This is a guest post by Caleb Anderson.
All relationships take work. Whether you consider your partner a close friend or something much more serious, you have to learn how to share the same space — emotionally and literally. That takes time, effort, and maturity.
But when your partner struggles with addiction, the relationship needs much more work. Alcoholism or drug addiction can create very different kinds of stress. To protect both yourself and your relationship, it’s important to understand how addiction can get in the way.
How Addiction Hurts Both Of You
Alcohol (and in some states, marijuana) is perfectly legal, and there’s nothing wrong with enjoying it from time to time. Then how do you know when things have progressed to an addiction? The Mayo Clinic lists several addiction signs to look for. These include problems at work, chronic physical ailments that didn’t exist previously, losing interest in hobbies, and unexplained money troubles.
Addiction is a problem in relationships for several reasons. When your partner is high or in withdrawal, their emotions are out of control. That means they can start fights over nothing or hurt you emotionally. Plus, people who have an addiction tend to make bad choices. Even if your partner continues to treat you well, they can end up losing money or putting themselves at risk.
Why Treatment Is Necessary
It’s not like there are perfect relationships out there. Everyone has problems. Isn’t this something you can learn to live with?
That’s a bad idea. Remember that someone struggling with addiction isn’t themselves. The person you love is still there, but it’s often hidden by the drug. All the usual relationship maintenance techniques — open communication, love languages, and more — aren’t effective. The chances of your relationship surviving are low. And as Swiftriver.com explains, one common problem is infidelity. Whether it’s a trade for more drugs or just a bad decision, it still threatens your relationship.
That’s why treatment is needed. By its definition, an addiction cannot simply be thrown away or changed. Psychology Today talks about interventions, including how an addict is more likely to get the help they need if someone can stage an intervention.
How You Can Help
There are other ways you can help your partner besides an intervention. Healthline.com explains the importance of offering support and love. That sounds easy since you’re in love with them, but what happens when your partner becomes emotionally or verbally abusive? You must protect yourself and keep to your boundaries, but you also have to give your partner the space to agree to help by themselves. That’s easier when they know you love and support them.
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Similarly, you need to be compassionate. Try your best not to react negatively to this situation, as there’s a difference between holding a boundary and letting your emotions go unchecked. Just recognizing their suffering is a big step, but you can also offer hugs, kind words, or small gifts as your partner struggles through addiction. Again, it’s vital to hold your ground. You should call out your partner when they cross the line. But it also helps greatly to let them know this addiction recovery journey will be done together.
Protect Your Relationship
You end up enabling addiction when you try to ignore it. You’ll also end up hurting your relationship, not helping. That’s why it’s so important to take steps to help your partner recover from their addiction. Talk to your partner with love, support, and compassion, but be strong and get your partner the help they need.
About Caleb Anderson
Caleb is in recovery from an opiate addiction. He hopes sharing his experiences will help others. RecoveryHope.org was started by Caleb and Molly Anderson. Together they now help other couples and individuals by providing research and resources regarding the many challenges of overcoming drug and alcohol addictions.