Marijuana or Relationship

We have recently counseled several couples where one partner was using pot. In each case, there was much pain and disconnection. In checking our archives, we realized that exactly ten years ago we wrote about the effect of marijuana on relationship. Most of the feedback we got from that article was very positive, with even a few couples letting us know the article saved their relationship. We also received some criticism and even outright anger from marijuana users who insist it has no effect on their relationship. Ten years later, it is still a controversial topic, pot use is just as widespread, and we have even more experience, and thus more to say.    

In our thirty years of relationship counseling we have seen some couples work through their difficulties and other couples go their separate ways. In many of the couples who don’t make it, substance abuse has been a problem. While this article could include all forms of addictive behavior, we have noticed that there is very little written or said about the effect of marijuana on relationship. In Risk To Be Healed, we wrote about the use of pot blocking a person’s individual life and growth. Now we would like to again focus more on how severely it cripples relationship. It is clear to us that a successful relationship requires both partners to be free of substance abuse. With pot we have seen that even once a week use on a Saturday night can block intimacy during the rest of the week.

  The very nature of intimacy (“into me see”) is being able to see into your partner and to allow your partner to see into you clearly. After working with hundreds of couples with this issue, we have seen that marijuana blocks a clear perception of all your feelings and of your partner’s needs in the relationship, while at the same time it gives a false sense of heightening these very qualities. This is why it is one of the most insidious and dangerous substances for relationship, as well as the most well-defended by its users. If you are using pot, you may feel that everything is fine in your relationship, or that the pot use is one of the things that is helping, rather than hindering, your connection with your partner. The “sacred herb,” as it is sometimes erroneously called, is on the contrary preventing you from feeling your own as well as your partner’s feelings, especially the “shadow” feelings of sadness and pain. If you use pot, even occasionally, you are running away from “unpleasant” feelings. True growth can only occur when you are willing to feel all your feelings, to sit with them, to learn from them, to follow them through to real healing and resolution.

  If you are the pot-free partner, you may find yourself feeling abandoned often without a clue, and often blaming yourself as the cause. Or pot becomes the “other” man or woman with whom your partner is having an affair. You may feel intense feelings of jealousy or rage and, because your partner has not been with another person, you judge yourself more severely for having these feelings. Even when you ask your partner to choose between you and pot, they assure you they are choosing you because they really believe they are. Yet their continued use of pot is evidence to the contrary. Your work in this type of relationship is to look deeply inside to see how you are not honoring yourself. Are you really loving yourself or do you not feel you deserve anything better?

  We have seen problems with substance abuse worked out in several ways. The best is when the couple realizes that the substance is blocking their intimate connection. They can then seek help either through counseling, recovery programs, or both. Pot users and their partners might find the following website extremely helpful: www.marijuana-anonymous.org. The challenge can be handled by both partners within the context of the relationship, each looking deeply at their own contribution to the problem, rather than blaming the other partner.

  If the marijuana user remains in denial about his or her problem, then the only alternative is for the pot-free partner to leave. This allows the user to more clearly face their relationship with pot, to decide if this really has been their relationship of choice. Being left often shocks a user into reality. Is my pot habit worth losing my partner or family? We have seen individuals at this point eventually seek the help that they need. We have seen couples come back together and work together to heal the underlying dysfunction in their relationship.

  The saddest situation is when the pot-free partner tries to patiently wait, sometimes year after year, for their partner to give up their habit. This person is settling for second best and trying to make the best out of it. They usually end up pouring their energy and attention into the children, their career, or their friends, while trying to keep a lid on their growing resentment. The intimacy of this couple is severely handicapped as they are both settling for less than real love. Their chances for survival as a couple are poor.

  A deep, loving, passionate and fulfilling relationship is one of the great gifts of this life. It can bless you, your partner, your children, your work in the world, and your health. Why put anything into your body that would rob you of this great happiness?
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