Couples who have lived with addiction have special issues that need to be addressed if the relationship is going to recover along with the individual partners.
Because addiction is a family disease, people in relationship with an addict will also find themselves altered by their exposure to the cunning, baffling and powerful nature of addiction. When it comes to relationships, addicts and their partners alike usually find themselves struggling in the following areas:
- blame versus responsibility
- unresolved trauma
- grief and loss
We know that:
- Couples living with addiction in their primary relationship most probably come from addicted families. Addiction is generational and hereditary.
- Those addicted families most likely included emotional, physical and/or sexual abuse. Children’s needs were not identified and frequently not met. Everyone learned to do whatever he or she had to do to survive.
- Addiction therefore becomes a form of Intimacy Disorder. All addictions – drugs, alcohol, gambling, shopping, eating , sex – are about finding dependable ways to self-soothe, meeting needs that would never otherwise be met. They are also a way to avoid intimacy – authentic connection – with ourselves and others. We’ve been so disappointed! It hurts too much!
- Whether you fall on the wild and crazy “acting out” end of the addiction continuum, or the repressed/acting in end, your ability to get your needs met have been impacted in primary ways.
This means your basic ability to be in a safe, intimate and trusting relationship has been undermined. The vast majority of ideas, skills and behaviors you bring to the partnership table will need to be examined and revised.
This may come as no surprise to many of you, who have either jumped from relationship to relationship over the years, avoided relationships entirely, or found a way to tolerate living in a long-term “dead” relationship where your real self lives deep underground.
Therapists unfamiliar with these special issues and how they impact Couples in Recovery, will be able to provide little relief using traditional modes of couples therapy, and in fact may exacerbate painful symptoms by increasing couple shame and feelings of hopelessness/helplessness.