It’s Complicated: Addiction and Relationships

It's Complicated: Addiction and Relationships

When someone falls into substance abuse, their partner may start wondering, “How does addiction affect relationships?” Change might not happen right away, but as the disorder progresses, arguments become more frequent. Both parties feel like they can’t trust each other and like they aren’t being understood.

Sometimes, drugs ruin relationships. However, seeking help in time can repair your partnership. Therapy, detoxes, medical care and rehab programs teach clients to turn to their loved ones instead of substances. They also learn about independence, taking some of the weight off their partner.

How Does Addiction Affect Relationships?

Drug addiction and relationships often seem impossible to balance. Statista reports that, in 2021, 32% of respondents claimed that drug abuse caused family conflicts. When left untreated, addiction can strain every aspect of a marriage until it falls apart.


Conflicts often occur when the individual refuses to admit they have a problem. They insist they still have control even as the substance takes over their lives. When their partner threatens to leave them, they withdraw further into their illness. Sometimes, it takes a catastrophe to make them realize how addiction ruins relationships.

Other substance abuse-related conflicts include:

  • Losing their job
  • Hanging out with questionable people
  • Failing to fulfill their responsibilities, such as picking the kids up from school
  • Declining to attend therapy
  • Withdrawing from their partner
  • Abandoning their relationships with others

Drugs can cause or feed into mental illnesses, such as depression, anxiety, PTSD and schizophrenia. The worsening symptoms may cause more arguments. For example, an individual might get frustrated when their partner struggles to get out of bed or has panic attacks in public.

If they can’t access the drug, the individual starts going through withdrawals, which can cause sudden outbursts, panic attacks, impulsive behavior and medical emergencies. Their partner questions whether they should force the individual through withdrawals or let them use the substance. Either way, their relationship exhausts them.

Broken Trust

Trying to hide an addiction involves lying, sneaking out, stealing and keeping secrets. Discovering the addiction destroys an individual’s trust in their partner. Once their significant other catches them, they promise to change. Unfortunately, relapses and broken promises ultimately destroy the relationship.

The distrust lingers even after the person graduates from rehab. When they spend a large amount of money, stay out late or hang out with unfamiliar people, their spouse wonders if they’ve returned to drugs. Some couples split up months after rehab because they couldn’t regain that trust.


As they isolate themselves, people who abuse drugs or alcohol grow increasingly dependent on their partner. Some are physically dependent if they can’t maintain a job or leave the house, needing their partner to pay the bills. Others rely on their partners for every emotional need. They want their significant other to be their lover, parent, best friend and therapist and start spiraling if they pull away.

Worse still, couples who abuse drugs together often form unhealthy attachments. They detach from loved ones who bring up their addiction, sometimes developing an “us against the world” mentality. Once they associate their relationship with drugs and alcohol, they struggle to abandon the substances.

Financial Difficulties

Illicit drugs are pricey. People can easily spend hundreds of dollars on one purchase, draining their savings accounts. The price goes up when they crave more of the drug. When they run out of funds, they might ask their partner for money or use their joint checking account without asking first.

Substance abuse disorders also interfere with job responsibilities. If the individual can’t maintain a job, they rely entirely on their partner’s income. Their significant other starts to lose their patience when they see frequent withdrawals, making it harder to pay the bills. They also dislike the idea that they’re fueling their partner’s addiction.

How to Maintain a Healthy Relationship


Healthy communication can guide couples through the turbulence of addiction. Honesty might not eliminate the drug cravings, but it enables the partner to provide support. They appreciate that their spouse told the truth instead of hiding their addiction. They can also discuss the issues that led their partner to drugs in the first place, which potentially brings them closer.

Communication goes both ways. When they find out about their partner’s addiction, some people adopt a “drill sergeant” mentality, thinking that berating their spouse will make them change. In fact, “tough love” tends to drive people deeper into their addiction. A loving, understanding approach inspires them to improve and build a better life together.

However, both parties can set boundaries. If one person exhibits toxic behaviors, such as lying, stealing, making threats, committing violence or having sudden outbursts, the other person has no obligation to stay. They can walk away or tell their partner their behavior is unacceptable.

Couples Therapy

Despite the stereotype that only people with an addiction need to change, everyone benefits from counseling. Couples therapy helps both people work together without blaming anyone. They discuss their challenges and learn better ways to communicate. When they argue, their counselor provides an objective, third-party perspective without labeling one of them as “wrong.”

Addiction Treatment

Inpatient Care

Inpatient care provides a community with rooms, utilities and three meals a day so you can focus on recovery instead of daily chores. Each day’s schedule includes therapy, group activities and educational classes. Your partner and other loved ones can join you for family therapy. Most programs last from 1 to 3 months.

Outpatient Care

After you leave inpatient care, you’ll continue therapy but go home when your program ends for the day. Depending on your needs, you can request 15 to 30 hours of therapy per week. Outpatient schedules are more flexible, allowing you to return to work and household chores. Afterward, you’ll transition to a sober living or aftercare program.

Neuro Rehab

Brain mapping reveals the dysfunctional parts of your brain, helping doctors target those imbalances. Neuro rehab starts with neurological testing before doctors rewire your brain with safe, noninvasive procedures, such as transcranial direct-current stimulation (tDCS) and neurofeedback training. This therapy treats substance abuse, depression, insomnia, epilepsy and other disorders.

Seek Help for Relationships and Addiction

When substance abuse starts to take over your life, Restore Mental Health’s treatment programs provide a safe place to recover. We treat drug and alcohol abuse disorders alongside depression, anxiety, PTSD, bipolar disorder and other issues that may have triggered your substance use. Contact us to discuss inpatient and outpatient care, neuro rehab or our first responder program.