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Addiction and Relationships: The Hard Truth About the Impact of Addiction

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Addiction and Relationships

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. 

Addiction and Relationship Statistics

A study published in the National Library of Medicine discovered that codependency was considerably greater in women married to addicted men.

Source: National Library of Medicine

Psychiatric Times reports that substance use is a factor in about 40-60% of cases of intimate partner violence.

Source: Psychiatric Times


We Understand Chronic Relapse

We understand how many times you’ve tried to get your loved one help. The difference with us is that we have the time, expertise and concern to help your loved one recover.


The Following Signals Are Common Warning Signs Seen in Couples Where One Partner Suffers from a Substance Abuse Disorder

1. Secrecy

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. 

2. 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.

3. 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. 

4. Enabling

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.

5. Codependency

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. 

6. Increased irritability and mood swings

When someone is battling with addiction, they may experience intense emotions that are difficult to manage, resulting in mood swings and irritability. These emotional changes can affect the relationship, causing tension, arguments, and verbal or physical abuse.

Here are some ways increased irritability and mood swings can affect relationships where one partner has an addiction:

Strained Communication

When someone is irritable or experiencing mood swings, they may lash out or become defensive, making communication difficult. This can lead to misunderstandings and disagreements, making it hard to resolve conflicts.

Emotional Detachment

When someone struggles with addiction, they may withdraw emotionally from their partner, leading to isolation and loneliness. Their mood swings and irritability can make it hard to connect with their partner, leading to a breakdown in the relationship.

Increased Tension

If the partner with the addiction is constantly irritable or experiencing mood swings, it can create a tense atmosphere in the relationship. This can lead to arguments, hostility, and general discomfort in the relationship.

Impact on Mental Health

Increased irritability and mood swings can take a toll on the mental health of both partners. The partner with the addiction may experience increased anxiety and depression, while the other partner may feel helpless and overwhelmed by the situation.

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. 


Stop Chronic Relapse

We use time and expertise to remove resistance from chronic relapse. Traditional, 30-day treatment does not work with chronic relapse. Learn why our approach is different and works.


Learning to Heal from Trauma Caused by Addictions in Relationships

Addiction can cause considerable emotional harm in both the addicted persons and their loved ones’ relationships. Trauma can take many forms, including emotional, physical, and psychological abuse. Healing from this trauma can be challenging but possible with the right tools and support.

Here Are Some Strategies for Learning to Heal from Trauma Caused by Addiction in Relationships

  1. Seek professional help: Healing from addiction-related trauma often requires the support of a trained professional. An addiction therapist can provide a safe and supportive atmosphere where you can explore your emotions and learn coping strategies to manage them. Addiction therapists can also help you work through any unresolved issues related to the addiction.
  2. Practice self-care: Self-care is essential in recovering from addiction-related trauma. This includes looking after your physical, emotional, and mental well-being. Hobbies, exercise, meditation, and spending time with family and loved ones are all examples of enjoyable activities. Ensure you eat a healthy diet, sleep well, and regularly practice self-care like meditation or yoga.
  3. Create healthy boundaries: Establishing healthy boundaries is essential in healing from addiction-related trauma. This involves establishing boundaries for what you are willing to accept from others and clearly conveying those boundaries. Boundaries can help you feel comfortable and secure while also preventing future trauma.
  4. Practice forgiveness: Forgiveness is a powerful tool in healing from addiction-related trauma. This does not mean forgetting or excusing the actions that caused the trauma but instead releasing the anger and resentment associated with those actions. Forgiveness can be challenging, but it can lead to increased peace and healing.
  5. Join a support group: Actively participating in a support group can be a successful way to heal from addiction-related trauma. Support groups provide a safe and friendly environment where you can interact with other people that have gone through similar experiences. They can offer understanding, empathy, and practical advice for managing your emotions and coping with the effects of trauma.

Healing from addiction-related trauma is a complex process, but it’s possible with the right tools and support. By seeking professional help, practicing self-care, creating healthy boundaries, practicing forgiveness, and joining a support group, individuals can begin to heal from addiction-related trauma and build a brighter future.

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. 

Burning Tree Ranch is dedicated to helping individuals overcome addiction and repair damaged relationships. With our comprehensive approach to long-term residential treatment, including therapy, support groups, and aftercare, Burning Tree Ranch provides individuals with the tools and resources needed to achieve lasting recovery and rebuild healthy relationships.

We’re here to help you talk to your significant other about achieving lasting sobriety. If you would like more information, please call 877-389-0500 or contact us here to learn more about our programs.

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KRISTINA ROBERTSON, LMSW, LCDC

KRISTINA ROBERTSON

LMSW, LCDC | Counselor
Kristina Robertson serves as Counselor at Burning Tree Ranch. Holding both a Bachelors and Masters Degree in Social Work, Kristina’s greatest joy is “watching our clients learn to love themselves again.” An avid equestrian, mother to twenty-one horses, and all-around animal lover, Kristina serves as a bright shining example of long-term recovery in action. Her commitment to whole person health: mental, physical, emotional and spiritual makes her an invaluable member of the Burning Tree Ranch clinical team. As a distinguished Phi Theta Kappa and Alpha Zeta member, Kristina believes deeply in each client’s pursuit of becoming their best selves.

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Beth Legacki, Burning Tree Ranch Alumni