Medically Reviewed By:
Dr. Patricia Sullivan MD MPH on 8/16/2021
My Significant Other Won’t Start Recovery With Me
Recovery is the ground that you build yourself up from after you’ve torn yourself down. It goes far beyond getting clean and sober—it’s a rebirth, letting go of patterns and behaviors that no longer serve you and finding new tools to help you cope with the many ups and downs of life.
So, what happens when your partner isn’t willing to leap recovery with you? Is it possible to sustain a healthy relationship with someone who is using drugs or alcohol? If they have the intention to join you but continue to relapse, how much time do you allow them before cutting ties?
You are here because these questions have been circling through your mind. Perhaps you’ve been keeping your partner use secret and living in fear of the judgment you may receive from friends and family. Maybe you came here on your own in search of another way.
“Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we’ll ever do.”
- Why Are You Staying?
- Get Out of The Drama Triangle
- Accept That You Can’t Save Your Partner
- Stop Putting Your Recovery at Risk
- Protect Yourself Against Relapse
- Set Boundaries and Do It Now
- Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help
Identify Why You’re Staying
The first step and the keystone to this journey are identifying why you’re staying. Start by asking yourself, “Why am I choosing to stay in this relationship?” and then write down at least three responses.
Love is more than likely a top contender. They’re a good person that has lost their way is another common reason. They couldn’t survive without you, or you would have concerns for their wellbeing if you left. Maybe you have children with your partner and are not ready to throw in the towel. These are all good and valid reasons to stay, but more often than not, these are surface reasons, and something more dysfunctional hides underneath. When addiction is present, co-dependency is not far behind, and it’s important to consider the influence it may have on your relationship.
People with co-dependency form and maintain relationships that are emotionally destructive and abusive. They choose partners that will never truly meet their needs and often fall in love with a person’s potential hoping that true love will inspire them to live up to your expectations.
It’s common for one partner in a co-dependent relationship to be more dominant and demanding and the other to be submissive and always seeking to please their partner to avoid conflict. Generally, the submissive partner will tend to feel like they’re not enough and can never live up to the needs of their demanding partner.
In many people’s experiences, becoming aware of the co-dependent cycle of the Drama Triangle is a real game-changer. It’s the concept of changing roles throughout the conflict to perpetuate a negative self-image and thus keep the cycle of mental and emotional abuse.
Can Two Addicts Ever Have a Healthy Relationship?
Two addicts in a relationship can be healthy if they seek treatment of their own free will and accord. Situations like this do happen, and you hear about relationship success stories where couples come together and defeat the odds. However, the truth is that these relationships are not always common.
There are many different scenarios when it comes to addiction and relationships. It’s no surprise that when both people are in active addiction, they negatively affect and enable each other. Two people in active addiction can not have a healthy relationship because of the addiction.
Having a scenario where your relationship is uneven is also not a good thing. If you are on the verge of seeking treatment, but your significant other refuses to do so, you must choose treatment. It’s like choosing life or death. Once you’re successful in your recovery, you must keep a distance from your significant other unless they demonstrate an undeniable change and stop using.
Get Out of The Drama Triangle
The drama triangle is a dynamic model of social interaction and conflict developed by Dr. Karpman when he was a student of Eric Berne, M.D., father of transactional analysis. Karpman and other clinicians point out that “victim, rescuer, and persecutor” refer to roles people unconsciously play or try to manipulate other people to play, not the actual circumstances in someone’s life. The three roles of the drama triangle are archetypal and easily recognizable in their extreme versions.
Learn more about the drama triangle here in this great illustration video:
Victims utilize the classic “woe-is-me” attitude, taking no responsibility for their choices and feeling hopeless, sad, and ashamed. A victim’s role seeks out someone who will rescue them, a savior to all their problems, and someone they can resent if their chosen rescuer fails or refuses to relieve them of whatever circumstance they feel oppressed y. Victims also have difficulty making decisions and understanding their self-perpetuating behaviors.
Rescuers like to be helpful—they consider their self-worth directly related to how valuable they make themselves to others through saving. The rescuer puts their needs to the side to help others. They need victims to help and often use guilt to keep their victims dependent on them. Rescuers are frequently overworked and deeply resentful at times.
Persecutors point fingers, often using sayings such as, “Look what you made me do!” or “It’s all your fault!” They are bullies and often use their shortcomings as ammunition to assert their status above the victim. They are rarely vulnerable and are deeply afraid of being victimized; they rarely offer a solution and blame and resentment to manipulate others.
Accepting that You Can’t Save Your Partner
Your emotions are going to be strong in a situation like this, and that’s understandable. Perhaps your significant other has led you to believe that they will change, only to disappoint constantly. You want your significant other to wake up and change their lives, but they keep choosing to continue on their destructive path.
The hardest part of being in this situation is realizing that there is nothing more you can do. If your loved one wanted treatment, they would be taking opportunities to do so.
With addiction, you must look at a person’s pattern of behavior instead of what they say. If they promise to do something and then follow through with it, they tell you that they are ready to change their actions. However, if they continue to let you down, such as making commitments to change and then being unreliable, and are stringing you along with the hope of better days, then it’s time to consider leaving.
Stop Putting Your Recovery at Risk
The truth is the more you choose to engage in a dysfunctional cycle, the more you put yourself at risk for relapse. In the early stages of recovery, you’re in a vulnerable position. Focusing on yourself and getting better should be your main goal.
As much as we love others, we cannot sacrifice ourselves to save them. Recovery is a path that each person must willingly take on their own. For many, recovery doesn’t happen until the consequences are leaving them in a dire situation. And unfortunately for some, recovery never happens. It’s the horrible reality of addiction.
You must make up your mind that your story will be different even if your significant other never successfully recovers.
Protecting Yourself Against Relapse
Here are a few tips and reminders to help you prevent relapse:
• Regularly attend a support group of your choosing
• Have a safe support figure, someone you can be completely honest with
• Identify your relapse triggers and be aware of them
• Take positive action when you are triggered
• Seek out professional counseling services
• Have an exit plan should you decide to leave the relationship
Set Boundaries and Do It Now
Setting clear boundaries in your relationship will be the difference between your partner making a positive change and enabling their addiction. Enabling is when you feel the negative consequences of their addiction. The more you do for them, the longer they will use.
Remove any ways that you support their addiction—don’t lie for them or otherwise cover up their behavior, and don’t allow them in your home if they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
An addicted individual will seek out help when they have reached their bottom. Offering financial bailouts, rides and allowing them to get away with using keeps your partner from reaching a point where they are ready to change.
Where to Turn to for Help
If you want to seek out drug and alcohol treatment for yourself, or if you want to ask about programs, we are here. Give us a call today at (888) 906-0952 for more details. We can give you a full and honest treatment consultation for free.
Remember, you must work on yourself before you help others. Recovery is possible and attainable, but you must reach out for help.
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