In most cases, love is a double-edged sword. When you emotionally commit to another human being, you grow empathic to their every feeling. When they’re troubled, you’re troubled. When they’re happy, it brings you joy. And when there’s serious strain in the relationship, it can send you into a fit of depression.
Love can strengthen, but it can also weaken. We risk that whenever we open our hearts to someone else, and even when a relationship’s future looks bleak, we are often inclined to work as hard as we can to save it. Sometimes, that is a good thing. At other times, this drive can only make things worse.
With addiction in the picture, it’s difficult to tell where the pendulum swings. Sometimes, a loving, supporting partner can be the key to recovery. At other times, a partner struggling with addiction can tear the other apart emotionally, irrevocably destroying a once beautiful bond, and leaving a lasting mark.
Through hard work, commitment, and luck, addiction and drug abuse can be overcome in a relationship. But sometimes it’s better to spare yourself, than lose yourself and your partner over your partner’s disease.
Why Active Addicts Often Make Terrible Partners
There is a lot of stigma against people struggling with addiction, and many still view it as a consequence of moral failing, rather than a brain disease with behavioral side-effects. It is true that people who struggle with drug abuse usually become less pleasant because of their addiction, to the point where they may start lying and acting irrationally to support their habit. But behavior like this is not indicative of the person’s usual personality, rather, it’s part of the disease.
And it’s that part of the disease that makes addicts terrible partners. Trust is important in a relationship, and the ability to depend on your partner is the cornerstone of any romantic commitment. Addiction effectively steals your partner away from you, making them unreliable and often downright untrustworthy, introducing secrecy and drama into the relationship.
To overlook that long enough to survive recovery is difficult. Relationships have a hard time surviving addiction, and if you’re the supporting partner, then your biggest task is staying sane and not succumbing to codependency, or worse yet, enabling behavior. That being said, being in a relationship while fighting addiction isn’t all bad.
Relationship: A Boon Or A Bane On Recovery
One reason why many recovery groups explicitly advise against dating while in recovery is because the pain of rejection or of a break up can easily send a recovering addict spiraling back into addiction through relapse. Early recovery in particular is a very fragile time in a recovering addict’s life, as adjusting to long-term sobriety and life without drugs can take a while.
Relationships, as such, can present themselves either as a big obstacle in a person’s recovery, or as their saving grace, the one thing they have left to hold onto as a form of accountability and motivation for staying sober, and remaining abstinent.
Living With A Partner In Denial
If your partner is in denial, and refuses to get help, then you may be approaching a point in the relationship where the person you fell in love with is fading away, and you have to consider your own mental health and emotional wellbeing. Losing yourself trying to help someone else is not a reasonable long-term deal – even if your partner recovers, the guilt of leaving lasting emotional damage will drag them back down.
Be sure to practice self-care if you’re going to be an emotional pillar of support – even if that ultimately means making the difficult decision of stepping out of your partner’s life. For some, that might be the push they need to get them to realize that help is needed.
Codependency And Enabling
A relationship between someone struggling with addiction and their partner can devolve further into more damaging problems, including the enabling of addiction through lies and secrecy, and codependency – developing mental health issues including addiction in part because of your partner’s condition.
Often, partners (and parents) who enable their loved ones may not be fully aware of their behavior or may even be in denial. It might start off as trying to save your partner from embarrassment by lying to concerned friends about his or her addiction, but it can progress into bigger lies and manipulative behavior.
An important part of addiction is waking up to the consequences of being addicted and using that as motivation to seek help. By hiding your partner’s problems, you may be making things worse for them.
Getting Stronger By Healing Together
It’s not all doom and gloom. But it is a decision you and your partner have to make. If you’re the supporting partner, then you have to ask yourself if you can stand by your partner’s side throughout their recovery and trust their commitment to abstinence. Your support, unconditional love, and constant willingness to be there for them may save them in moments of weakness, especially if you aren’t alone.
In other cases, your willingness to forgive may mean your partner will feel less pressure to change – and over months and years, take you for granted. This toxic cycle is something no one should have to try and withstand.
The juggling act is to find the right point to make that crucial decision. Not too soon, and not too late. If you can find that point – and choose to stay – then with a little luck, your bond will strengthen through the experience of fighting through addiction together. It can be a growing experience, as well, pushing the relationship to its limits and discovering a new sort of love – the dependable kind that lasts through real crises.
What kind of effects does addiction have on your relationship – and how do you see your future? It’s important to sit down and think long and hard about these questions and decide what they mean for the future of your relationship, regardless of which partner you are.