Alcohol. Drugs. Gambling. Pornography. Technology. Some addicts may joke about their ‘vice’ but for the ones who love them, it’s far from funny. There’s no doubt that addiction in any of its forms can take a huge toll on relationships. While sex and technology addictions may grab headlines, the most common dependency issues impacting couples and families are substance abuse and gambling, says mental health researcher Professor Frances Quirk.
“For some people, within socially accepted norms, use can be something they can maintain all their lives, and it has little impact on them or anyone else. For others their use becomes more significant.”
If you’re trying to work out if your partner has an addiction, look for changes in their behaviour. They might not be coping well with things they used to cope with, or be neglecting themselves or other responsibilities, or being secretive and trying to hide the effects of their addiction.
You can also answer a simple online questionnaire to determine if someone you love has a problem. It typically includes questions about level of use, whether the person acknowledges their use and how they respond when it’s suggested they change or stop. There are simple addiction checklists at www.nams.sg or search for one online.
However, Quirk says, it is common for there to be an event or moment when neither of you can pretend any longer – which can put a relationship built on trust on very shaky ground. “It might be the person getting busted for driving under the influence. Or you may notice significant amounts of savings missing. When you have evidence, in black and white, that you can’t dismiss, it is quite hard for a relationship to recover from those sorts of prolonged deceptions,” says Quirk.