Addiction and Relationship Issues

Discover how addiction and relationship issues are connected and where to get treatment in this comprehensive article.

Table of Contents

Substance Abuse and Intimate Relationships

Substance abuse affects not only the individual but those around them as well, and at times it may lead to relationship issues. Addiction can change a person mentally and physically, severely straining relationships, especially intimate ones. Common behavioral and emotional side effects include lying, irritability, increased anger, depression, violence, and a lack of intimacy. As a result, maintaining affection and the bond that was once there with the addicted partner becomes difficult and problematic, leading to potential relationship issues.

When Drinking or Drug Use Can Cause Relationship Issues

Drug and alcohol abuse can damage relationships, as it causes a variety of unhealthy behaviors. These include:

  • Money problems
  • Abuse
  • Neglect of the partner or children
  • Failure to take care of chores and responsibilities
  • Staying out late
  • Cheating
  • Stealing
  • Increased arguments

Unfortunately, addiction is a common issue, meaning many relationships are faced with the harmful effects of this disorder. One study found that substance abuse occurred in 50% of relationships and was a major contributing factor in 36.7% of divorces.1

Can Two Drug Users Have a Healthy Relationship?

Relationship issues often arise and increase with substance abuse. Regardless of whether one or both partners struggle with addiction, a healthy relationship is a difficult feat when alcohol or drug use is involved. As mentioned above, there are many side effects caused by substance abuse that can lead to unhealthy relationships, and two individuals exhibiting some of these adverse behaviors toward each other will only result in more harm.

Needless to say, this does not mean a healthy relationship between two people with substance use disorders is impossible. However, it is more likely that the damaging effects of addiction will cause relationship issues.

Damage Associated With Addiction

There are several types of relationship issues that can cause damage. These will be detailed below.


Personal relationships require honesty and openness to be successful. As addiction is typically kept a secret, that honesty is severed, causing the addicted party to lead a secret life. 

Trust Issues

The secrecy created by addiction behavior in relationships leads to a lack of trust. Lying, stealing, staying out late, and suspicious behavior can further diminish trust in relationships.

Anger and Abuse

Drugs often produce and increase unfavorable emotions, including anger, irritability, depression, and anxiety. The addicted party may take these emotions out on their loved ones, potentially leading to incidents of mental and physical abuse. 


Codependency occurs when one partner becomes excessively reliant on their addicted partner for support and emotional needs. They go out of their way to aid this person, often enabling their addiction. Additionally, the person will help their partner hide their addiction, making excuses, maintaining secrecy, and avoiding seeking help. Codependency is unhealthy for everyone involved.

Ways Drug Users Typically Behave in Relationships

Addiction can cause a variety of relationship issues, and those struggling with drug use may exhibit a variety of behaviors.


Drugs often cause people to lose sight of their priorities—they don’t come through on their promises and let their everyday tasks and responsibilities fall by the wayside. The irresponsibility can make the other partner feel overwhelmed, disrespected, and irritated.


Depression is a common symptom of addiction, as the misuse of substances can gradually lead to the brain’s inability to produce “feel good” hormones, such as dopamine and serotonin. Depression can severely affect relationships, with one study indicating that it causes a lack of intimacy, communication, energy, motivation, and understanding, as well as isolation, dependence on the relationship, and uncertainty.2


Substance abuse can cause mood swings, including extreme feelings of anger, discontent, and sadness, which can cause people to be physically or mentally abusive toward their friends, family members, and significant others. For example, they may be violent to their children and partner or lash out with insults and derogatory comments.

Domestic abuse is a serious and, unfortunately, common issue, with one in four women and one in nine men experiencing severe domestic violence in the United States each year.3 If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic abuse, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1.800.799.7233 or visit their website at


Deception is another prevalent factor in substance abuse relationships. The addicted individual will deceive their loved ones by hiding and lying about their addiction, actions, spending, and whereabouts.


Being distant is typical addiction behavior in relationships. For instance, people with substance use disorders may keep to themselves to hide their behavior or feel isolated (due to depression, unwillingness to talk about their addiction, or fear of what their loved ones will think). According to a 2012 study, 55% of divorces were the result of growing apart, and 53% were the result of not being able to talk to each other.4

Treatment Options

Substance use disorder is a serious and potentially life-threatening mental health condition. Its damaging effects impact the addicted individual’s mind and body as well as their loved one’s well-being. Fortunately, there are treatment options for dealing with substance abuse that may bring about intimate relationship issues. These include:

Individual Therapy for the Addicted Individual

The addicted individual may undergo individual therapy in an inpatient or outpatient setting. Mental health professionals and medical facilities may use a variety of traditional and alternative methods to help treat the patient, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), motivational interviewing, and meditation. A dual diagnosis approach is often integrated to target addiction and its underlying cause simultaneously.

Individual Therapy for the Significant Other

The significant other of the patient may also require therapy. A medical professional will provide healthy coping mechanisms and guidance to help them heal, improve their relationship, and support their significant other through their recovery. 

Family/Couples Counseling Therapy for Both

Couples can work on repairing relationship issues after addiction through family or couples therapy. The specialist will have sessions with both partners or the entire family, providing a safe and healing environment to express emotions, improve communication, mend relationships, and move forward in the best way possible.

Support Group Meetings for Both Individuals

Couples may choose to attend support group meetings on their own or together. The following are examples of popular support groups available across the US:

  • Alcoholics Anonymous (AA): A support group for individuals with/recovering from alcohol addiction. AA meetings are free, offer open (anyone can attend) and closed (members only) meetings, and provide guidance, support, and resources to recover and maintain sobriety.
  • Narcotics Anonymous (NA): A support group similar to AA, focusing on drug addiction instead of alcoholism
  • Al-Anon: A support group for families of individuals with an addiction. Al-Anon focuses on how to cope with having a loved one with an addiction and support them throughout their recovery journey.

How Soledad House Can Help

If you are looking for a way to overcome addiction and relationship issues, look no further. Soledad House is a recovery facility for women with substance use disorder in sunny San Diego, CA. We offer a variety of holistic and evidence-based treatments, such as inpatient and outpatient programs, relapse prevention, and family therapy, to ensure each individual receives the best care that fits their needs. 

Our highly qualified, knowledgeable, and compassionate team is ready to help you improve all aspects of your life, from mental health to relationship issues. Contact Soledad House today and take the first steps to a better quality of life. We will help you get the fresh start you require.