Loving An Addict: How Addiction Ruins Relationships

how addictions can ruin relationships

Ever been on a roller coaster? The highs, the lows, the unexpected turns? Now, imagine that ride never ends. Welcome to the world of relationships marred by addiction. It’s a wild ride, but not the fun kind.

But why stop at the surface? Stick around and we’ll explore the nitty-gritty of this tumultuous journey. We’ll uncover the mechanics of how addiction chips away at the bedrock of relationships, and offer insights into navigating these stormy seas.

Addiction can ruin relationships as it often leads to broken trust, emotional instability, and neglect of responsibilities. The addicted person may lie or steal to support their habit, damaging trust. Their mood swings and unpredictability can cause emotional distress to their loved ones. Additionally, they may neglect their duties, causing strain and resentment.

Drug abuse and alcohol abuse can have an especially devastating effect on relationships. While every type of addiction creates unique issues for the people involved, substance abuse is known to cause conflict, resentment, fear, anger, and distrust in interpersonal relationships.

This can be compounded by a lack of communication as those struggling with drug or alcohol addiction may be too ashamed or scared to talk about their problem.

If left untreated, drug abuse and alcohol addiction can result in broken trust, severe emotional damage, financial problems, and even the loss of a relationship.

In this article, we will explore how addiction affects interpersonal relationships and what can be done to address this issue.

How Does Addiction Affect Interpersonal Relationships?

A healthy relationship between romantic partners requires trust, stability, and responsibility. All of these can be disrupted by addiction, leading to damaging consequences in the relationship.

When one person in a committed relationship struggles with addiction, it can take a toll on the relationship in many ways.

It can cause strain between partners by creating mistrust and lack of communication as well as taking away time, energy and resources that could be used for strengthening the relationship.

Over time, the addicted person may become distant, dishonest, or manipulative.

They may prioritize their addiction over their partner’s emotional needs, leading to feelings of neglect and resentment.

This can leave the non-addicted partner feeling disrespected, unappreciated, and unsupported, and they may even start to doubt themselves.

Addiction can also cause mood swings and self-destructive behavior, which can lead to emotional abuse and domestic violence.

As their addiction progresses, the addicted person may become less able to express genuine feelings of love or care toward their partner, potentially leading to a breakdown in communication.

In addition, addiction often leads to physical and emotional distance between partners in intimate and close relationships, making it difficult for them to connect on an emotional level.

This disconnection can cause severe insecurity within both parties as well as increased resentment and frustration. Couples might find that both people are unable to build up any emotional or physical intimacy or trust in the relationship due to issues with substance abuse.

Substance abuse differs from addiction. Many people with substance abuse problems are able to quit or can change their unhealthy behavior. Addiction, on the other hand, is a disease. It means you can’t stop using even when your condition causes you harm.


Drug users typically spend large sums of money to support their addiction and so may drain their bank account instead of taking care of bills or even basic needs. The resulting financial strain could possibly leave their partner with the burden of providing for both of them.

This causes a breakdown in trust within the relationship as the addict’s partner may not be able to trust that they will use money responsibly.

The loved ones of someone with addiction challenges also often suffer from anxiety, depression and fear as a result of the addiction. They may experience continued insecurity caused by their partner’s unpredictable behavior or inability to express genuine emotions.

This is why it is so important for those close to an addict to get help so they can cope effectively with the situation and find support during this difficult time.

Believe me when I tell you that living with an addict is extremely difficult and many marriages don’t survive alcohol or drug addiction. Addiction can take a devastating toll on both the individual struggling with it and their loved ones.

It’s a relentless battle that affects not only the person with the addiction but also the entire family and the dynamics within the household. So please, seek help from professional counselors!

What Are A Few Personality Traits Of Addiction?

Addiction is a chronic disease that affects the brain’s reward, motivation, and memory centers.

Addiction can take many forms, from prescription or illegal drugs, to alcohol, to gambling, or even seemingly harmless activities like shopping.

No matter the type of addictive behaviors, it’s important to recognize that addiction is a powerful force that can have devastating effects on the person and those in relationships with them.

Several factors contribute to a person’s addiction to substance abuse, including genetics, environment, and mental health. Common personality traits of addicts are impulsiveness, compulsiveness, irresponsibility, secrecy, defensiveness and an inability to regulate emotions.

Some typical personality traits of addiction include:

  1. Impulsivity: An addict often acts without considering potential consequences for their actions or those around them. This often leads to them engaging in risky behavior without thinking about the potential risks involved.
  2. Compulsiveness: When presented with temptation, addicts often feel an uncontrollable urge to succumb. This can often lead to a cascade of bad decisions that ultimately tear relationships apart.
  3. Mood swings: People with addiction often experience intense mood swings, including anger, anxiety, and depression. This can make it difficult for family and close friends to provide support, leaving the addict feeling isolated with no one to turn to.
  4. Self-destructive behavior: Individuals with addiction often engage in self-destructive behavior, such as reckless driving, unprotected sex, or drug use, to satisfy their cravings.
  5. Dishonesty: Often, addicts will go to great lengths to conceal their substance use from family and friends which leads them into patterns of secrecy and dishonesty.
  6. Fear of judgment: People with addiction may feel ashamed of their behavior and fear being judged by others, leading to social isolation and loneliness.

What Are Cycles Of Addiction In A Relationship?

Unfortunately, cycles of addiction and codependency can quickly develop in relationships when one partner has a gambling or substance abuse problem.

The person with the problem may pursue their drug of choice, neglecting their partner’s needs and desires, while the other partner becomes more controlling and demanding in an effort to manage the situation.

This can lead to feelings of guilt, resentment, and even enabling behaviors on both sides. It’s a vicious cycle that is extremely hard to break without professional help.

Addiction often follows a cycle that ranges through several different stages:

  • Preoccupation: The addicted person becomes fixated on obtaining and using their drug of choice.
  • Ritualization: They establish a pattern of addictive behavior or substance use that becomes a regular part of their daily routine.
  • Escalation: Their addictive behavior or substance use becomes more frequent and more intense.
  • Desensitization: The addicted person becomes less sensitive to the effects of the drug or alcohol, which can lead to an increased risk of overdose.
  • Maintenance: The addicted person continues to use the drug to avoid withdrawal symptoms.
  • Recovery: The addicted person seeks help and begins the recovery process.

Along with these personal patterns, there are cycles of addiction that impact family members and friends, including:

  1. Acting out: The addicted person engages in self-destructive behavior, which can include lying, stealing, or engaging in risky behavior to obtain drugs.
  2. Honeymoon: The addicted person may seek forgiveness and attempt to make amends for their behavior during this phase, leading to temporary reconciliation.
  3. Tension: As the addicted person’s behavior continues to cycle, the relationship becomes strained and eventually reaches a breaking point, leading to further emotional and physical damage.

The effects of addiction don’t just go away when sobriety is achieved. The damage it can do to a relationship takes time, effort, and hard work to repair.

Trust needs to be rebuilt and often requires counseling or family therapy sessions in order for both partners to feel secure again.

Remember that everyone’s journey with recovery is different, and patience and understanding are key for success.

What Is A Codependent Relationship?

A codependent relationship is a type of dysfunctional relationship where one person is excessively reliant on another for their emotional or psychological well-being. This dependency often results in imbalanced relationships where one person’s needs are met at the expense of the other’s.

Codependent people often create unhealthy relationships with addicts, enabling them to continue substance abuse and other destructive behaviors.

They also become too emotionally involved in the addicted person’s life and may be reluctant to seek help or express their feelings out of fear of being judged or rejected.

Here are some characteristics of a codependent relationship:

  1. Excessive Caretaking: One person feels compelled to take care of the other person to the point of neglecting their own needs.
  2. Low Self-Esteem: Codependents often struggle with self-esteem issues and rely on the other person for validation.
  3. People-Pleasing: Codependents often go to great lengths to avoid conflict or displeasing their partner, even if it means sacrificing their own needs or desires.
  4. Poor Boundaries: Codependents often have difficulty recognizing where their feelings and responsibilities end and the other person’s begin.
  5. Reactivity: Codependents often have a heightened sensitivity to the other person’s moods and behaviors, and react based on these rather than their own feelings.
  6. Control: Codependents often feel a need to control others, situations, and outcomes to feel secure.
  7. Dependency: Codependents are often afraid of being alone or abandoned, and feel they can’t function without the other person.
  8. Denial: Codependents often deny or minimize the dysfunctional or harmful aspects of the relationship.

It’s important to note that while codependency often occurs in relationships involving substance abuse or mental illness, it can occur in any type of relationship, including family, work, friendship, and romantic relationships. It’s also a learned behavior, which means it can be unlearned with therapy and self-care.

What Is The Emotional Impact Of Substance Abuse On A Family?

Substance abuse can have a significant emotional impact on a family, particularly on children and close family members.

Some common emotional impacts of substance abuse on a family include:

  1. Trust issues: Substance abuse can cause trust issues within a family, leading to feelings of betrayal and hurt.
  2. Financial problems: Substance abuse can be expensive, leading to financial troubles for the addicted person and their family.
  3. Emotional and physical abuse: Addiction and substance abuse can lead to emotional and physical abuse, particularly within intimate partner relationships.
  4. Neglect: Addiction can lead to emotional and physical neglect of children, causing long-term emotional damage.
  5. Isolation: Substance abuse can cause social isolation and loneliness, as the addicted person becomes more focused on their drug use and less on their personal and family relationships.

How To Deal With A Partner’s Addiction

If you suspect that your partner has an addiction problem, the first step is to encourage them to seek professional help. Addiction is a chronic disease and requires treatment to overcome.

Some effective ways to deal with a partner’s addiction include:

  1. Encouraging open communication: It’s important to create a safe and non-judgmental environment for your partner to discuss their addiction.
  2. Seeking professional help: Multiple treatment options are available, such as rehab programs and therapy. These can be effective in treating addiction and helping individuals to recover.
  3. Taking care of your own needs: You must prioritize your own needs and emotional well-being during this difficult time.
  4. Establishing healthy boundaries: Set healthy boundaries to protect yourself emotionally and physically from the negative consequences of addiction.
  5. Joining a support group: Support groups, such as Al-Anon, can be helpful in providing emotional support and guidance for those dealing with a partner’s addiction.

The best way to approach a partner’s addiction is by understanding the situation and being supportive. Keep in mind that addiction is an illness and not something they can control on their own.

When talking with a partner, let them know that you are there to support them and help them in any way possible.

Encourage healthy behaviors such as exercise, therapy, or attending support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous.

Offer assistance with finding rehabilitation centers or treatment programs and be willing to go along if needed.

Above all else, maintain an open dialogue about how the addiction affects both of you and your relationship. Talk honestly about how it makes you feel so everything can be addressed without fear of judgment or criticism.

Being able to talk openly and honestly will help your relationship be more resilient and understanding of each other’s needs.

At the end of the day, it is important to remember that addiction can be a serious problem if not dealt with in healthy ways. It takes time and effort to overcome an addiction so don’t expect immediate results or miracles.

Do whatever you can do to create a safe environment for yourself and your partner where civil discussions about substance abuse can take place. Be patient and understanding but also set boundaries when needed.

Offer words of encouragement and support even when things seem impossible or hopeless – this type of love could be just what your partner needs to make it through their battle against addiction.

You won’t always agree on how best to handle the situation and it’s important to respect each other’s opinions.

It’s also important to get professional help if either of you are struggling with an addiction; addiction is a complex issue and having objective guidance from a licensed therapist or support group can be invaluable.

Final Thoughts

Addiction is a chronic and complex disease that affects not only the individual but also their loved ones and their romantic relationships. Substance abuse and addiction can lead to financial troubles, physical and emotional abuse, and a range of other negative consequences that can ruin relationships.

The best thing to remember is that recovery from addiction is a process that requires professional help, a strong support system, and a willingness to change.

Seeking out the right addiction treatment program, attending support groups, and taking part in both group and individual therapy can help individuals and their loved ones on the path to healing and building healthier relationships.

Ultimately, addiction doesn’t have to be the end of loving, committed relationships, but it does require hard work, dedication, and the willingness to take the first step towards recovery.

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Laurie Newcomb, MA, LPC, NCC, CCTP

Licensed Professional Counselor, MA, LPC, NCC, CCTP My goal for each therapy session is to respect the client, allow them to be heard, appreciate where they are coming from, and help guide them through their struggles or issues. My approach to therapy is to utilize an integrative approach with clients. What this means is that I utilize different approaches for different people, as we are not all alike. Whether you're suffering from depression, anxiety, trauma, or any other kind of challenge, you want a therapist you feel comfortable with and who can help you bring about change. I have experience working with substance abuse, anxiety, depression, trauma, and life transitions. I am personally passionate about assisting clients who have endured trauma in their life. I am certified in trauma therapy and continue to work with clients with substance abuse.