Dating someone struggling with addiction can be challenging, no matter how much you love someone. Living with an addict puts strain on the relationship, especially if you’ve never had an addiction yourself and don’t understand the struggles.
We don’t choose who we love – we choose to take the bad with the good. You may have also gotten involved with someone who developed an addiction while you were together or relapsed from a previously sober lifestyle.
No matter the circumstances, it’s challenging to maintain a healthy relationship with an addict. In fact, people in recovery are encouraged to avoid dating until they’ve reached a year of recovery.
If you are dating or living with an addict, here are some things to know:
What to Expect When Dating an Addict
When you’re dating someone with substance use issues, it can have wide-ranging effects on your relationship. Depending on the type and stage of addiction, the relationship can vary. The relationship may feel wonderful and healthy during sober times but devolves once they’re using.
Someone addicted to drugs or alcohol may act selfishly when using. Part of being in a relationship is putting the needs of others before yourself. That can be challenging with the selfishness of addiction. You won’t be their priority if they use and seek drugs or alcohol.
Dating an addict also comes with ups and downs. The good times may make the bad times feel “worth it,” despite the unhealthy patterns that emerge.
Sometimes, you may deal with lying, infidelity, mistreatment, or other types of abuse. These behaviors may be part of the addiction, but that doesn’t mean it’s fair to you or that you should excuse it.
Set Boundaries When Living with an Addict
Realistic boundaries are vital for a healthy relationship. It’s important for both of you to set reasonable boundaries and respect them.
Here are some behavior boundaries you could establish:
- Using Insulting or demeaning language
- Physical abuse
- Emotional abuse
- Using substances around me
It may be time to consider leaving the relationship if these boundaries are continually disrespected.
Don’t Be an Enabler to An Addicted Partner
An enabler (in the mental health community) is a person whose behavior enables a loved one to continue self-destructive patterns.1 Many people enable negative behaviors without even realizing what they’re doing.
In most cases, we use the term “enabling” in the context of substance use. But it can refer to any patterns in relationships that support harmful or problematic behaviors, allowing them to continue.
Being an enabler doesn’t mean you support or agree with your partner’s substance use. Instead, it suggests that you excuse or allow behaviors to continue. For example, you may give an addict money to continue using drugs or alcohol. Or you may excuse unacceptable behaviors.
If you’re dating an addict, you may believe that the things you do are to help them. Still, you may be unintentionally allowing the addiction – and the adverse effects it has on the relationship – to flourish.
How to Support Your Partner in Seeking Help
If you suspect or know your partner is addicted to drugs or alcohol, you have some decisions to make. If you wish to support them, here are some tips:
Don’t let the manipulation get you. People with substance use issues tend to be manipulative. They may use tactics like guilt trips, lying, or accusations. They may also blame others to avoid confronting their own issues.
Encourage your partner to get help. Look into addiction treatment programs and recovery centers in your area and suggest they get help. You can also offer to help by attending groups with them. Relationship counseling may also help them build healthy relationship habits while getting help for addiction.
Support from loved ones is crucial to addiction recovery. After your partner seeks help for addiction treatment, your support and belief in them can make all the difference.
When to Move On When Living with an Addict
People with substance use issues tend to form co-dependent relationships with others, including their romantic partners. No matter how bad the relationship gets, they won’t leave, just like they won’t stop using drugs or alcohol.
Relationships aren’t forced on anyone and should be a positive aspect of your life, not a negative and stressful one. If you feel that your relationship isn’t what you want it to be, boundaries aren’t respected, and you’re experiencing stress, but your partner won’t take any meaningful steps toward change, it may be time to end it.
You may wish to enlist the help of a therapist or counselor to help with your relationship troubles. Attending therapy can help you look at the relationship objectively to decide if it’s worth continuing.
Dating an Addict? Clear Life Recovery Can Help
If you’re dating an addict, you’re not alone. Many people struggle with addiction, as do their relationships, and help is available. Contact Clear Life Recovery to learn more.