Being in a relationship where one partner suffers from addiction can be extremely chaotic and confusing. You love your partner, so your natural reaction to their addiction may be to rescue or change them. While it’s reasonable to support your loved one, it’s vital that you do this in ways that will not further worsen their condition or your mental and physical well-being.
If you are in a relationship with an addict, here are 3 tips that will help you protect your welfare, while also executing safe and productive techniques to respond to your partner and their addiction.
1. Recognize that co-dependency is an addiction and that you cannot fix your partner. When involved with an addict it is not uncommon to become dependent on the desire to “fix” them. It’s important to accept that you have no control over your partner’s addiction or their effort to get help. Sobriety is a choice that only your partner can make when he or she is ready.
2. Stop enabling. By taking on the responsibilities of your addicted partner you prevent him or her from hitting rock bottom and experiencing the consequences of their behaviors. Enabling behaviors cripple addicts, keep them in denial about their illness, and prevent them from recognizing the impact their addiction has. Some examples of enabling are: lending money to support unhealthy habits, excusing abusive behaviors, and even providing some of life’s daily necessities like food and shelter. Allow your partner to face his or her consequences. This will help your partner realize the severity of their condition, which gets them one step closer to change. It’s better to risk your partner being upset with you for not supporting their addiction, than it is to live with the guilt of helping them end their own life.
3. Set boundaries. As addiction develops you may find that your partner becomes increasingly manipulative or even abusive in order to have his or her demands met. Your partner may act in rage, blame and guilt trip you into supporting their habit. Establishing healthy boundaries for yourself and your addicted partner will not hurt them. In fact, saying “no” and defining what behaviors are unacceptable to you is another step in the right direction. Take time to observe your partner and identify the toxic behaviors that he or she displays. From here, you will then attach a consequence to each of those behaviors. Although you may find this most challenging, a boundary that lacks consequence is purposeless. Your boundaries and consequences may result in separating or distancing yourself from your partner. Even still, it’s imperative that your primary goal aims to maintain a healthy and safe environment for yourself. When you enforce boundaries, and penalties for not respecting them, you encourage your partner to be accountable and possibly motivate them to get help.
Being in a relationship with an addict is a painful and difficult experience. You may find yourself shuffling between anger, sadness, and guilt while trying to discern how to support your partner through their addiction. It’s valuable to realize that addiction is an illness that hijacks the brain of its sufferer. The loss of control experienced by an addict is parallel to the powerlessness that his or her loved ones endure as well. The key is to love your partner through their addiction, not to their demise. There are expert Counselor at Elttila who can guide you through this extremely dark time. Book an appointment today to learn the skills you need. Activate your hope – your goals are in reach!
Written by Brianna Colbert, MA, LLPC.