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Marriage (or other long-term, committed relationships) and drug abuse don’t mix, as is well-known. Having a partner who abuses alcohol or drugs is similar to throwing a stone into a still body of water because the effects spread out and have an impact on everything nearby. Children, relatives, friends, and coworkers all experience the effects of a partner who abuses alcohol or drugs. However, many would contend that, besides the abuser, the abuser’s partner frequently pays the highest price. Couples with a drug or alcohol abuser are frequently very unhappy; in fact, these partners are frequently more unhappy than couples who don’t use drugs or alcohol but seek counseling for marital issues. As drinking or drug use worsens, it begins to take more and more time away from the relationship and eventually damages it by causing an emotional rift that is challenging to heal. These couples also confess to having frequent fights and arguments, which occasionally turn violent. The fights themselves frequently contribute to the environment or circumstance in which the partner with the drinking or drug problem turns to these substances to relieve stress. What we observe is a vicious cycle, in which substance use causes conflict, the conflict prompts more substance use as a way of reducing tension, the conflict about the substance use escalates, more drinking or drug use occurs, and so on. This happens when the substance use eventually becomes one of the primary causes of fighting or arguing. Unfortunately, we also know of tried-and-true methods to help these relationships and, in the process, help the substance abuser recover. Couples with a partner who abuses drugs or alcohol have a very difficult time getting out of this downward spiral.

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