It’s hard enough to date under normal circumstances. But add in the complexity of substance abuse and you’ve got a recipe for even more confusion and pain. Whether your partner developed their addiction throughout the duration of your relationship or they had it from the start, it can be particularly difficult to balance the complicated emotions that you and your partner might feel. At some point, you might find yourself fostering negative ideas and emotions against your partner. But the difficult part is that while you might stop liking them, you might never stop loving them. That’s why many of those in a relationship with a person in active addiction often find themselves teetering on a precarious emotional tightrope.
Can You Have a Healthy Relationship?
There are various factors at play in a typical relationship that may cause friction and disagreement. Things like different personalities, cultures, upbringing, and priorities are just some of the common reasons why couples tend to argue or even break up entirely. In the case of addiction, there’s the added stress of all the hurtful things that the person might do in favor of their dependence. These can include:
Individuals who develop a dependence and addiction will be unable to function without a dose of their substance of abuse. That’s why they’ll go any lengths to secure a stash. But because they know that would upset their partner, they engage in lying and secrecy.
Of course, finding out the truth on your own can be even more painful, leading to arguments and raging emotions. Unfortunately, this only pushes the individual to lie further in an attempt to have the best of both worlds — their addiction and your companionship.
Many times throughout the relationship, you might feel burnt out and that things might be better if you just walked away. However, because you might provide your partner support that they find essential — whether financial, emotional, or anything else — they might refuse to see you leave.
In a healthy relationship, an individual is likely to stop a specific behavior that’s compelling their partner to leave. But with addiction, it’s impossible to simply stop. So to prevent you from breaking up with them, they’re likely to engage in manipulative behavior instead. This can include a wide range of tactics, from emotional blackmail or guilt tripping to threatening violence and domestic or psychological abuse.
There are few things as painful as watching a loved on destroy their bodies and their lives with harmful substances. And with each new dose, you might find yourself facing fresh new wounds of hurt. Some people try to get their partner to stop using the substance by giving them an ultimatum — their relationship or the drug.
What you need to understand is that these people can’t simply choose between one or the other. While they probably truly love you, they’re likely to have reached a point where their body is so used to the drug that they quite literally can’t live without it in their system. Thus, it’s not like they won’t choose you over their addiction, but more like they can’t. With all of these factors at play and many others intricately intertwined throughout your relationship, it’s difficult to say that a healthy relationship could be possible. In fact, relationship experts and psychologists assert that as long as an individual is actively addicted and not seeking help, it would be impossible to have a healthy relationship.
How Addiction Can Affect Your Relationship
The ways that addiction can impact an intimate partner relationship are severe. In fact, it might be one of the first aspects of the addict’s life to take a hit. That’s because of the emotional, mental, and physical stress involved in maintaining a relationship with someone who’s teetering on the edge of self-destruction.
If your partner developed their addiction during your relationship, then you might have to watch them transform into someone entirely different. Who was once charming and caring might become recluse and isolated. Their happy, energetic demeanor might be replaced by irritability and sloth. The person you used to enjoy talking with for hours might not be emotionally available to you now. While it is true that you might not be able to recognize this new person at all, it’s important to remember that a drug addiction can change the way their brain works all together. So they’re no longer controlled by their own psychology, but driven by their physiological need for the drug.
Financial Pressure and Unemployment
Other ways that an addiction can impact your relationship can involve your finances. According to statistics, one in every six unemployed workers in the United States has a substance use disorder. That means your partner will rely on you entirely for their financial needs. And when they start using your money for drugs, you’re likely to feel a strong sense of betrayal.
Violence, Abuse, and Illegal Activity
Almost every aspect of your relationship will likely take a turn for the worst. But one of the biggest changes that individuals report when dating someone with an addiction is abuse. This can take many forms, including emotional, psychological, verbal, sexual, and physical abuse. For the most part, it’s related to the changes in a person’s way of thinking when under the influence. With decreased inhibitions and a loss of impulse control, substance abusers are more likely to engage in violent behavior affecting their family and loved ones. But more than that, they’re also more likely to engage in illegal activities. When those around them withhold financial support to cut off their habit, they end up looking for their own ways to produce the needed funds — even if it includes breaking the law.
When Is It Time to Leave?
Some people think that they can love an addict enough to get them to change and stay off of the drug, but that couldn’t be any less true. Addiction alters brain function; it’s a disease that requires intensive treatment and professional help. And while your support might help a willing addict towards recovery, it won’t be the sole answer to their problem. With all the stress and sleepless nights, it’s only normal for someone in a relationship with a substance abuser to ask whether it would be better to simply call it quits. The answer to that question however isn’t always the same. There might be instances when you can leave, and others when you might be able to muscle it out.
You Should Leave the Relationship When:
- You’re being abused – Abuse is never okay, no matter how much you love the person. Your ability to help someone recover from an addiction will only be as good as your own mental and physical health allows.
- They’re denying the problem – It’s impossible to have a healthy relationship with an addict who refuses to seek treatment. If they can’t accept that there’s a problem that needs to be resolved, you might be looking at a lifetime of the same hurt over and over again.
- You’re enabling them – Although it’s normal for you to want to keep them alive and protected, there are times when your care might actually fuel them to keep going. If you notice that they keep doing the same mistakes over and over again because they know you’ll be there to catch them, then your good intentions might be doing more harm than good.
- You’re unhappy, tired, and burnt out – It might seem selfish to leave for your own benefit, but sometimes, that’s exactly what you need to do. You can’t always be a caretaker for someone who refuses to change. If you feel like you’re too emotionally, physically, and financially exhausted to go on, you have the liberty to walk away.
- You’re being gaslighted – Gaslighting is a special kind of abuse and deserves its own category all together. If your partner blames you for all of the wrong that happens in your lives, then they’re using you to rationalize their own mistakes. Once you walk away, they won’t have a scapegoat and they might get the chance to really see things the way they are.
A Complicated Situation
In any case, it’s important to remember three things when dating an addict – you didn’t cause it, you can’t control it, and you can’t cure it. Although it’s absolutely understandable for you to want to fix the problem, you have to remember that there’s only so much you can do. At the end of the day, sobriety depends on the person’s willingness to seek treatment for themselves. And while your support might help usher them in that direction, you can’t expect to be the sole solution. As the old adage goes, you can’t pour from an empty vessel. If your relationship is taking a toll on your own health and well-being, then it’s absolutely acceptable for you to take a step back and reclaim your own happiness.