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Addiction and Relationships

Addiction and Relationships



It is often the interpersonal relationships of the addict which are the first victim of the addictive personality disorder. Certain circumstances of addictive behavior make the formation and maintenance of close interpersonal relationships difficult: The first concern with an addictive personality is how to maintain the addiction, and interpersonal concerns are at best secondary. Because addictions often demand large amounts of time in the addict’s life, this time cannot be devoted to the continuation of a closer interpersonal relationship. Because addictions often require significant outlays of money to continue, this draws money away from the mutual expenditures often expected in interpersonal relationships. Addictions may significantly affect the addict’s personal behavior when under the influence, so inappropriate behavior may create significant problems in the interpersonal relationship. Because addicts tend to be secretive about their addictive behavior, secretiveness about a significant portion of the addict’s life may create problems for the interpersonal partner.


These are just some of the most important ways in which addictions can adversely affect the addict’s interpersonal relationships. Other elements of addictive behavior may further inhibit and mitigate against long-term relationships with a significant other. Because many addictions require large amounts of money to continue, if the addict has access to the personal property of the partner, then the addict may casually adopt a habit of stealing personal property from the partner and selling it to get money to feed the addiction. This, needless to say, put great negative pressure on the relationship, causing the partner eventually to withdraw from the relationship out of anger, feelings of being used and abused, and a desire to protect their personal property.


Lying is another element of the addict’s behavior which mitigates against the establishment and continuation of close interpersonal relationships. Close interpersonal relationships are built on trust, but if the addict, after a period of time, demonstrates him or herself to be an untrustworthy person who habitually lies, this shakes the very basis of the development of the relationship. Further, habitual lying not only demonstrates behavior based on deceit, but, in some cases, it develops in the mind of the partner a belief that the addict has lost all contact with reality, not really knowing him or herself the difference between the truth and the habitual lines that they tell.


Yet another aspect of many addicts’ behavior which complicates and makes long-term interpersonal relationships virtually impossible to maintain is the fact that, in a number of possible ways, the addict often engages in illegal, criminal behavior. To begin with, it is likely that whatever the drug of choice is for the addict, it is probably not freely available to the addict in unlimited quantities. Thus, the addict may, for example, engage in the practice of “doctor shopping,” making appointments with many doctors from each of which they get prescriptions for the drugs they are addicted to. Further, through “doctor shopping,” they focus in on doctors that are more liberal in their prescribing behavior than others, to which they routinely return to get the prescriptions they want and need. This practice is illegal in many jurisdictions. Further, the drug of choice may obtained from illegal sources, drug sales on the street, for example, which are in themselves criminal in nature. Further, as noted above, the addict may steal not only from the interpersonal partner, but also be burglarizing homes or businesses and selling the stolen items to get drug money. The addict may also carry out street crime that is, holding up people on the streets. Therefore, there are many ways i which the addict can become a criminal, and interpersonal relationships between drug criminals and non-criminal partners often are very short because most people do not want to have a relationship with someone who is a criminal and can potentially be arrested at any time, sent to trial, and to jail or prison for a long or short period of time.


For all of these reasons, interpersonal relationships suffer when some form of addiction is involved.


Thus, there are many problems that can arise in interpersonal relationships for addicts and their partners. Close interpersonal relationships between addicts and non-addicts tend to be relatively unsatisfying, short, and even dangerous. It is for this reason that both addicts and their close interpersonal contacts should seek psychological counseling. The problems associated with addiction are complex, and the psychologist is skilled in unraveling them, and creating a treatment plan intended to eliminate the addiction while, at the same time, contributing to the development of closer and more meaningful interpersonal relationships.



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