Whether it be through flowers, cards, special dinners, or nights out, it’s easy to acknowledge and celebrate a meaningful relationship, especially when it’s uncomplicated and fulfilling.

However, many people are in a relationship with a significant other grappling with some form of self-destructive behavior. This can manifest as an eating disorder, substance abuse, alcohol abuse, other kinds of addictive behaviors, or acts of self-mutilation such as cutting or burning.

If you relate to this from your own or a friend or relative’s experience, you’ll understand that there can be a deeper, even desperate desire to “fix” or “change” the partner in an attempt to help them stop the destructive behavior.

One of the most important things to come to terms with is the fact that no matter how much you love someone, you don’t have the power to make them give up a behavior they are not ready to relinquish. And no matter how much your partner loves you, it’s extremely difficult for them to let go of a self-harming behavior that provides short-term relief or a sense of numbing or self-soothing.

Typically, the self-destructive behavior is just the symptom of deeper, untapped, and unresolved issues that have not been identified, processed, or healed.

Although it’s understandable that your love and concern gets harnessed in an effort to “help” your partner, it actually can set you up for feelings of resentment, frustration, anger, and helplessness when all of your attempts inevitably don’t work. These efforts are always well meaning, but they are often fueled by desperation and anxiety. If your loved one is entrenched in their self-destructive act, they may misinterpret your passion about wanting them to be healthy as judgmental, critical, or motivated by anger. They may accuse you of not being supportive or not understanding their needs and their pain. They might try to rationalize their behaviors as they look for ways to make excuses for or justify what they do.

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How to Help a Self-Destructive Partner (and What Not to Do)
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