Is my partner’s problem abuse or addiction?
Sometimes women wonder if their partner’s problem is abuse or addiction. If you know your partner has an addiction, maybe you hope that if he gets clean and sober he will stop being so hurtful towards you. Unfortunately, women’s experiences have taught us that this is not likely the case.
It is painful to consider that abuse and addiction are two separate issues and that probably your partner does not have one problem but two: he is both abusive and addicted.
Here is how we have come to think about this issue. Women repeatedly report to us that even when their partners sober up, they continue to be abusive. The abuse might look a little different, but the woman will still feel dominated and controlled by her partner’s behaviour. Some women report that drugs or alcohol lower their partner’s inhibitions so they might be more physically abusive while they are under the influence but the abuse will persist whether their partner is using or not. Here is how one woman described her experience:
In the past when Nate was drinking, he would be very angry and loud when he was drunk. He would yell and throw things. Now that he is sober, he doesn’t do that anymore but he does other things that are really bad. He’s critical about everything I do and I think he’s started talking to the kids about me behind my back. I think he is trying to turn my kids against me. – Patty
Men who are abusive are abusive because of their beliefs about themselves and their partner. They believe they are entitled to a great many things. They always want things to go their way. This belief system is there whether they are using or not. So whether they are clean and sober or not, they are going to behave in abusive ways.
Your partner, very likely, has two problems. He is probably both addicted to a substance and he is abusive. He will need counseling, treatment and accountability for both of his problems. The first step would be for him to admit to both of these problems and take full responsibility for them.
This is probably very difficult for you to consider. It has maybe felt hopeful to think that all that needed to happen was for him to sober up. It can be quite devastating to realize that his problems are much bigger and more complex than this. Also, many women realize that their partner will never take responsibility for their actions and will not do the hard work that would be needed for real change.
If your partner is both abusive and an addict, it can be hard to figure out where there is hope. If your partner is not willing to look at his actions and their negative impacts honestly, how can you two have a future together? If your focus has been on hoping your relationship will get better, maybe you can start investing your hope in yourself more. Is there something positive you can do for yourself that might be a little step toward to a better life – regardless of what choices your partner makes? Can you reach out for some support? Can you take an advantage of an opportunity in your community? Your partner will likely be unhappy about you doing anything positive for yourself and, of course, you need to pay attention to your safety but it is brutally hard to live with someone who is both an addict and abusive. You deserve good things in your life.