Substance Abuse and Relationships: Being in Love With an Addict

Does it feel like the actions and habits of a partner are making it difficult for you to live a healthy life?

Relationships are complex, and their messy nature often makes it hard to know when things have shifted into unhealthy territory. Even when you know things aren’t what they should be, you still have to contend with the fact that you love and care for this person. 

Current culture would tell you that you have to “cut toxicity out of your life” via meme or post. Unfortunately, the person making the post might not understand what it’s like to love someone that isn’t loving themselves. 

We’re going to discuss substance abuse and relationships in this article, giving you some insight into how to navigate your situation. Hopefully, the information below can help. 

Let’s take a look.

Understanding Substance Abuse and Relationships

We’ll cover a lot of ground in this article, and some of the information we discuss might be stuff you already know. That said, it’s good to have a look at the whole picture when you’re dealing with something so intimate.

Some of the things you already know might be skewed by the intensity of your situation. Let’s start by looking at the signs of addiction.

You might have come to this site wondering if your loved one has a problem or not 5. The information below describes signs that a person has a problem, but they don’t necessarily have a one-to-one relationship.

In other words, just because a person forgets essential responsibilities doesn’t mean they’re a drug addict. If drug abuse is the source of these mishaps, though, there’s a possibility that an addiction is present.

One sign that a person is dealing with addiction is a perceived change of personality. It’s not so much of an entire shift in nature but a rearrangement of values and temperament.

A person who was once kind and easy to talk to might now be impatient and difficult to be around. They might let outbursts of anger in moments when they wouldn’t otherwise.

Similarly, an addict’s mood might shift downward over time 7. Users may experience intense highs and lows depending on how their minds and bodies respond to their drug of choice.

Addiction tends to develop slowly, and changes might occur over an extended period of time. That slow shift could make it hard to notice them as they occur.

Try to think back to what your partner was like before you thought there was an issue. Have there been significant changes?

How You Might Respond

These changes to mood and personality can be devastating to a partner. You fell in love and built a life with one person, and it appears that you’re not around the same individual anymore.

Your initial response might be anger and confusion. Many of us lash out and say hurtful things when we’re hurt and confused. It’s the natural response, but it might not be the most constructive one.

If you start to notice shifts in mood and personality, make a note to ask your partner how they’re feeling and that you’ve noticed a change in them. You might even mention that they’re different after attending certain events or at specific times of the day.

If they’re using and not telling you, you might be met with defensive or accusatory language. Do your best not to accuse them in response 8.

In the best-case scenario, you’ll have an opportunity to connect here. They might open up to you about why they’re feeling differently, and that might include the admission that they have a problem with drugs or alcohol.

If your partner is an addict, there’s a good chance that they’re not open with you about their use 2. They might be ashamed, or they know that you’ll ask them to stop and interfere with their plans to use.

The response is often secrecy and evasion. You might notice that they don’t tell you where they are going. They might also have different boundaries than they once did.

Your partner could get upset if you go into their car without asking first, for example. This kind of behavior is common among people dealing with substance abuse, but it’s even more common when the person is in a close romantic relationship 3.

Responses to Secrecy

Secrecy in relationships always hurts. Unless the person has a clear expectation for their personal space all along, establishing unusual boundaries in a partnership might lead to worry and mistrust.

You can let your partner know how these boundaries make you feel. You might even tell them that you feel as though they’re lying to you sometimes and that you wonder what’s going on.

If you’re not sure that their reason is drug use, again, do your best not to accuse them of anything. We’ll discuss why accusatory language can be counterproductive later in the article.

Of all of the things that can wreck a bank account, addiction falls somewhere near the top.

As addiction progresses, a person’s tolerance requires them to invest more and more in the drug to achieve the same high. This means that what was once affordable will soon become a substantial financial burden.

If you share a life and finances with someone, that element of things is challenging to avoid. Watch for missing items from your home, particularly things that could be sold at a pawnshop for some extra money.

These behaviors start out small, but the financial trouble grows over time, and you’ll be well aware of it. It’s tough to hide these issues or make excuses if the habit persists.

Ideas for Addressing Money Problems

Finances have a massive impact on your personal wellbeing 4. The user is directly tied to you, and issues that you’re not aware of could lead to a lot of personal trouble.
Be sure to ask your partner what’s going on. Why is there less money in the bank account? Is there something going on at work?

These questions should lead to reasonable answers if the person isn’t experiencing addiction. If they are using, you might find evasive answers like the ones discussed above.
There are a lot of other physical and mental effects of drug abuse. The ones listed above are some of the early indications that a real issue is coming up.
You should treat these issues seriously and try to handle them with your partner, but that can be difficult if it turns out that they are abusing drugs.

If You Know You're Married to a Drug Addict

The ideas above apply to people who have a suspicion, however strong, that their partner is an addict.

If you know for sure, though, the picture changes quite a bit. Whether you’re married, in a long-term relationship, or just in love with someone who’s an addict, there are a few important things to think about.

How Does Their Addiction Affect You?

Your partner’s behavior might seem normal at this point. If you’ve been dealing with it for a long time, the pain that you’re experiencing could seem muted or just part of your life.

Regardless of how long it’s been, ask yourself how your partner’s drug abuse impacts you. How are your finances in comparison to the way they were? How do you feel about yourself and your future?

Does your partner treat you poorly when they’re using? Is there physical or mental abuse involved as a result of the substance abuse? Are you happy?

Drug abuse has a way of destroying an individual’s life and taking the ones they love along with them. The tricky part is that loving someone implies that you support them through thick and thin.

When you’re married, it might seem like an obligation to keep them happy and even enable some of the behavior. Know that there are options for you to take in order to lift yourself from the situation.

Although they’re more complex, there are effective options to get your partner some help as well. For now, though, take stock of how the situation affects you.

Have You Asked Them to Seek Help?

There’s no getting around the fact that addiction is hard to get through. Even though individuals say they want to get help, they might not be facing the reality that it’s possible to get better.

Have you expressed your concern to your partner and offered ideas for recovery?

As someone close, you have an influential role in the user’s life. When their actions deeply hurt you, they have a similar responsibility to manage themselves and make a change.

If your requests for them to seek help are met with apathy, it’s worth asking yourself whether the relationship is something you’re okay being a part of. It might be the most difficult part of being married to an addict.

The impact of drugs on a relationship is strong. Everything can change, and you might be married to a shadow of the person that you once loved. You might also feel yourself slipping down that hole as well.

Even though you love someone, there’s still the chance that they’re harming you. Whether it’s physical abuse or mental abuse, these things cut deep even if you’re watching them happen.

Are You Experiencing Abuse?

One outcome of drug addiction is the presence of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse 9.

These might all be present, or one or two could poke their heads out from time to time. It’s not easy to recognize that you’re being abused sometimes. When we love someone, our minds have a way of justifying their behaviors and forgetting about them.

Drug abuse, it should be noted, doesn’t always lead to forms of abuse, either. It’s just important to note whether or not a person’s addiction leads them to abuse you.

If this is the case, your responsibility to help and support the person changes. The addiction might have control over them, and their behaviors aren’t the ones that they would exhibit if they were sober, but the fact is that they are hurting you.

A person doesn’t need an excuse to flee danger. It’s hard to accept when it’s happening, and we don’t always leave when we know we should. That said, a person who is unwilling to change when they’re hurting you is someone who doesn’t have your best interest in mind.

Love and safety don’t go together in every instance.

What If They're a Functional Addict?

Some people can have a strong addiction and maintain their everyday lives.

Even heroin addicts manage to keep full-time jobs and marriages in some instances. They keep things on an even keel, and they still support their addiction as much as they want to.

The difficulty with functional addictions is that you never know when they’re going to fall through. A stressful instance, a change to circumstances, or anything could trigger an escalation of the addiction.

There’s also the fact that addiction leads a person to make bad decisions. That could be the decision to buy drugs that aren’t what they expected them to be, or even sell important possessions to acquire more of their drug of choice.

Those mistakes can lead to death, overdose, or the ruin of a family situation.

Finally, a drug addiction always has adverse health effects on the person using it. Those effects will catch up with the individual leading to more difficulty down the line.

The point is, addiction is an addiction, whichever way you look at it. Things will improve if the person becomes sober.

Approaching The Idea of Treatment

An understanding of addiction points to the fact that it will ruin close relationships. Even when strong love and affection are there, substance abuse derails healthy relationships and creates tension, pain, abuse, and ruin.

Seeking treatment and recovery is the most effective way to ensure that those things don’t happen. At the same time, it’s not always easy to get a person to get help.

Further, you can bring a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. Some people go to treatment many times before the desire to quit is strong enough to lead to sobriety 1.

So, how can you get your spouse or partner to seek treatment? Let’s look at some common options.

Express How Their Addiction Hurts You

Consider picking a time to sit down and talk with your partner.

If you haven’t breached the topic of abuse yet, this might be a difficult time. Your partner might not know that you know about the addiction they are struggling with. In any case, you must have clear talking points.

Make sure you say everything you want to. Talk about the ways that you’re affected and how your life is suffering as a result. If they weren’t aware that their habit was making such an impact, they might be very responsive to the idea of quitting.

You might also think about setting a clear boundary 6. For example, you could say that you will leave if they keep using their drug of choice. You might say the same if they don’t go to treatment.

This should be a time to communicate and understand what your partner is going through. That said, you’re the person directing the conversation, and you’ve dealt with the addiction long enough to know how you feel.

So, it’s okay for you to enter the discussion with clear ideas and solutions. If you’re set on those solutions, make it clear. The fact that you will not take any more abuse, for example, is something you don’t have to budge an inch on.

Couples Therapy

If talking on your own terms isn’t a great way to make breakthroughs, you have the option of couple’s therapy.

Even if you do come to solutions, therapy is a great way to mend the wounds of addiction. The pain that you’ve experienced may have lead to a lot of resentment and mistrust.

Those issues can do a lot of damage to a marriage or serious relationship. Trained counselors can assist in navigating these sensitive waters and offering ideas for solutions so that you can move forward.

You might even find that you make progress in areas that have nothing to do with the addiction, which is a nice perk!


Interventions involve bringing the individual’s friends and loved ones together to let them know how they feel. It’s a time to express how the addiction impacts everyone and that it’s time to get help.

The idea of intervention seems like one that a group of friends could manage. That said, there’s no telling how the addicted person will respond. You also only get one chance to make the impact you want, so you want to do the best job you can.

That’s why it’s a good idea to work with a professional in these matters. They can help you organize and facilitate the intervention in a way that leads to a breakthrough. 

Staying Supportive Through The Process

In many cases, being married to an addict isn’t a matter of being abused and harmed all of the time.

As the person who knows the addict best, you might understand why they turned to drugs in the first place. You know how bad they feel about how they’re affecting the people around them. You will probably even see how hard they try, only to fail and slip back into using drugs 11.

These things are challenging to go through as a spouse. It’s tough to support someone going through the most challenging time of their life, especially when they might not treat you how you want to be treated.

Being supportive, in this case, means staying strong. It requires that you don’t give up an inch when it comes to addiction. You also have to set clear boundaries for yourself and how you’re willing to be treated.

Remind yourself and your partner that you’re making these decisions out of love. You love them, and you want to get back to the relationship you once had even though it feels like you’re being a boss sometimes.

When you’re going through the process of support, make sure you’re aware of the fine line between supporting and enabling.

Supportive Versus Enabling

Enabling behavior is that which allows a person to keep abusing drugs. For example, you might pick up the slack at home or lend them money to get by. 

You might even give unlimited sympathy to the fact that they’re using drugs. They’re not in a good place, and you want to make them feel better. It makes sense. 

That said, behaviors that allow a person to adjust their life to continue using are not beneficial. 

Support, on the other hand, is behavior that guides an individual toward recovery. That might mean refusing to lend money, refusing to take on more responsibility, or even following through on your promise to leave if things don’t improve. 

Support might feel cruel at the moment, but know that you’re doing what has to be done. You’re behaving in a way that leads to a healthier and happier life for everyone involved.

If you’re having trouble knowing how to respond to an addiction, it’s a good idea to contact a counselor or substance abuse professional to learn more 10.

Looking For Addiction Treatment?

The relationship between substance abuse and relationships is a complicated one. If you’re married to a drug addict and wondering what to do, we’re here to help you move forward with options.

Contact us or explore our site for more ideas on how to get treatment, set up an intervention, and restore the life of your partner.


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