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Couples and Addiction

Updated: Jan 1, 2021

Communication and relationships are two of the most important areas of our lives. When an individual is struggling with addiction, these two areas are highly impacted. In the case of a partner who uses drugs or drinks too much, the greatest price is often paid by the abuser’s partner aside from the abuser.

Supporting vs. Enabling

It is important to understand the difference between supporting and enabling. Partners who make excuses for harmful, abusive, dangerous behavior may be sending the message that they are complacent with their partner’s addiction. Giving money, making empathy threats, covering up their problems fall under enabling. By stepping in to correct their addicted partner’s mistakes, partners actually take away any motivation for the addict to take responsibility for their own actions. Hitting rock bottom is the most important thing preceding an alcoholic or addict’s decision to seek treatment. When people enable their partners, they prevent them from hitting their rock bottom and prolong their usage.


If one partner is struggling with addiction, the other one needs to avoid engaging with them when they are under the influence as their message will not be received due to their impairment. It is important not to be judgmental and critical as the conversation may become a fight if the individual feels attacked or criticized. The key is to remain calm during the conversation and focus on one’s own feelings: “I felt hurt when you yelled at me last night” or “I felt scared when I saw you blackout on dinner table yesterday”. It is very important for the partner to seek out support groups to receive help and guidance.


If one partner is in recovery, it is important to know that they need the support of their partner more than anything. It is important for the partners to communicate their needs with each other in addition to educating themselves. The partner in recovery may need some time to explore who they are without drugs or alcohol, they may also need time to fulfill family responsibilities. Anger is often built up after years of dealing with the partner’s addiction. Holding on to anger may prevent you from healing and moving forward; therefore therapy may help you process these feelings to move forward.

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