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An activity such as drinking alcohol or use of pornography can develop into an addiction when it becomes difficult to control the urge to engage in it despite unhelpful and unwanted  consequences for an individual and their relationships. People usually develop an addiction as a way of helping them to avoid or cope with difficult emotions or experiences. However, whilst the addictive activity may initially offer some relief from difficult emotions/experiences, it may become the only way of coping for that person.

Getting support

Addictions can develop in many different ways such as  alcohol, drugs, sex, eating, shopping, or gambling.

People who have developed an addiction may find it difficult to acknowledge their reliance on an activity that is having a harmful impact on them and their relationships.  

If you are concerned about becoming too reliant on something and want to explore this in a supportive and non-judgemental way you could:- 

If you think your partner may have or is developing an addiction trying to invite a non judgemental and supportive discussion about your concerns for them and the impact the addiction is having on you and your couple/family life may be a helpful first step towards addressing your concerns and getting support. There are some tips for having this conversation in my handout Communicating with your Partner

Addictions in relationships

Addictions can have a devastating impact on couple and family relationships often resulting in feelings of anger, resentment, shame, guilt, betrayal, and a breakdown in communication. If you are in a relationship where you think you or your partner may have an addiction it can feel that the addiction has taken control over you, your partner, and your relationship.

A partner with addictive behaviour seeking specialist individual professional support and counselling is usually a helpful first step towards addressing the impact of an addiction on a couple relationship. Once individual support is underway couples counselling can enable a couple to strengthen their relationship from the impact of addiction.

Addictions and couple counselling

I can provide a safe, supportive and non-judgemental space for a couple to be able to explore their difficulties and dilemmas around addiction in their relationship. It can be helpful to think of working as a team in fostering an addiction free relationship. 

If one partner has been able to acknowledge and get individual support for their addiction, couple counselling can also be helpful to enable both partners to:-

  • Explore and make sense of the range of emotions and experiences each of you have experienced in connection to the addiction
  • Clarify ways in which your relationship may be vulnerable to addiction becoming a coping strategy for the person with the addiction
  •  Strengthen the way you communicate as a couple so you  can develop more helpful ways of coping with conflict, difficult emotions and challenges