A Description of Substance dominated Relationships

In substance dominated relationships, the consumption of drugs, alcohol, or other substances plays a central and often disruptive role in the partnership. Such relationships can be characterized by a pattern where either one or both partners excessively use substances to the point that it affects their ability to function healthily within the relationship. The substance use often overshadows other elements of the relationship, leading to neglect, decreased intimacy, and an inability to effectively communicate or resolve conflicts. This dynamic may also introduce or exacerbate financial strains, trust issues, and can lead to physical or emotional abuse.

Over time, the relationship becomes more about managing or navigating around the substance use rather than focusing on mutual growth, love, or connection. The priority given to the substance can undermine the foundation of trust and support, as the needs and desires of the relationship often play second fiddle to the demands or consequences of the substance use.

(This article is part of the series: Unhealthy Relationship Patterns: Categorizing the 21 types)

The Perspective of Partners

Substance-Using Partner:

  • Perception: May view their substance use as a coping mechanism, a source of relief, or even a personal choice that shouldn’t necessarily affect the relationship. They might underestimate the impact of their use on the relationship.
  • Emotions: Experiences a mix of desire or craving for the substance, potential guilt or defensiveness regarding their use, and possibly frustration or resentment if confronted about it.
  • Behaviors: Regularly consumes drugs, alcohol, or other substances, potentially neglecting responsibilities or commitments within the relationship. Might avoid or deflect conversations about their use.
  • Rationalizations: They might believe they have their substance use “under control” or see it as a personal issue separate from the relationship. They may also feel that their partner doesn’t understand or is overreacting.

Non-Using or Less-Using Partner:

  • Perception: Sees the substance use as a significant barrier or challenge in the relationship. They might feel that the substance has taken precedence over the relationship’s needs and their own well-being.
  • Emotions: Predominantly feels concern, frustration, or sadness regarding their partner’s substance use. They might also experience feelings of neglect, loneliness, or even resentment.
  • Behaviors: Might attempt to confront, support, or even enable their partner’s substance use. They could also find themselves compensating for their partner’s neglect or taking on additional responsibilities.
  • Rationalizations: They might hope or believe that their partner can change or that the situation is temporary. They may also feel trapped, thinking that leaving the relationship would be abandoning their partner in a time of need.