What you need to know:
- Addiction does not only involve hard drugs or alcohol, it includes love, sex, or gambling.
- Don’t downplay the problem or cover it with excuses
Being in a romantic relationship with an addict is challenging. You may have to watch the partner you love struggle while contending with unacceptable behaviour that is a danger not only to your relationship but also to your well-being.
“On his downward spiral, an addict will become more irresponsible while you’ll likely cover for him by picking up after his mess. You’ll nurse the pain of a breaking relationship, suffer violence, infidelity, criminality, financial strains, and even the possibility of becoming an addict too,” says Darlene Lancer, a psychologist and the author of Conquering Shame and Codependency.
Should you quit? Should you stay?
Since there are numerous types of addiction, determine the kind of addiction your partner is suffering from and how it has evolved. “Addiction does not only involve hard drugs or alcohol, it includes love, sex, or gambling. These addictions germinate differently and their effects on the addict vary from one case to the other” says Nairobi-based psychologist Kenneth Oduor
What to do
When your partner is caught up in a web of addiction, quitting the relationship may not always be the top option. Try to get them help. Ideally, this can start with an admission on their part that they have a problem and need help. However, Ms. Lancer says that addiction will usually not invoke the addict’s survival instincts to either stop or ask for help. “Telling an addict that their health or social position is at risk, or threatening to walk out of the relationship or marriage will hardly compel them to seek help,” she says.
Start by setting boundaries and expectations. “Don’t downplay the problem or cover it with excuses. Bring it up in a clear and loving way, set up boundaries and expectations of abstinence, treatment, and rehabilitation,” says Jason Whiting, the author of Love Me True: Overcoming the Surprising Ways We Deceive Ourselves in Relationships.
If your partner expresses interest in beating their addiction, seek professional help. “Get a therapist or psychologist who specialises in addiction. He will be able to advise on whether the addiction is treatable at home or whether the addict should be hosted at a recovery centre,” says Oduor.
Show your partner support by either attending recovery group sessions with them or visiting them at the recovery centre as much as is allowed. “Don’t constantly bring up the wreck their addiction has caused you, the relationship or their own life,” Oduor says.
You don’t always have to stay in a relationship or marriage with an addict, especially if they are averse to getting help. Oduor points out that once addiction hits a relationship, there is never a guarantee that an addict will agree to sign up for a recovery programme. Things will also not simply go back to the way they were prior to the addiction. “You’ll need to acknowledge that the relationship will not return to the way it was and then evaluate whether to recreate it or terminate it irrespective of whether your partner recovers,” says Oduor. There are instances where an addict may force their partner to partake in their addiction or facilitate it. “In that case, separation, divorce, or breaking up are options that you should consider taking,” he says.