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Addicts in Relationships – Everything You Need to Know

Addicts in Relationships – Everything You Need to Know
Written by Seth Fletcher on December 11, 2019
Medical editor Dr. Jonathan Siegel
Last update: February 26, 2024

Addiction can affect every aspect of a person’s life, including relationships. An addict’s top priority is to satisfy their cravings at any cost. This self-centred focus leads to impaired relationships with others. A person who was once kind and loving may begin to act in unrecognizable ways. They may engage in risky or illegal behavior that has devasting consequences for their partner and friends, and other family members. 

All of an addict’s relationships (with friends, family, and romantic partners) can be adversely affected by addiction. Fortunately, addicts who agree to get help can repair their broken relationships and form new healthier ones. Learn how to deal with an addict in a relationship with our guide. 

Key Takeaways

  • Addiction affects every aspect of a person’s life, including their relationships.
  • Typical addict behavior makes having a relationship with an addict exhausting.
  • It’s impossible to have a healthy relationship with an addict unless they are willing and committed to getting help. This is because of the addict’s extreme self-centred behaviour.
  • The best way to help an addict in a relationship is to encourage and motivate them to get professional help. 

How Addiction Affects Relationships

Addiction usually starts as a one-time substance use or act that gets out of control. Living with an alcoholic spouse or having a healthy relationship with an addict is almost impossible due to their compulsive need to satisfy their cravings. 

There are different scenarios to consider when trying to understand addictions and relationships. One scenario would be if an individual were already in a relationship before they became addicted and how the situation would change the relationship. Another would be if the person were already an addict before entering the relationship, while a third would be a situation where both partners were addicts.  

A person in a working relationship before an addiction may gradually start to act in ways not consistent with their character. They may become evasive and lie when questioned about their behavior. Addicts will often deceive and manipulate their partners in order to maintain their addiction.  , Addicts become less sensitive to their own conscience;  as a result, they will be less inhibited about cheating or lying.  This destroys relationships.  

Addicts in relationships may also become verbally, physically, and emotionally abusive to their partners. A person in a relationship with an addict may try to stay, thinking that they can fix or change their partner. However, this ends in frustration more often than not. This is because we cannot change others, even though some people live their lives as if they could. While it’s possible to encourage an addicted partner to get help, not every addict will be willing to seek help unless they hit rock bottom. And addicts have different bottoms. The inevitable consequences of untreated addiction may be jails or institutions, or death.  If your partner has fallen into addiction, you must prioritize your mental and physical well-being. Sometimes, a partner may have no choice but to end the relationship when certain boundaries are violated. 

Individuals in addiction recovery may also want to start a relationship. Therapists often advise recovering addicts to stay away from relationships in the first year of recovery. This is to help them discover their new selves and define what they want out of a relationship. A recovering addict may see a new relationship as a coping mechanism, using infatuation to replace the high they once derived from their addiction. The demands of a new relationship can also be emotionally draining and hinder progress toward recovery.

In a relationship where both partners are addicts, they are likely to enable each other by reinforcing the negative behaviors that fuel their addiction. Such a relationship is unlikely to be healthy or functional. Both partners will probably need someone outside the relationship to intervene or motivate them to seek help. If you are an addict in a relationship with another, it’s better to concentrate on your recovery and break all codependency ties that enabled your addiction. It’s important to help an addicted partner without enabling their behavior. If you are in a relationship with an addict, the best thing you can do for them is to help them get professional help.  

Are you or your partner struggling with an addiction? Call 1-855-499-9446 now and get the help you or your loved one needs, or request a call, and we will take care of the rest.

Can You Have a Healthy Relationship with an Addict?

Humans are social creatures, and we naturally desire healthy relationships with others. A healthy relationship is characterized by respect for another person’s well-being and proper boundaries of conduct.  Maintaining relationships with an addict can be challenging, especially without professional intervention. 

Addiction affects those close to the addict in different ways. Family members may blame themselves for the addict’s behavior and may enable them by giving them money or bailing them out of jail, hoping that they’ll change. In most cases, this only perpetuates the addiction cycle, making it difficult to break free. Other family members and friends may feel shame at the addict’s actions and may want to distance themselves or protect themselves from their potentially violent behavior.

People in a romantic relationship with an addict may cling to memories of who the person was before they became addicted. They may try to rationalize the behavior in the hope that things can return to the way they were. However, addiction is a disease. It is a disease of the mind, body and soul. Only professional medical intervention can help an addict. Partners of addicts must understand that the addict is no longer the same person and will not often respond to reason and logic. 

Addicts will tell lies to conceal their behavior, eventually leading to trust issues and further straining their relationship. Addicts may also be abusive to their partners, and some cases may be life-threatening. 

Ultimately, it’s impossible to have a healthy relationship with an addict, especially if they are unwilling to get help. Addiction is also likely to destroy previously existing healthy relationships. Addicts must address the primary problem – addiction – before trying to mend damaged relationships or form new ones. 

Typical Addict Behavior in Relationships

An addiction can destroy relationships beyond repair, and the sober partner may not realize it until it is too late. If you detect the following warning behaviors early, you may be able to help your partner get help on time and salvage your relationship.


Addicts tend to hide their habits for as long as possible due to feelings of shame and guilt. Addiction still carries a social stigma, and the fear of judgment leads to secretive behavior. An addict will lie about their whereabouts and what they’ve been up to throughout the day. They will neglect their relationships and spend time with people who share their addiction. 

If you have an addicted partner, you may notice that they are distant and tend to be evasive. An addict’s secrecy will eventually isolate them from those who care about them, straining their relationships till it’s eventually ruined. 

Differences between Fact and Fiction

When an addicted partner lies habitually about their activities, it’s only a matter of time before the sober partner discovers that the reality is different from what they are being told. This situation will inevitably lead to trust issues which strain the relationship. Healthy relationships will not thrive without trust, and continued dishonesty will breed other problems like anger, resentment, and possibly violence.

Anger and Violence

When secrecy and dishonesty continue for a prolonged period, it can lead to anger and frustration. Violence can also result, especially if the addict uses substances that can fuel aggression. It’s crucial to extricate yourself from the situation if your partner’s addiction makes your relationship unsafe. 

Enabling Addiction

The sober partner in a relationship may unwittingly enable their partner’s addiction. You are enabling addiction when you support an addict in the hope that they will change. A partner might make excuses for their addicted partner or do things to minimize the consequences of their addiction. They will bail them out of jail if they are arrested or give them money which gets diverted to their addiction. 

Partners of addicts must realize that addiction is a disease that only medical intervention can handle successfully. Enabling an addict will only worsen and prolong the cycle of addiction. You may need to draw a line on how much help you offer an addict to get them to see the need for lasting change. 


Co-dependency occurs in a relationship where both partners are dysfunctionally reliant on each other. It is also known as relationship addiction, as one partner believes they have to save the other, even to their detriment. A codependent partner will enable the addict and make excuses for them due to an overwhelming need to take care of the person. They will do everything to shield them from the effects of their addiction. 

However, a co-dependent relationship can become unhealthy for both parties. The caregiver may start to feel anger and resentment at having to care for their partner’s needs at their own expense. They may feel a loss of self-worth if the relationship fails since their identity was significantly tied to caring for their partner. The addict may become more dependent on their partner’s care and enablement, making them less likely to seek help. 

Can Treatment Help Your Relationship

The best to help a relationship affected by addiction is by helping the addict to get help. There are several treatment options for addicts and others affected by their addiction. Addicts may go for therapy and counseling alone or in the company of their partner. There are also physical and online support groups for partners of addicts. Partners get the chance to connect and share their experiences with others going through the same thing. 

What Can Happen To Your Relationship during Treatment

A relationship will deteriorate further if there are no steps to address underlying problems when one partner is undergoing addiction treatment. The couple may discover other issues even after the addicted partner is recovering from treatment. Overcoming addiction will not solve relationship issues, and unaddressed issues can trigger relapse. An improved relationship can be one of the ingredients for lasting addiction recovery. Unfortunately, some relationships do not survive addiction, and it sometimes is in the best interest of the partners to let go. 

Dealing with Addiction and Relationships in Recovery

Having healthy relationships is critical for people in addiction recovery. Recovering addicts are vulnerable and need all the help they can get to heal completely. Doctors usually advise them to refrain from starting relationships as they can become a distraction to the recovery process. The excitement of a new relationship can also become a harmful replacement for the addiction.   

The recovery period is a good time for partners to work on past issues in the relationship. Both partners must honestly discuss the issues in their relationships and find solutions to existing problems. They may need to identify the root of their problems and agree on ways to address them.

For recovering addicts who want to enter new relationships, it’s best to take things slow and steady, so you don’t lose sight of the main goal – addiction recovery. Remember that a healthy, functional relationship is only possible if you are addiction-free.

Your recovery period may also be the time to start rebuilding relationships with loved ones and friends impacted by the addiction. You may want to reach out to those who stood by you and believed you could come out of addiction. These people will likely respect your new boundaries and help you achieve your sobriety goals. It’s also crucial to permanently sever ties with people who may offer you drugs or alcohol or do anything that can jeopardize your commitment to staying addiction-free. 

How to Get Help for Your Loved One’s Addiction

The best thing you can do for a loved one or anybody who has an addiction is to help them seek help. Getting an addicted partner to see the need for sober living may not always be easy, especially if they become defensive or aggressive whenever the subject arises. Don’t bring up the issue when they are high or when you are angry. Be supportive and non-judgmental whenever you raise the issue, and calmly explain your concerns without excusing their behavior.

It helps to already have treatment options ready if they’re willing to get help. Treatment options for addiction depend on the substance abused and the severity of the condition. They include:

  • Individual or group therapy
  • Family or couples counseling 
  • Rehabilitation
  • Medications
  • Support group meetings

The Canadian Center for Addiction can help if your significant other is battling an addiction. Our counselors, psychiatrists, and mental health professionals help people battling an addiction to understand their addictions and equip them with healthier coping strategies via one-on-one meetings. 


It’s bad enough to be in an unhealthy relationship and even worse to be in one with an addict. You may not be able to stop your partner from becoming hooked on a habit, but you can help them by spotting addict behavior on time and motivating them to get help. You may feel angry and frustrated at the strain of having an addicted partner, but it helps to remember that addiction is a disease and not necessarily a choice.

The good news is that you don’t have to go through it alone. Our experts at Canadian Centre For Addictions can help you speak with your partner about achieving lasting sobriety. Call 1-855-499-9446 today or request a call.

Frequently Asked Question

How do addicts behave in a relationship?

Addicts in a relationship may stop spending time with their partner and would rather stay with people who share in their behavior. They will lie about their activities and may become aggressive when confronted. An addict may also act recklessly and selfishly if it helps to feed their addiction.

What’s it like being in love with an addict?

Being in love with an addict can be an exhausting experience that takes a toll on your well-being. It’s like competing with a substance or activity for your partner’s attention and love. Watching a person you care about deteriorate due to addiction can leave you angry and in despair. You may also experience feelings of guilt and self-blame or feel like you need to take responsibility for their behavior and recovery. 

Can you have a successful relationship with a recovering addict?

You can have a successful relationship with a recovering addict if they are committed and willing to put in the effort required for complete recovery. A recovering addict is vulnerable and will likely still be dealing with cravings and unstable emotions. They may also be trying to replace their addiction with love. A successful relationship is possible if both partners are willing to make adjustments and compromises required to make the relationship work. 

Can a relationship with an addict be saved?

A relationship with an addict can be saved if both partners are willing to work at it. Being in a relationship with someone who becomes addicted can lead to a breach of trust and confidence. Compromised trust is difficult to restore but not impossible. The addict must show a willingness to change by coming clean and taking concrete steps to regain their partner’s trust. The sober partner must also be willing to make sacrifices to save the relationship. 

How long does it take for a person to overcome their addiction?

How long it takes a person to overcome an addiction depends on several factors:
- Genetic factors and their environment
- The length and severity of their addiction
- The physical, social, and emotional rewards derived from using substances or engaging in the addictive activity.
- The thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that fuel the addiction
- Their motivation and commitment to change
However, most people will be able to overcome addiction in 90 days with the right level of care and commitment to their sobriety. 

Certified Addiction Counsellor

Seth brings many years of professional experience working the front lines of addiction in both the government and privatized sectors.


Dr. Jonathan Siegel earned his doctoral degree in counselling psychology from the University of Toronto in 1986. He is a registered psychologist in private practice and has 30 years of experience conducting both assessments and counselling with a diverse group of individuals presenting with a broad range of psychological adjustment difficulties, such as depression, anxiety, and addictions.

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