Addiction and Relationships: Can a drug addict love?

The strength of personal and romantic relationships is truly put to the test in recovery from alcohol or drug abuse. 

Marriages—or other, long-term, committed relationships—and substance abuse don’t mix. If your partner drinks too much, the effect is felt by his or her spouse and children, friends, relatives, and coworkers. 

Many would argue that, aside from the drug abuser, the abuser’s partner often pays the highest price. 

Keep reading to learn the hard truth about addiction and relationships. 

How Addiction Harms Relationships

There are a handful of signs that drinking or drug abuse by a significant other is causing harm to their relationship to the point where intervention from a treatment professional is needed. 

The following signals are common warning signs seen in couples where one partner suffers from a substance abuse disorder.

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If your partner begins to use drugs or alcohol excessively, they may not be open about it in the beginning. They may feel guilt, shame, and fear of judgment. If they feel that others won’t support them or understand their situation, they can turn to secrecy. They may lie to their loved ones about:

  • Who they are with
  • Where they are
  • Why they’re behaving differently
  • The events of the day
  • Why money is missing

It’s possible that secrecy will increase until the person is in complete isolation—distancing themselves from everyone they love. Secrecy can ruin relationships. This puts an immense strain on any romantic or other personal relationship. 

Differences Between Fact and Fiction

With secrecy comes increased lying and deception, so it’s only a matter of time until a loved one begins to notice the differences between fact and fiction. 

If your partner is lying about abusing drugs, it’s understandable to form trust issues due to the perceived lack of respect, honesty, and dedication from your partner.

Even in a healthy relationship, honesty and trust are key. Reduced trust usually leads to other issues such as anger, jealousy, fear, and resentment.

Anger and Violence

As a relationship deteriorates due to drug and alcohol abuse, anger and violence often emerge as concerns. Frustrations are high—even more so if someone is using a substance known to cause aggression. These situations become dangerous fairly quickly.

If you live with an addict, you’re at greater risk of victimization. You may experience an increase in frustration that leads you to express anger or act out violently against your partner. 

It’s important that anyone experiencing domestic violence in their relationship contacts a domestic violence hotline. 


Sometimes loved ones will transition into an enabler when trying to help their loved one recover from substance abuse. 

Enabling behaviors include: 

  • Accepting blame
  • Making excuses
  • Taking on responsibility for the behaviors, feelings, and actions of your addicted loved one
  • Working hard to minimize their negative consequences

An example of enabling is offering money to the user on a consistent basis that they can use to buy drugs. He or she may ask for money for bills, gas, or groceries, but the money goes to drugs. Often, the loved one provides the money anyway, but they must draw a line to get the attention of a loved one who is addicted to drugs.


Codependency is similar to enabling, but codependent individuals often get involved in relationships that are one-sided. They may feel overwhelmed by their partner’s needs but have an overwhelming sense to take care of that person.

Codependent people:

  • Are willing to compromise their own wants, needs, and beliefs to keep their significant other or loved one calm and content
  • Control others because they don’t think they can function independently without them
  • Are very cautious and aware of the emotional changes of others
  • Maintain commitment and loyalty to their loved one despite a lack of reciprocation
  • A codependent person needs the substance abuser as much as the addict needs the codependent. 

Their entire identity may become consumed by the feeling to serve or sacrifice for their partner while acting to fulfill their own needs for attachment and closeness. 

Codependent relationships often walk hand-in-hand with enablement—as the caretaker will often try to cover for the addict or resolve their issues instead of allowing their loved ones to face the consequences of their actions.

Not all couples will show these warning signs, but if one of them is present in your marriage or relationship, it may be time to consider ways to make the relationship better. 

In most cases, drinking and drug use must stop to identify and address the problems within the relationship. You may think these issues will resolve themselves over time, but that’s rarely the case. The best thing to do is to get treatment for your loved one as soon as possible, or at least contact a recovery center to discuss how they may be able to help. 

Can Treatment Help Your Relationship?

Many treatments can be effective in reducing—if not eliminating—problems with alcohol or other drugs. Some recovery centers focus on individual counseling, while others prefer group counseling or both. 

As your loved one is in treatment, there are also support groups that can offer solace during this difficult time. At least you know you’re not alone in the fight to battling your partner’s addiction. 

If your partner has a problem with drugs or alcohol—and you want to be with this person—getting him or her to enter treatment is the best thing you can do for yourself and your relationship.

What Happens to Your Relationship During Treatment?

Involving partners in treatment—at some point in the process—can be essential in helping treatment succeed. 

Sometimes, couples are surprised to find that they’re still fighting after the substance abuse has stopped. It’s vital that problems in the relationship are addressed during recovery. Relationship issues don’t just go away when drinking or drug use stops. 

If relationship issues are not treated, conflict can and will return. This could lead to a relapse in drinking or drug use. So, lasting substance use recovery depends, in part, on a better relationship. 

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Addressing Addiction and Relationships in Recovery

Preventing an addiction may be impossible, but loving and observant partners often recognize the signs of substance abuse before anyone else. 

The truth is, juggling addiction and relationships is a truth many loved ones must face. If you have cause to suspect a substance abuse problem, you should confront your partner without judgment or a tone of confrontation. This will give them an opportunity to come clean before submitting to professional treatment. 

We’re here to help you talk to your significant other about achieving lasting sobriety. For more information, call 866-287-2877 or contact us here to learn more about our programs.