Mike and Amy had been together for several years, and while both had used MDMA and marijuana recreationally at one point in their lives, they had abstained from drugs as life’s responsibilities became more pressing.
When both transitioned to working from home, tensions grew and maintaining a healthy, satisfying relationship became increasingly difficult. They began winding down in the evening with marijuana, and before long, both were using marijuana on a regular basis. For a while, their relationship issues seemed to resolve on their own, and they felt more deeply connected than ever before.
Over time, the couple began using harder drugs, and what began as an occasional stress reliever took center stage in their relationship. Both were using drugs more regularly, and substance use took on a defining role in their relationship, even at the expense of activities they used to enjoy together.
Addiction and Codependency in Romantic Relationships
Codependency is a common pattern in relationships, coming in all shapes and sizes and with varying levels of severity. It mirrors attachment-style connections that most people form during early childhood when they’re unable to meet their own needs. For couples, codependency leads to an imbalanced relationship where one partner takes on the responsibility of meeting the other person’s needs, even at the expense of their own. It’s generally the result of neglecting to set or respect healthy boundaries.
According to relationship experts, everyone has some degree of codependent tendencies in relationships. It’s normal for an individual to feel a sense of responsibility for the people they love, particularly their partner. However, that sense becomes unhealthy when the person’s self-identity or feelings of self-worth hinge on their ability to fulfill their partner’s needs.
In a relationship in which addiction is a strong element, an unhealthy codependent relationship becomes nearly inevitable. The drive to get the next fix can be overwhelming. Withdrawal is often an uncomfortable process that can cause symptoms such as anxiety, irritability, mood swings and even seizures, depending on the substance used. To help their partner avoid this, someone may take on the responsibility of ensuring that their partner has access to the substances they use.
Roses, Wine and … Heroin?: Using Recreational Drugs to Connect with Romantic Partners
Many couples enjoy bonding activities that strengthen their relationships and provide a break from stress. Activities such as yoga, volunteering, hiking, traveling or engaging in extreme sports can break up the monotony of everyday life and cultivate shared interests.
For some couples, using recreational drugs that make you feel love serves as a bonding activity. The rituals and routines surrounding drinking and drug use satisfy the desire for connection and a shared experience. Unfortunately, once someone using a substance progresses from partaking occasionally to having an addiction, the relationship inevitably shifts. Irresistible cravings and urges to drink or use drugs can cause the individual to have a single focus: obtaining and using the substance, even at the expense of their relationship with their partner.
A Relationship Built on Addiction May Not Last
Maintaining a healthy relationship with someone living with a substance addiction is very challenging. While successful relationships are based on honest, assertive communication, compromise, trust and understanding, the nature of addiction makes these goals nearly impossible. Relationships can’t compete with the euphoric experience of using a substance, so over time, the individual will put less time into the relationship.
Being in a relationship with someone living with an addiction brings a host of unique challenges. There may be arguments about how money and time are spent or disagreements over the division of labor. Addiction can also cause isolation from friends and family members when one or both partners feel the need to hide the drinking or drug problem.
When both individuals are living with substance addiction, these problems are magnified. In relationships where partners rely on one another to support their addiction, codependency may paradoxically lead to resentment when the chemical use impacts employment status, financial stability and relationships with other family members.
Despite the sense of connection that using drugs or alcohol together can bring, in the end, this pattern is destructive. Drugs such as molly and relationships can be a destructive combination and fuel new and existing problems.
The Challenges of Pursuing Rehab Together
For those living in addiction, getting professional help can greatly improve their chances of overcoming substance abuse and cultivating healthy, functional relationships. Effective addiction treatment generally includes a combination of one-on-one or group therapy, self-help meetings and medication. The journey can be a challenge, making support and empathy from loved ones vital.
When both partners are ready to begin their journeys to sobriety, it may seem logical to pursue treatment together. Unfortunately, a united approach doesn’t always guarantee success. In fact, for many couples, it can be a hindrance.
First, addressing substance abuse can bring to light other problems in the relationship. For many couples who use drugs or alcohol together, the substance serves as a coping mechanism for problems—an unhealthy, destructive coping mechanism, but a coping mechanism nonetheless. Once it’s taken away, couples may struggle to find other ways to connect with one another or deal with problems. When both are living with an addiction, the focus of the relationship may be on substance use. Once that common ground is removed, maintaining the connection may be a challenge. This stress can be detrimental to both partners’ pursuit of sobriety and the relationship itself.
Second, there’s a danger in an individual hinging their own recovery on someone else’s journey. This is why new relationships that develop during rehab rarely last, and individuals are discouraged from entering into a relationship until they have been sober for at least a year. If one partner experiences a relapse, the other may question their own ability to comply with their treatment plan. Because relapse brings a lot of guilt and self-doubt, the relapsing partner may intentionally or subconsciously sabotage the other’s success. This may further breed resentment and prompt a host of new problems in the relationship.
Ultimately, whether a couple can successfully pursue rehabilitation together depends on a myriad of factors unique to them. Some find their partners to be a source of support while others experience setbacks in their success due to their relationship. While pursuing sobriety doesn’t necessarily mean a relationship is doomed, it’s important to be realistic about what rehabilitation will look like. Working with a trained professional can ensure that destructive cycles or relationship problems can be addressed promptly.
Seeking Help for Addiction
Many addiction treatments include the partner in some way. While it isn’t healthy for someone to hinge their own sobriety on their partner’s compliance with treatment, research shows that involving partners in addiction treatment can be very helpful.
It’s important to ensure that problems in the relationship are treated alongside the addiction. It’s easy to make addiction a scapegoat responsible for all relationship problems, and many couples are surprised and disappointed to discover that sobriety does not solve everything. Even after the substance use has ended, many couples discover that their arguments and fights continue or even intensify. If the relationship’s issues aren’t treated, they can set the stage for continued conflict and even relapse. Improving the relationship and cultivating new hobbies and ways to connect can help sobriety last.
For those who want to pursue addiction treatment without the support of their partner, finding professional help is critical. Establishing boundaries and creating new patterns of behavior are essential to the process, and it is normal for there to be pushback from the partner who is not interested in treatment. Working through these issues with a professional experienced in addressing codependent relationships can greatly improve an individual’s chances for lasting sobriety.
At FHE Health, we specialize in addiction treatment and offer a range of residential and outpatient treatment options. Whether you’re pursuing rehab with your partner or beginning your journey alone, we can help. Contact an intake counselor today by calling (844) 597-0440.