- Dr. Love in the Media
Can a Relationship Survive a Trust Issue Involving Drugs and Lies?
July 3, 2012 Ask Dr. Love Advice Column
My boyfriend and I have been together for almost 6 years and have been talking about marriage. He is my best friend and up until recently we had very few problems as a couple. My boyfriend and I were raised in two completely different families and our value systems are not the same, but we have been working on it. He joined my faith and slowed down his drinking so that he could be with me. I opened up to his values and agreed to give up much of my free time to join him at the softball park. He had a very dark past and I always suspected that it might creep back into his life. Last week I asked him if he was smoking pot again and he broke down and told me he was addicted to it again and had been lying to me about his smoking for 2 years because he knew I have a zero tolerance for drugs and he didn't want to hurt our relationship. This broke me, but I love him and wanted to make things work. He agrees that there are problems in our relationship that need mending, however he refuses to go to a rehab meeting, he truely doesn't want to quit completely (although he says he will for me) and he gets angry at me when I ask him about his smoking. I don't trust him at all anymore and I don't know how to trust him. I am questioning many other things now because I am so uneasy about the situation. This is making him frusterated and I am left feeling depressed and emotionally alone. Can our relationship recover, and if so what do we have to do to rebuild that trust?
Don't know where to turn
You have a relationship deal breaker staring you square in the face. The only way we’re going to save your relationship is for you to raise your own Relationship IQ ASAP. When you understand what truly makes you tick on the deepest level and bring this newfound understanding to your relationship, then and only then will your relationship have a fighting chance. At the same time, your hurt and mistrust will vaporize. Let me break this down.
Before we get how to raise your Relationship IQ, let me say a couple of general points about drug addiction. First, your boyfriend always told you he doesn’t want to quit smoking pot, but he said he’d do it for you. This was and is the formula for failure. Can you see why?
For one thing, it’s hard enough to quit drugs when the user wants to. The relapse rates are incredibly high. The point is, nobody can quit for someone else. This plan has failure written all over it. And, if by some miracle he does manage to stop, he will resent the hell out of you for it. Your relationship will be destroyed all the same.
There’s a second problem here, and it rests with you. Without realizing it you’ve been more of a stage director than a girlfriend. You placed the furniture on the stage and now you feel hurt that you tripped over the furniture that you set up. Let me explain.
First, you chose a guy who engages in behaviors that you don’t approve of (setting the stage). Rather than leaving him, you expected him to change for you (you placed the furniture where you wanted it to go). When he didn’t succeed in keeping his promise to stay clean, you became hurt, depressed, emotionally alone and mistrustful (you tripped on the furniture that you placed).
Now let’s focus on you and understanding why you set all this up. First, I can bet that you grew up with a parent who let you down. I can also bet that you kept trying to change your parent. If you’ve been reading my columns for a while, you know that all human beings recreate the wounds of childhood to try to heal them.
Here’s the anatomy of the process.
Let’s start at the very beginning so you can understand how a child’s brain works. All children labor under two forms of distorted thinking: the first is called the narcissism of childhood. This means that all kids think they’re the center of the universe. So, if mommy or daddy abuses or neglects me, it’s all MY fault.
The second childhood distortion is called omnipotence, which literally means all powerful. All children think that they have the magical power to fix or change their parents.
This leads the abused or neglected child to try hard to fix or change the parent. When our efforts don’t succeed, we only try harder. When we still doesn’t succeed, the wound and the wish just gets buried; and it lies dormant, waiting till we grow-up and form an adult relationship. Every human on the planet unconsciously sees our adult romantic relationships as our second-chance to heal our Old Scars.
To that end, we select a partner who emotionally resembles the parent who let us down. Then, we set out to fix or change our partner (sound familiar?). If we succeed in fixing our partner, it will feel to us as though we managed to fix/heal our parent and that we finally healed our Old Scar. We are all driven by a compulsive craving to heal our Old Scars and finally achieve our Happy Ending, which is to receive the emotional goodies that we didn’t receive as kids (love, attention, etc.). This desperate wish to heal, keeps us hanging in with partners who keep disappointing us. To give up on the partner feels impossible to do; giving up would feel like abandoning the hope of ever healing our own Old Scar.
This dance is called the Repetition Compulsion, and, sadly, it never works. We rarely achieve our Happy Ending from our partners because they are precisely as limited and damaged as our parents were. The only exception to this generalization can be found when your partner is willing to do therapy and work on being conscious of his/her own Old Scars and yours AND is also willing to use the relationship for its highest and most divine purpose: to help both partners heal their mutual Old Scars.
So, now you see why you chose a boyfriend with this flaw. You set out to change him the way you couldn’t change your parent. When he didn’t change, you felt and feel hurt, depressed, and alone. You also feel like he betrayed your trust.
Now, I’m going to suggest that you make a radical shift in the way you view what happened. I want you to take responsibility for having staged this play in which you expected him to change for you; and I want you to take responsibility for, unknowingly, setting yourself up to be disappointed.
Had he been stronger and had he loved you less, he would have told you from the start that he wasn’t willing to stop smoking. If he had been stronger in setting his boundaries, your impasse would have come to a head long ago.
For the record, he didn’t betray your trust. He betrayed his own truth. He didn’t and doesn’t want to stop smoking. He didn’t and doesn’t want rehab.
To return to you…it’s up to you to take your wounded inner child out of this equation. This means that you must NOT take his addiction personally by inserting your ego into the situation and allowing yourself to get bruised (the narcissism of childhood). His addiction isn’t about you. His addiction is also NOT a reflection of how much he loves you. It has everything to do with himself, his feelings, what he doesn’t want to feel and face, how he copes (and has been coping since long before you were on the scene).
The young, wounded part of you is feeling hurt and bruised. The little girl is saying, daddy (or mommy) didn’t love me enough to change. This feeling wasn’t accurate then and it isn’t accurate now. Mommy or daddy couldn’t give you the love you deserved not because you weren’t loveable but because they were limited and damaged. They didn’t have “it” to give.
In addition to not taking his behavior personally, you also need to free yourself from trying to fix and change him.
To assist yourself in healing your Old Scar, read my book, Till Death Do Us Part.
You will soon be able to diagnose the status of your own healing in terms of how you feel regarding his smoking: If you find that you cannot accept the smoking, if you continue to feel the need to change him, stage the furniture, issue more edicts, make him stop for you, you know that you are still trying to fix your parent through him.
You will know that you have healed when you no longer take his smoking personally; when you no longer need to use the smoking as a barometer by which you measure his love for you and your own worthiness; and when you just accept his smoking as his way of doing what he needs to do to cope until HE finally decides that he wants to take his own emotional life in hand.
It’s up to you--the adult--to either accept him as he is or move on.
If you decide to move on, because you can’t accept smoking, then you will leave with your head high—not feeling like a wounded, betrayed pup.
If you stay, you must accept him as he is, flaws and all. You won’t try to change him any more. You will accept that he will deal with his addiction in his own time and on his own terms. And you will also accept that he may never give it up.
I want to hear how you do.
"If anger and fighting are ruining your dream of a happy marriage, Dr. Turndorf’s conflict resolution program is for you."
-- John Gray,
Author of NY Times #1 bestseller Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus
"This well-researched book offers a thorough, step-by-step program that provides tools for couples to heal even the most troubled relationships."
-- Dr. John Mack
Pulitzer Prize winning author and Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School
“This book is mandatory reading for every couple that wants to build lasting love.”
-- John Bradshaw,
Author of NY Times #1 bestseller Homecoming
"Dr. Turndorf is an amazing individual who has wonderful advice to offer men and women of all ages and in all types of relationships. Ignore her counsel at your peril!"
-- Bill Hammond III,
Winner of the Best Historical Fiction Award, 2012
"You are awesome Dr. Jamie. You really are. The best part about you is the way you translate complex psychological stuff into easy to understand and actionable insights."
-- Kajay Williams,
Producer Relationship Advice Cafe
"Let me tell you why you're extremely important now. I really believe your message is there. You're spot on. More and more people should be taking advantage of what you're offering."
-- Michael Dresser,
Syndicated Radio Host
"Good stuff. Great insight. I love your approach. Who doesn't need more healing. I love your idea of using your partner as a healing agent. That's such a great way to see your partner. You give great labels and patterns to look for. I love your method. You make it sound so easy. You have a great website with lots of great information and resources. These are the tools we all need."
-- Dr. Matt Townsend,
Host, The Matt Townsend Show