An addiction shared, is not a problem halved
Coping with an addition is often quite a struggle. Addictions can also weigh on relationships and pose a considerable challenge for the other partner too. Relational therapist Rika Ponnet is fully aware of this. She says an addition can even cast a nasty shadow on your love and sex life! Addictions can weigh on relationships just as much as an adulterous affair. Rika says “This may sound rather extreme, but without help from outside you simply won’t sort it!”
Peter recently contacted Rika seeking help in connection with his wife’s marihuana addiction. He’s at his wits end. He told Rika his wife smokes marihuana every day and there is no intimacy left in their relationship. “My therapist told me that addicts are masters in manipulation and that without making any reproaches I should clearly set boundaries. That helped for a while, when we were away on holiday with the kids, but back at home she’s smoking every day”.
Addiction is no stranger for Rika: “In one in three couples that I see at my practice one of the partners is facing addiction. Often, it’s alcohol: the addiction is not dissimilar to three people being in the marriage. All relationships are turned on their heads. This makes addiction as disturbing as a lover or mistress”.
“Life with an addict as a partner is extremely difficult. Intimacy is undermined. Intimacy is more than a physical presence or sex. It’s about being together and is generated by sharing good times and bad.
“By discussing everyday stress intimacy with your partner is strengthened. You experience your partner as the first stress regulator at hand and that is of immense value in a permanent relationship”.
”Peter can’t offload any of his own worries when his partner is high. At the same time she doesn’t seek him out for support. She has a different means of regulating stress. It makes him feel unneeded”.
Rika has very clear views on addition: “Peter can’t end his partner’s addiction. That’s something she needs to sort for herself. An addiction is an illness, but all too often we fail to describe it like that. People who are heavily addicted won’t be able to sort their problem of their own accord. As long as they don’t accept, they are addicted, they won’t be able to solve the addiction”.
“It’s important Peter continues to set limits. This is also a story about his life. If there are no indications, she is willing to do something about it I fear there will be no change. Addicts often promise to stop, but a promise won’t take you all that far. There needs to be absolute recognition of the problem. This may sound rather extreme, but without help from outside you simply won’t sort it!”