Deciding whether to end a relationship is a big decision. In fact, its one of the things I see people struggle with the most as a therapist.
For a codependent, the decision to leave an addicted partner is especially hard.
Youve tried and tried, but things dont ever seem to get better (or at least not for long).
Youre low on self-esteem.
Youve devoted mountains of time to taking care of and trying to fix your partner.
However, despite the conflicts and disconnection, you love and care about your partner.
You wonder what will happen to your partner if youre not around to help.
And what will you do without someone to take care of?
Leaving feels like a failure.
- Is yourrelationship abusive? Abuse isnt just about whether your partner beats the sh** out of you every time they get wasted. Its also the occasional shove or grabbing your arm. Its forcing you to have sex or perform particular sexual acts when you dont want to. Its telling you youre worthless or youll be alone forever if you leave. Its threats to harm you or your kids. Its blaming you and making you feel crazy.
- What will happen if things continue on their current trajectory? I know you cant predict the future, so the past is our best gauge for whats to come. Have things gotten worse over time? Does your partner use more frequently or larger quantities? Do new problems continue to stack up?
- How is this relationship affecting your kids? Are your kids really better off with you staying together? Perhaps their standard of living is higher in a two-parent household, but dont fool yourself into believing your kids dont know whats going on. Kids are very aware of arguments, abuse, or Mom being too drunk to drive; even babies can sense tension and conflict.
- Is this an equal partnership? Marriage may not be 50-50 all the time, but it should even out to a reasonably equitable partnership over time. Are you carrying the bulk of the work and responsibility? Can you confide in your partner and feel supported? Are you appreciated and valued?
- Is your partner invested in change? Remember the old saying, Nothing changes if nothing changes? Well, thats the truth. Change takes sustained effort. Has your partner shown you that she is going to work at recovery day after day or does she repeatedly quit programs, relapse, and make excuses?
- What does it cost you to stay? Is staying eroding your self-esteem, your mental health, your physical health, your sense of peace and well-being? What else are you giving up in this relationship your friends, goals, career advancement?
- How long are you willing to wait? Change is hard and scary. Its always easier to do the same thing rather than change even when you know the current situation is toxic. Theres a strong desire to hang in there thinking your partner will eventually change. You cant rely on empty promises to change, you need hard cold facts. The truth is that even if theres no evidence of change right now, your partner may eventually find long-term sobriety and recovery, but how long are you willing to wait? Six months? A year? Five years? 10 years? This is your life, too. What else are you missing out on while youre waiting for your partner to change? Youve put your life on pause. You deserve to live a fulfilling life with a partner that meets your needs.
- Is your life unmanageable? Instead of waiting for your partner to hit bottom, consider whether youve hit your bottom. Do you want to live like this anymore? Are you sick and tired of being sick and tired?
Answering these questions will only be helpful if you can take an honest look at yourself and your partner. The sneaky thing about denial is that you dont even know its there. Sometimes you need someone outside the situation to give you unbiased feedback.
Its time to seriously consider leaving if your addicted partner:
- Hurts you physically, emotionally, mentally, or sexually.
- Puts you down; calls you derogatory names.
- Doesnt take responsibility for mistakes; blames you for everything.
- Apologizes, but continues to hurt you in the same way.
- Refuses to go to therapy or treatment.
- Denies problems.
- Tells you that youre crazy.
- Lies, cheats, steals, or other dishonest and unethical behavior.
- Controls where you go, who you see, what you wear, or your access to money.
Im actually not suggesting that everyone should leave their addicted partner. There are also times when a couple can recover from addiction and codependency together. I believe that in order for this to be possible, two primary things need to happen:
- Both you and your partner must be committed to recovery and participateregularly in recovery activities (in-patient or out-patient substance abuse treatment, psychotherapy, group counseling, 12-step or other self-help groups).
- Abusive behavior ceases completely. I can never advocate that you stay in a relationship where youre being hurt physically, sexually, or emotionally. You deserve better.
I know from my personal and professional experience that relationships can survive addiction and become healthy. But I also know that codependents often stick around long after change is likely. Please remember that you didnt cause your loved ones addiction and you cant fix it. Its not about whether she loves you enough to quit or about what you did wrong or what else you can try. Sometimes you need to save yourself before you go down with the sinking ship.
When I was at this crossroads, going to therapy was a lifesaver that re-centered me and helped me find acceptance. I cant possibly know what you should do in your particular situation. If anything in this article spoke to you, I strongly suggest you get some support as you wrestle with these questions and try to see your life realistically.
2016 Sharon Martin. All rights reserved.
You can also stay in touch byjoining myFacebook pageand newsletter full of tips and articles on self-acceptance, healthy relationships, and happiness.
Photo by: Gideon/ Flickr