Welcome to Relationship Rehab, news.com.au’s weekly column that solves all your romantic problems, no strings attached.
This week, our resident sexologist Isiah McKimmie explores how to support a loved one with an addiction.
Question: I think my partner has a gambling addiction and I don’t know what to do. He always had a beat in the races and went to the pubs, but he is little different from control.
He’s always on his phone on gaming apps and I recently found out he spent most of the $50,000 inheritance his grandfather left him. I tried to gently raise the subject with him, but it’s like talking to a child – he gets defensive and turns on me.
He lies about what he does and is no fun to be around. I loved him but I felt helpless. How to help someone with an addiction if they don’t want to help?
Answer: Supporting a family member or friend with an addiction is challenging, especially if they are in denial about the problem.
All forms of addiction have serious consequences for individuals, families and communities. I hope that your partner is able to reach out for support before the situation develops further.
See the addiction as the problem – not your partner
It can be so personal when someone you love has an addiction.
Their lies, distance, and hurtful behaviors can feel like a lack of love for you. They may even feel that they love the object of their addiction more than you do – and this is painful.
Your partner is not aware of choosing these behaviors or intentionally hurts you.
It can be helpful to see the addiction as the problem – instead of your partner. Addiction is a bit like a “third party” in the relationship – one that can, unfortunately, come between you. When you and your partner can take on the problem of addiction together, as a team, you have a better chance of overcoming it.
Of course, this depends on their willingness to deal with the problem with you.
Anger and denial are common reactions to being confronted
It is common for someone who suffers from addiction to react with anger or denial when confronted. Underneath anger and denial are usually feelings of fear and shame.
It can take time for someone to recognize and be willing to face their addiction. It is likely that you need to be persistent in discussing this issue.
What to do if you think your partner has an addiction
You won’t be able to support someone who doesn’t help themselves, but there are several things you can do to encourage your partner, or someone you love, to get help if you think they have an addiction.
• Don’t judge or blame
When discussing this with your partner, be careful not to appear to blame or judge. Avoid “you statements” and criticism. This is likely to make your partner close more.
• Share how you feel
When you share your concerns, aim to speak using “I” language. Share the things you notice and your emotions.
I’ve noticed you spend more time on apps lately.
I am worried about you now.
I care about you and I want to support you.
•Ask questions and listen
Aim to understand how your partner feels and what is going on for him as well. Your questions can feel supported when asked in the right way.
Want to talk about what’s going on?
How do you feel about your gambling?
Is there anything I can do to support you?
• Look at boundaries
Setting boundaries can help you move forward. Boundaries are not the same as demands or ultimatums. They communicate what you need, while still giving you your choice of partner.
It’s not okay for me to use apps while we spend time together.
You are welcome to spend your money on what you want, but I also need to take care of your responsibilities.
Beware of enablement and co-dependency
When a partner has an addiction, it is important to be supportive without allowing it. Your support can help recovery, but empowerment can keep you both stuck. Empowerment includes excuses, which allow them to remain in denial or neglect your needs.
Take steps to take care of yourself
Being in a relationship with someone with an addiction can take a toll on you. Make sure you continue to take care of yourself – emotionally and practically.
If you share any finances with your partner, take steps to protect yourself and your assets. You don’t want to be responsible for the implications of your partner’s addiction – especially if the relationship doesn’t last.
If you or your partner have contact addiction to the game Online game help.
Isiah McKimmie is a couples therapist, sexologist, sex therapist and teacher. To book a session with her, visit her website or follow her Instagram for more advice on relationships, sex and intimacy