Getting sober is a challenge for anyone, but trying to achieve sobriety when both yourself and your partner struggle with addiction can be even harder. The presence of substance abuse within the relationship can severely damage the relationship and make maintaining it incredibly difficult. The reverse is also true; the quality of a romantic relationship has a direct effect on the recovery of individuals suffering from addiction. Addiction in romantic relationships can also worsen already existing issues and introduce new ones. This, oftentimes, results in an increase in use as a way to cope with relationship strain. This blog will discuss how addiction impacts romantic relationships and the advantages and disadvantages of couples rehab.
Couples and Addiction
When both members of a couple are experiencing addiction, it can be very hard to break the cycle. This is the case because each person in many ways is reinforcing the other’s unhealthy behaviors. It is also common that one partner may enable the other’s addiction without realizing it by trying to rescue them and shelter them from the negative consequences of their use.
A common trait of addicted couples is codependent behavior. In some cases, enabling is a sign of codependency. Moreover, codependent individuals feel like they have to take care of the person in order to feel loved and valued. That person’s identity and sense of self are tied up in their partner. Codependency is very common in couples with addiction as they do not know how to set necessary boundaries or how to express their own needs. This leads to a vicious cycle that allows their addiction to continue within the relationship as the individuals are dependent on both substances and each other. Some signs of codependency are:
- Denial that may include minimizing feelings, expressing feelings passively, and not accepting help from others
- Low self-esteem that can result in an inability to make decisions, a need to be right all the time, and not believing they are lovable
- Taking responsibility for your partner or making excuses for their behaviour
- Controlling behavior, such as manipulating outcomes, offering advice to get people to do what you want, or pretending to agree to get what you want
- Poor boundaries
- Avoidance, such as withholding affection, judging others, or avoiding vulnerability
Codependency is present in most couples with addiction, so being able to identify the signs is the first step to addressing a multitude of unhealthy behaviors.
Couples Rehab: Is it a Good Idea?
Many treatment centers offer a couple’s option for those who have a strong relationship and are both equally committed to recovery. Motivation is a huge factor in the success of couples rehab. If you and your partner have a strong relationship and both have a desire to get sober, attending treatment together can be very helpful. Going to treatment together can reinforce the strength of your relationship in helping you both grow and get sober.
So, what should you expect from couples therapy? Prior to starting therapy, it can be helpful to make an inventory of what you feel should be addressed. You don’t want to end up wasting time talking about issues that are not pressing. It is also important to prepare yourself for exhaustion. Do not expect therapy to be easy. You’ll most likely have to have some uncomfortable conversations and do work outside of the sessions that can be emotionally taxing. It is important to persevere through the discomfort so you and your partner can start to acknowledge and deal with the underlying factors that are motivating your addictions.
A common approach of couples therapy is Behavioral Couples Therapy (BCT). This approach focuses on not only the addiction but the relationship issues that operate alongside it. BCT has three main goals it aims to accomplish:
- Eliminating substance abuse
- Engaging the family to help support the couple’s effort to change
- Restructuring the couple’s dynamic to sustain long-term sobriety
BCT involves different forms of interventions, such as conflict resolution, skills training, and behavioral assignments that are meant to best equip you to stay sober and build a healthier relationship. If both partners are committed, some advantages of couples treatment are:
- Reduced risk of relapse
- Reduction in domestic violence
- Increased happiness in the relationship
- Improvement in family functioning, such as better communication
There are many potential risks involved in couples treatment as well. In order for couples treatment to be successful, each partner must be committed. If one partner is much more committed than the other, it can negatively affect the success of both individuals. Furthermore, if the couple is engaging in physical violence, attending domestic violence treatment should be the first step. Some other risks to consider when deciding to attend treatment as a couple are:
- Treatment is an individualized process: relationships can cause more harm than good in recovery. The possibility of break up is always a risk of relapse, so going into treatment alone helps minimize that risk. Moreover, addiction is motivated by different factors for each person, whether they be physical or mental. This means an individualized approach may be more effective in addressing underlying issues and best equip the individual for long-term sobriety.
- Unhealthy or codependent: One partner may not be fully engaged in treatment and may be focused too much on their partner’s recovery. It can be difficult to get codependent couples to focus on healing themselves and to stop trying to heal the other person.
If you and your partner are not on the same page in terms of recovery, you can seek treatment individually. Some forms of treatment that can help you while showing your partner the advantageous nature of treatment are individual counseling, group counseling, self-help groups (such as AA), and more.
Aftercare: Maintaining the Relationship and Your Sobriety
It’s important to remember that after treatment, your journey does not end. It can be easy to slip back into unhealthy patterns within a relationship and allow the cycle of addiction to resume. Be sure to continue attending therapy, meetings, and communicating with your partner. Returning to codependent behavior will only increase your chance of relapse and strain within the relationship.
Getting and Staying Sober with NuView Treatment Center
If you and your partner are struggling to maintain a healthy relationship due to struggles with addiction, NuView Treatment Center may be able to help. NuView, which is based in West Los Angeles, offers outpatient addiction treatment that is designed to give clients the tools they need to recover. The evidence-based treatment programs available at NuView can help clients address the underlying issues, such as mental health disorders and interpersonal problems, that are motivating their addiction. NuView’s highly trained staff can help you and your partner address your addiction and begin to build a healthier and happier relationship.