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Lovers, Friends and Families

Self care
Telltale signs present in early Tina use
Someone we care about is a problem Tina user
Partners
          Using issues for partners
          Knowing when to separate
          Recovery issues for partners

Using issues for partners

The impacts of substance dependence on our life may be significantly more difficult and complex if it is our significant other that has a problem with Tina use. The impacts are greater still if our relationship includes any or all of the following: you live together, your finances are integrated, you have a long-term relationship, or you are married. In addition to the information, issues and helping strategies already provided in this section, we think it is important to provide additional support for guys whose primary partners have problem use or dependence with Tina.

This article offers insights and advice on how to support our partners, ourselves, and our relationships through this difficult period. It’s important to understand the basics of the drug our partner is using; why it’s different from other drugs, and how it affects the brain and body. If you haven’t already done so, now would be a good time to refer to the PRIMER section of this site.

While every relationship is unique, there are predictable patterns that emerge when substance abuse and dependence with Tina become part of a primary relationship dynamic. Knowing the terrain and what to expect can help you navigate. We have attempted to group issues around themes for organization. These elements are interrelated and you may not experience them sequentially. If anything, guys find that they move back and forth and in and out of these experiences. This is all the more reason to pay attention to what we are feeling and to get help to sort through the confusion.

Denial

It’s common that we will join with our partners in explaining or justifying their use to ourselves and others. We give our partners the benefit of the doubt because we love them and the reality is often that there is another reason besides using for being late, breaking a promise, missing work, etc. That other reason may be the primary reason and getting or recovering from being high might be secondary. It’s important to note when this changes because this indicates a shift in his priorities.

At first, we will not always know when our partner using. This does not mean that we’re stupid. It probably means that our partner is doing everything he can to hide it. Under reporting and under representing use is common. Pay attention when we minimize his use more frequently, especially outside the relationship.

Another red flag is when we begin to notice a sense of accumulating frustration, disappointment and general sense of not being respected. So check in. How do we really feel about his use and its effects on us and the relationship? What is okay with us and what is not okay? These questions can provide us with a way to ground ourselves in reality and to break out of the denial.

Doubt and Distrust

Our response to our growing emotional discontent will eventually lead us to confront our partner about his use. It’s generally better doing this earlier rather than later because to do otherwise allows him to continue with the fantasy that we are okay with it. It’s generally better to plan what we need to say rather than exploding in a fit of anger because then we establish to the best of our ability a presentation that reports on how we feel rather blaming or attacking. We recommend reviewing the ‘Tips for Talking’ article before you do cross this line.

This is a necessary step for us to begin to come out of our denial and reduce our enabling of him. Despite our best efforts, it may not go well. Our partners are likely to be defensive and will tend to see us as the bad guy. We may take on roles of being the parent, or seen as the policeman. Regardless, we have the right and responsibility to express how his using affects us.

This dynamic is likely to be repeated and strengthened over time. His words and actions may not match up and the gap between them may grow. You doubt his sincerity and his ability to control his use. At the same time, you want to believe him. The more you have invested in the relationship the stronger your faith may be. You accept his apologies and you forgive him. Again and again.

Your frustration and disappointment can develop into anger. You may continue to try and protect the relationship by hiding the problem from others even as you don’t believe it for yourself. Denial and doubt consume energy and we become fatigued. Resentment and distrust emerge and become stronger.

It becomes harder and harder for us to pretend that everything is okay. We cross another line when we disclose to someone that it isn’t. This is another important step in breaking down the wall of denial and practicing self-care. At this point we probably have a stronger need to talk about our experiences and release pent up feelings than we know. There are a number of interventions you can make right now. Consider posting to the FORUM, get advice from our PANEL, or investigate the SUPPORT resources available in Toronto.

Roller Coaster

It’s common to feel like we’re on a roller coaster of emotions. Life can seemingly return to ‘normal’ and then all of a sudden a conflict emerges from nowhere, another plan to do something together is scuttled, money seems to be missing again, he comes home late and lies about why, or perhaps even disappears on a binge and we don’t know where he is, or if he is ok. The apologies may continue, but we believe them less and less. The gap between words and actions grows. The drama increases in frequency and eventually becomes the new ‘normal.’ We may be engaged in an ongoing role of crisis management. Eventually, we may feel unable to control the practical chaos of our own household. We are likely to feel overwhelmed. We may become exhausted. At this point we definitely need help and it is advisable to get it.

Sex and Intimacy

Sexual expression is a component of many, though not all, gay and bi men’s experience with Tina. Tina can be a powerful aphrodisiac. The differences in interest and libido between you and your partner may become large and unmanageable through this process of coping with his use. You may feel as if you are in a non-consensual three way with Tina, or that your partner has a mistress on the side and that sometimes she is getting more of his time and energy than we are!

Trust is a foundation of intimacy in any long-term committed relationship and it is often violated when dependence becomes part of the relationship. Sex and intimacy can become things we avoid, withhold, use as emotional leverage, or simply do not feel like engaging in. Significant and even irreparable damage can result from the consequences of sexual and intimacy challenges. Infidelities and STIs can be introduced into the relationship by either party. It is advisable that you protect ourselves and make choices based on your long-term best interests.

 

 
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