How Does Drug and Alcohol Use Affect Your Relationship?
Drug and Alcohol Use
Couples in which a partner abuses or misuses drugs or alcohol are miserable. They are often more unhappy than couples who do not have problems with alcohol or other drugs.
There are several tell-tale signs for which to be alert. These indicators tell you if drinking or drug use by a partner is causing harm to the relationship. The following are common red flags often seen in couples where a partner has a substance use problem.
Arguing More Than a Hollywood Couple
This sign should be a red flag when you realize that most arguments begin about drinking, drug use, or related things. For example, some discussions may revolve around money problems, staying out late, or not taking care of work or household responsibilities.
Most arguments stem from the environment or past incidents. A person’s environment includes the following:
- Family and friends
- Economic status
- General quality of life
- Past physical and sexual abuse or trauma
Overall, many different influences affect your environment. As a result, drug and alcohol use becomes a means of coping. Unfortunately, an argument could occur for any reason, but substance use, fueled by an underlying issue is a common factor.
Unhealthy Stress Management
Your partner may use drugs or alcohol to reduce tension or stress related to arguments or for another reason.
Individuals use drugs and alcohol to cope with stress because they do not see another option. Arguments within a relationship create tension, especially when the fights revolve around illicit drug use.
There appears to be a significant association between acute, chronic stress and the motivation to abuse addictive substances.
One study exploring stress management found that individuals who abuse drugs and alcohol use more emotional coping strategies than problem-oriented ones. Some people drink alcohol for stress, for example. Yet, alcohol activates stress systems within the brain, acting by itself as a stressor.
Drinking and Drug Use is Your Only Hobby
Drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers commonly see couples entering treatment where substance use is the only thing they have in common.
When drinking or drug use becomes the only thing you look forward to with your spouse, it is time to re-evaluate certain things, mainly if it results in fighting and arguments.
This becomes problematic because co-dependency is commonly a part of a relationship with an addicted person. For example, your life may only revolve around their drug or alcohol use—you may take them out drinking, buy them drugs, or casually use drugs with them.
Overall, it is helping in the wrong way, and co-dependency is damaging to you and your partner.
Let’s Get Drunk and Fool Around
When one or more partners need to be drunk or under the influence of drugs to show signs of affection or talk about relationship problems, this only leads to disaster.
Drugs and alcohol affect your emotions in specific ways and create the following emotional problems:
- Depression—Alcohol, for example, is a depressant. It lowers activity in the central nervous system. Alcohol also worsens feelings of depression.
- Irritability—Abusing drugs increases feelings of irritability. For example, it becomes irritating when you attempt to get intimate but are not under the influence of drugs.
- Anxiety—Alcohol and stimulant drugs create anxiety or worsen an anxiety disorder.
- Social Withdrawal—Drugs and alcohol create a social withdrawal. In addition, it is common to use these substances to avoid becoming emotional and genuinely intimate.
When the intimate aspects of any relationship are built on a foundation of drug or alcohol use, it is similar to standing in a canoe with a hole in it ten feet from shore. You know the canoe will sink, but swimming to shore takes too much effort.
The relationship is not working in this situation, but it takes too much effort to address the primary problem.
Domestic Violence is No Joke
One should not underestimate the severity of this problem. It is common to see episodes of domestic violence or angry touching by either partner when one has been drinking or using drugs.
Research has shown that incidences of domestic violence are significantly higher in substance abusers than in others. Drugs and alcohol are at the center of this problem and the most common motivating factor.
According to national statistics on domestic violence:
- On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States.
- 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men experience severe intimate partner physical violence.
- An intimate partner most commonly abuses women between 18 and 24.
- 40 to 60% of intimate partner violence involves a substance use disorder.
- Alcohol use was apparent in 30 to 40% of male abusers and 27 to 34% of female abusers.
Overall, excessive drug or alcohol use increases the risk of being a victim of domestic violence and becoming an abuser. In addition, heavy alcohol use or drug use increases a person’s chance of becoming an abuser.
Finally, the mental anguish of domestic violence causes most individuals to turn to prescription or illicit drugs as a means of coping.
Repairing a Relationship Broken by Substance Use
There are only two options—take healthy approaches to repair the relationship or end it all and move on.
If you are searching for ways to repair it, here are some steps you can take:
- Avoid Co-dependency—This means you need to avoid enabling the individual and do not become emotionally dependent on helping them use drugs, drink excessively, and avoid responsibility. A solution may involve a brief intervention, couples counseling, or full-blown substance use treatment.
- Behavioral Couples Counseling (BCT)—This specific form of counseling is designed for married or cohabiting individuals seeking help for alcoholism or drug abuse. It is a well-recognized, evidence-based approach.
- Couples Therapy or Individual Therapy—These are forms of psychotherapy that can help you and your partner or yourself improve your relationship. Therapy can address a wide range of individual and relationship issues—for example, recurring conflicts, feelings of disconnection, trauma, and external stressors.
There are no easy solutions for repairing any relationship. However, drug and alcohol use can do significant damage, even when reconciliation is not possible.
Recognizing how it could damage your relationships is crucial. It helps you take steps to prevent damage before it occurs. It is vital to act sooner rather than later and utilize local resources to help you through a difficult time.