Drugs, alcohol, and intimate relationships are a potentially explosive mix. While it is true that substance abuse can have a devastating impact on one’s work and health, intimate relationships are often its first victims.
Aside from the user, the greatest impact is often on the substance abuser’s partner. Addicts will choose their drug of choice over love in most cases. No matter how much you love your partner and want to choose them, you cannot. You’re in the midst of your addiction and you’re chasing that high or the relief that the substance gives you over your partner.
Despite the guilt that this may bring you and the pain that you know it is causing your partner, the drug becomes number one in your life. You can’t stop, even if you want to.
This article looks at three ways that drug and/or alcohol addiction may be affecting your love life, and what you can do to get help.
1) Substance abuse can make you completely selfish
For an intimate relationship to succeed, the needs of the individual must take a back seat to the needs of the partnership. That is, a loving partner usually thinks in terms of “us” instead of “me,” thus places the needs of his/her partner and the relationship before his or her own. However, with addiction, this becomes completely reversed. Suddenly, the substance you are using becomes the most important thing for you, and everything else, including your partner, comes second.
The obsession with obtaining and consuming the substance can leave little room for anything else. The drug becomes everything to you, and you begin to sacrifice everything else in your life to consume. Even though it is not intentional, you become completely selfish and unable to think about other people.
You may begin lying to your loved one to conceal your behavior, such as where all of the rent money has gone or why you didn’t come home last night. This can escalate into a situation of losing your job and income altogether, and even disappearing for days on end. One lie leads to another, and you will become uncomfortable and defensive when confronted by your partner about your behavior. You may even lash out at him or her. With this type of behavior the trust and affection that once characterized your relationship will inevitably be ruined because of your out-of-control substance abuse.
As much as you will feel terrible about choosing drugs over your loved one, your use of the substance will become compulsive and will spiral beyond your control, until eventually, your partner may force an ultimatum upon you: stop using the substance or he/she will leave you. Of course you want to choose your partner, but, with addiction you will be unable to make this choice. You may end up sacrificing the love of your life for drugs or alcohol.
2) Substance abuse can affect your sexual health
It is common for adults to rely on drugs or alcohol in order to remove any anxiety they may have around sexual performance and intimacy. However, this may often lead to a sexual dysfunction. While some substances, such as alcohol or cocaine, can enhance sexual performance and drive in the short term, these substances can lead to decreased sexual performance in the long term.
As you fall further into the depths of addiction, you may lose all interest in sexual activity. Men may suffer from erectile dysfunction while both men and women may suffer from a decreased libido. This lack of intimacy can do serious damage to your relationship with your partner.
On the other hand, with alcohol consumption, for example, you may engage in promiscuous sex with multiple partners. You may make poor choices while under the influence regarding the partners you choose and whether you use protection or not. This is risky behavior that can result in an unplanned pregnancy or contracting a sexually transmitted disease.
Substance abusers may also engage in infidelity, further damaging their relationship with their partner or spouse and eroding the bonds of trust and affection that once existed between them.
Drug and alcohol abuse can crumble sexual intimacy and destroy your sex life. It can hurt your partner, dissolve their trust, and cause further resentment, thus exacerbating the damage to your relationship.
3) Substance abuse can lead to abuse of your partner
Drug and alcohol abuse can cause you to feel like you are on an emotional rollercoaster. Although it may feel that you are riding these ups and downs alone, your partner is always in the car behind you. Your behavior and mood swings do not just affect you, but they also affect the people closest to you. What began as defensive behavior in the beginning to protect or hide your addiction may quickly transform into abuse.
An addict who feels threatened by a partner that is asking too many questions or perhaps is trying to get them to stop consuming may lash out with verbal or even physical violence toward their partner.
Both methamphetamine and crack cocaine are powerful stimulants that are linked to an increase in violent behavior. These drugs cause their users to become paranoid, irritable, agitated, and often unable to control their reactions, which can cause them to become violent. Furthermore, users of these drugs may suffer from a condition known as hypersexuality, in which the person experiences extreme, compulsive, or aggressive sexual urges that are hard to control. This condition may cause the person to engage in high-risk sexual acts, violent or abusive sexual behavior, and even compulsive masturbation.
The once healthy and fulfilling sexual relationship you had with your partner becomes yet another casualty of your drug use.
Alcohol consumption is frequently present in cases of domestic violence, sexual abuse, and sexual assault. Alcoholics are more than twice as likely than other substance abusers to be physically or verbally abusive of their partners.
Research also suggests that the consumption of alcohol can lead to an increase in the severity of domestic violence. Alcohol can lower both self-control as well as cognitive functioning, resulting in a greater likelihood to resort to violence to resolve conflict in a relationship. Moreover, excessive drinking by one partner in the relationship can lead to financial difficulties, which can exacerbate the tension between the partners and increase the likelihood of conflict arising between them. Finally, feelings of regret, guilt, and shame can lead to further alcohol consumption by the addict to relieve these feelings, which only feeds the vicious cycle of violence.
People suffering from addiction often think of themselves in isolation. They do not realize the affect that their addiction has on those around them, especially their spouse or partner.
Despite the addict’s careful attempts to conceal their behavior, a loving partner will always notice a change in behavior, appearance, and personality. They will notice a change in their once thoughtful and loving partner, to someone who no longer seems to care about them or love them anymore.
They will begin to question missing money and your late nights. They are likely to sense right away that they are being lied to. This will, of course, begin to steadily diminish the bonds of love and trust between you. They will also notice a change in your sex life, such as a lack of sexual desire, physical problems such as erectile dysfunction that never existed before, a lack of connection or intimacy, or perhaps even a shift into a darker, sadistic type of behavior in the bedroom.
Your partner could even become the victim of abuse, as drug or alcohol consumption could lead you into emotionally, psychologically, or physically abusing them. Your partner may love you, but few can stand by and tolerate the drastic and potentially dangerous changes in you that may be occurring as a result of addiction.
Even though addiction can take a heavy, seemingly irreversible toll on your relationships, there is always hope of recovery. An effective recovery program can lead you and your partner out of the darkness of addiction and into the light of sobriety. Once people are willing to get help and give up drugs or alcohol, they can begin the recovery process. It can take months or years to recover from addiction, and just as this process takes time, so does the process of rebuilding your relationships.
Rebuilding the bonds of trust and re-establishing healthy communication with your partner is a gradual process, and as these bonds are once again strengthened, then sexual intimacy can be restored. This process may require counseling and therapy. Also, problems with sexual intimacy often have roots in underlying issues that run deeper than the substance abuse itself; for this, therapy and counseling can help you to heal.
On the other hand, some relationships may suffer irreparable damage at the hands of addiction and it may be best to end the relationship. Furthermore, it is usually advised to avoid beginning any new relationships within the first year of recovery, so that you may focus fully on recovery and shield yourself from any additional, unnecessary stress that could cause you to relapse.
Is your partner or someone close to you suffering from addiction? Look for the common signs of addiction and seek help from a professional, effective addiction recovery program.
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