Addiction and Relationship Issues
This article will help you understand the ways that addictions affect and influence relationships
Table of Contents
Why Relationships Matter
Relationship issues and addiction are commonly intertwined. The effects of addiction often spread far from simply the individual, causing common relationship problems and putting home life into chaos.
When recovering from a substance use disorder, dealing with relationship problems can help ensure long-term sobriety and go a long way toward healing damaged relationships.
The thing about relationships, love, and friendship is that they’re essential human needs, not just pleasant pastimes. According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, feeling loved and included are essential to becoming the best version of oneself.1
These relationships give us a secure base from which we can reach our goals, including goals towards recovery and away from addiction.
Common Relationship Problems
Problems in relationships take many forms, but some relationship issues are more common than others. The most common problems in relationships usually come in the form of:
- Arguments that get out of hand
- A lack of emotional or physical intimacy
- Jealousy from one or both partners
- Lack of trust
- Disputes over home chores and responsibilities
- Money imbalance
Most relationships will struggle with one or more of these problems, but they aren’t necessarily a sign of impending doom. With concerted effort and a willingness to work together, most couples can overcome these types of problems and return to relationship harmony.
Signs of Serious Couple Relationship Problems
Nonetheless, there are bigger issues than those common relationship problems. Dr. John and Julie Gottman have been studying love and relationships for over 40 years, trying to determine how couples thrive and what tears them apart.
One of their most robust findings is what’s now known as the Four Horsemen of the Relationship Apocalypse, the four indicators that indicate a relationship is heading for disaster. If one of these elements crops up when partners disagree, they might have serious unresolved relationship issues.2
Criticism refers to one partner making personal attacks against the other. It’s distinct from a complaint, which is a general expression of discontent about a certain situation. Instead, criticism invokes that the problem is not the situation but the person.
Example of criticism: “You’re late again. You have no regard for other people’s time, do you? You are so selfish and self-centered.”
Contempt is similar to criticism, though far worse. People who are contemptuous cast themselves as morally superior and degrade their partners’ worth. The target of contempt is looked down upon, shunned, and disregarded, making it truly one of the meanest things that can happen in a relationship.
Contempt may be part of controlling behavior, where one partner is attempting to make the other feel worthless, so they are more compliant to their selfish demands.
Example of contempt: “What do you mean you don’t understand? You don’t have the intelligence to interpret English? I can’t believe I’m seeing somebody that’s so beneath me. You’re a disgrace.”
Defensiveness is casting blame on a partner instead of admitting fault. We’ve all been defensive before, but if somebody is entirely unwilling to accept their parts in situations, it’s a sign of problems to come. Defensiveness could also be a component of keeping secrets, as the deflection of blame keeps them from explaining their secretive behavior.
Example of defensiveness: “Did you pick up the present like you said?”
Defensive Response: “I was at work all day. You knew I was slammed this week. You should have just done it yourself.”
Stonewalling refers to when one partner completely shuts down during an argument. Instead of resolving the issue, they simply turn away, repeat a compulsive task, or act busy. Stonewalling is typically a reaction to being overwhelmed by emotions and creates an inability to settle the relationship issues.
Addiction Problems in Relationships
Addiction can lead to any of those serious problems mentioned above. When somebody is misusing substances, they can hide their behavior and lash out when confronted.
They may become defensive or act contemptuously to their partner to protect their addiction from outside intervention. In addition, people with substance use disorders can turn to drugs or alcohol to deal with their emotions, letting them go unresolved in the relationship itself.3
How to Know When to Stay and When to Leave a Relationship
Deciding whether to stay or leave a relationship can be a daunting task.
There are countless variables involved, and it can be challenging to determine whether relationship issues can be worked out or if they are here to stay. Therefore, seeking the help of a relationship therapist would be beneficial for any couple trying to determine whether their relationship issues can be resolved or not.
For people entering recovery, it should be noted that the partner’s substance use can have a substantial impact on their recovery. Research indicates that people in early recovery are more likely to relapse when a significant other uses substances.4
When to Stay in a Relationship
If a relationship has been primarily healthy but has a few significant problems that could be fixed, the issues may be resolved. So long as both partners are prepared for dealing with relationship problems and willing to work on themselves, there is still hope for the relationship.
When to Leave a Relationship
Leaving a relationship can be difficult, but sometimes it’s the best choice for both parties. Some people having relationship problems simply cannot overcome them.
If a relationship involves emotional or physical abuse, criticism, contempt, defensiveness, or stonewalling, or if the partner is secretive and controlling, these are signs of a relationship gone wrong. Now’s the time to find a healthier life for oneself.
Tips to Build a Stronger Relationship
A healthy and strong relationship can be the highlight of anyone’s life. These few key tips can keep a relationship’s love life healthy and strong for years to come:
Spend Quality Time Together: Sometimes this aspect means scheduling this time in busy lives, but it is worth the effort.
Emphasize Healthy Communication: If communication breaks down, people can talk past each other and not understand their partner’s needs.
Keep Physical Intimacy Alive: Sex is an important part of any loving relationship, and if it is beginning to falter, the relationship may falter as well.
Be Prepared for Ups and Downs: All relationships have problems from time to time, but being committed to the long-term partnership can carry both through the struggles.
If people follow these tips and keep an eye on the common relationship problems we have outlined above, they can expect to have a strong and nurturing relationship for years to come.