well as give her more security in the relationship to open up. Instead of spending energy feeling paranoid, invest that energy into more quality time with your wife. This will help you get closer to her, and most likely give you more answers.