Dating and Relationships Under The Influence

What would you do if the person that you were seeing was way into drinking or drugs, or maybe just did it more than you do? We're talking about dating under the influence. 

Listen here to the interview with Hannah Reilly from The Hook Up - Triple J and Melissa Ferrari

Listen here to the interview with Hannah Reilly from The Hook Up - Triple J and Melissa Ferrari

TRANSCRIPT:

Hannah:

 I'm with Corey White, he's a comedian. We're also joined by Melissa Ferrari to guide us with a bit of expertise through this conversation. She is a psychotherapist and relationships counsellor. Thank you so much for joining The Hook Up.

Melissa:

Oh, thank you for asking me to come in.

Hannah:

Melissa, do couples who drink and drug together stay together?

Melissa:

In my experience, it would be no.

Hannah:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Melissa:

Generally no because it creates too much in a relationship of insecurity. Because people are in relationships looking to feel safe and secure and be able to grow together. Things like alcohol and drugs, it doesn't help people show their real, authentic self. That can make people feel very, very uneasy. Now, some do stay together and live under the circumstances depending on how much they drink. If people can monitor it, or drugs, if they can monitor it and do it in a compatible kind of way, well everything can work out fine. It's when it becomes problematic that it really can cause big disconnection.

Hannah:

Yeah, because there is quite a large difference between a casual enjoyment of these things and addiction. What is the difference between those two things?

Melissa:

Well, addiction is when it starts to become out of hand, where you actually are starting to not be able to connect with your partner in an authentic kind of way where you are starting to be a lot more disorientated in the relationship. You're not being able to concentrate on the other person as well as yourself. Often people with alcohol and drugs become into what we call a one-person system, which means they really become very inward and are thinking a lot about themselves. That leaves their partner very abandoned and isolated.

Hannah:

Are there different kinds of problem users? Like some people who drink every night and then others that might be sober during the week, and then they have a massive bender?

Melissa:

Yeah. There are the kind of people who I can see over the years in therapy who will come in and they don't drink all week, but will only drink on the weekends. Sometimes that can be the night when they have a fight. It can be like a binge drinking, and so a couple does drink to that point where they're no longer functioning securely with each other and they start to have big arguments and things. Binge drinking is not much better in a couple when it's becoming serious.

Hannah:

We've got a text. "My ex and I broke up due to my occasional party drug use and partying. It sucks, but that's how it is. Neither of us are bad people and both work hard and are successful. We just do different things to let off some steam." Does that come up for you and your clients? 

Melissa:

Yes, it has. It really depends on when you come into relationships, it's important that you're really clear on your own values and what you want to get out of it. If you're someone that's looking for a relationship with longevity and you want to be with someone for a really long time, and they've got a drug or alcohol use that is affecting you and it's not being that two-person system, what's good for me is good for you, well then that's where you do run into more problems.

Hannah:

I think for a lot of people, though, when they're starting a new relationship and they know that the person that they're seeing has different views on drug use to them and it's light to moderate, they think that maybe their drug use doesn't have to have anything to do with the relationship or anything to do with me. Is that a viable perspective?

Melissa:

Well, it depends on if it's affecting you. If you're the other person in the relationship and you're finding that when you're with that person and they're in their addiction or drinking too much or whatever it might be, if that connection between the two of you is not there and the relationship can't grow and flourish.

Hannah:

Jen has gotten in touch on the text line. She says, "My ex loved getting out and drinking, especially rum. He was such an aggressive rum drinker. There was arguments with us, jealousy from him. I'm not a big drinker, so we just didn't gel. He's now my ex." Jen says she's now in a new relationship, but for people who aren't, does different levels of drinking spell the end for couples?

Melissa:

I think it depends on how much it scares you.

Hannah:

Right.

Melissa:

If you are with somebody and it feels incredibly, at times, unfaithful, insecure, or doesn't feel good, well then that's time to make a decision. It's a real individual thing, but I think a really good monitor for it is, "Does this start to feel a bit scary for me? Is my night out not a good one anymore?"

Corey:

Isn't there also a dimension of love there where the other, who's drinking or taking drugs, might be going through a very difficult patch? I mean, relationships aren't very ... They're not like these completely efficient things about, "Oh, this is hurting me. That's done." There's some kind of reciprocal obligation there, right?

Melissa:

Absolutely. I think what you're talking about there is what I was talking to before. There's two people in it. Love, of course, you're with somebody because you want to be with them. Coming back to communication and saying to someone, "I really, really want to be with you. How can we make this relationship an environment where we both feel okay?"

Corey:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Hannah:

What I want to know is, if you're in a relationship, should you just quit drinking for a little while to check if you actually like them sober?

Melissa:

Yes.

Hannah:

Really?

Corey:

Whoa, big call.

Melissa:

Yeah. I like to work from a place that says prove it. Let's see how we go in our relationship if ... And it's got to be mutual, as I said, where you say, "I'm going to give it up for a little while," only if you want to of course, for your partner.

Hannah:

An hour, like two hours?

Melissa:

Probably a little longer than that.

Hannah:

Okay. Got it! I will just write this down.

Melissa:

Yeah, prove it. Let's see if we're better.

Hannah:

Tory, thanks for calling The Hook Up. You've got a question for Melissa about attraction?

Corey:

Hi, Melissa. I've been with my boyfriend for several years now and he does dabble in the odd party drug and also drinks quite a lot. We usually do it together, but a lot of the time, if he does it separately to me, I find him almost unattractive the way he behaves. I just want to know if that's a normal thing. Am I not attracted to him because this is an element of his personality that's coming out because of the drugs and alcohol, or is it normal to feel this way, I guess?

Melissa:

We are more attracted to what is familiar. When you are probably doing the drugs together or doing things at the same time, you're both on par. What happens is, when he's doing something like that and he doesn't remain familiar to you, it can start to make you uneasy because our brain looks for someone that we know really well. When he's in that place, you might feel like, "I don't know this person." That can interrupt your feelings of attraction sometimes.

Corey:

Yeah, absolutely. It's kind of a turn off because he becomes quite sloppy and not the man that I'm used to.

Melissa:

No, you'd probably like him to not be sloppy.

Hannah:

That's my number one category. I've got that in my Tinder bio. Sloppy, please. Zoey, what happened with you went on a tinder date sober?

Zoey:

Well, it was like totally fine at the start. He decided that he would pick me up and take me to this nice Italian restaurant along the river in Southbank. Then we sat down and had a look at the menu, and I was like, "Oh, I'll just get a water." He was like, "Really?" I was like, "Yes." Then every time the waitress came over he was like, "Now, are you sure you don't want a drink?"

Hannah:

Oh, no.

Zoey:

I was like, "No, it's fine. I'm actually fine. I don't drink." He's like, "Oh. Are you sure? You'll find me so much more attractive if you have a drink." I was just like, "I think this is the end."

 Speaker :

The Hook Up with Hannah Reilly on Triple J.

Hannah:

Let's say you like the occasional drink and your partner is completely sober and they judge you quite harshly for that. What can you do about that?

Melissa:

Talk about how we're both individuals. So long as the relationship creates a place where you can both feel good with each other, that's what's more important, and that you do have to make allowances for the other person, so long as it's not affecting you in a way that's negative.

Hannah:

Yeah. We've got a text that says, "I dated a non-drinker for three years at the time I started uni and was getting into drinking as a social activity with all of my uni friends. It drove a huge wedge between us in the relationship. Never again." That's a really interesting idea that people would completely say never to a sober dater. Why do you think that is?

Melissa:

I think it's that difference. Again, we sometimes don't like to feel different to the other person. Some people can project things onto someone that doesn't drink, that they're straight or they're not fun and all of that kind of stuff. It can sometimes just be about "that person's different to me," but it's something that definitely can be worked on.

Hannah:

What would you say to the idea that some people use it to explore or express what they want sexually?

 Melissa:

That's another avenue, and it often is about confidence and being able to say, "This is what I want. I can be more adventurous," and all of that kind of stuff. It's not a bad thing. Again, to do it occasionally, mutually, securely. For a relationship with longevity, I think it does need those moments when you actually are fully, fully engaged with the other person so that you can experience that feeling of love and engagement with somebody.

Hannah:

Thanks for listening to the pod. We've been asking you to send suggestions and concerns and ideas for the show by emailing us at thehookupp@abc.net.au or through Facebook by searching The Hook Up.

For more tips and information about love, relationships and happiness visit my Facebook page Key To Love  for those looking to find a life partner and are looking for some coaching.  Love, Life, Relationships & Transformation is my other Facebook page for parents and those in relationships already who like some daily inspiration. Also information about couple therapy and how it can help your relationships.