When your partner has an addiction, it affects your life, too. Whether you’re still enjoying the bliss of your wedding day or have been together for years. You care about them enough to stay by their side, even while they’re facing the challenge of recovery. What you don’t need is to help them continue in their addictive ways.
What Is Enabling Behavior?
Enabling is anything you do that makes it easier for an addict to stay addicted. More specifically, when your partner is addicted, your enabling behavior might include:
- Blaming someone else for your partner’s using behavior.
- Lying to others to keep them from knowing about your partner’s addiction.
- Neglecting your own needs to take care of your partner’s needs.
- Hiding your feelings to keep your partner from being so upset they have a relapse.
- Protecting your partner from the consequences of their actions.
You can’t change your partner’s addiction. That’s something they have to do for themselves. You can make changes in your own behaviors that can give your partner support for quitting rather than using. Start by reminding yourself that you’re both adults. You’re each responsible for your own happiness and wellness. With that in mind, you can make the following changes, as well.
Let Them Handle the Consequences of Their Behavior
By shielding your addictive partner from dealing with the problems they cause themselves, you deny them the opportunity to learn from their mistakes. You enable them to act like a child rather than a responsible adult.
When your partner has made a mess of their home or their life, leave it for them to clean up or resolve. By doing so, they gain self-respect. They can start seeing themselves as a capable, responsible adult. It’s the most caring thing you can do right now.
Take the Long View
Rather than focusing on the pain that’s going on in the moment, think about how your own choices will affect the long-range picture. Will enabling your partner give you a happier, more fulfilling relationship over time? Or, is it just a stopgap to get you past this one painful event?
If you look at the situation honestly, you’ll likely see that enabling behavior now will only lead to more addictive behavior from your partner in the future.
Do What You Plan to Do
One thing partners of addicts often deal with is a partner who cancels plans so they can engage in their addiction. When that happens, go ahead with your plans on your own or with a friend. Canceling your plans tells them their addiction is more important than your happiness. Is that the message you want to send?
Talk to a Therapist
Talking to a therapist can help you choose better thoughts and behaviors that actually encourage your partner to stay in recovery. Giving them excuses and opportunities to engage in their addiction doesn’t help them at all. It doesn’t help you, either.
What you may not realize is that, as you’re going through the mental and emotional gymnastics needed to allow your partner to stay in addiction, the relationship is getting more and more unhealthy. You can have a healthy relationship, but only if you learn how to avoid enabling them in their addiction.
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Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health-related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.