Q:I came from a family (and lifestyle) where drugs were never used. They weren’t legal, so they were never a topic of discussion. Now, many of my current friends and colleagues will occasionally smoke pot on social occasions—something that was quite a shock to me when I realized how prolific it was, but something I’m now used to. I don’t partake when it happens, because it’s not something that interests me, but I don’t mind being around others who are.
Where our problem lies is in the issue of stronger drugs. My partner went to a school where it was normal to use drugs such as cocaine, ecstasy, methamphetamine, and more at parties and festivals. When I met my partner, I knew he had tried stronger drugs in the past, but didn’t realize that he still used them. When I found out a couple of years ago, we had a big discussion/argument in which I ended up in tears for a number of reasons—primarily the fact that I hadn’t known about that side of him and felt like he had broken my trust by not telling me (which he said was because he knew I wouldn’t approve). At that time, we agreed that he would no longer use drugs (apart from marijuana), and particularly that he would be open with me if the subject came up, and he has kept his word on this.
The issue has come up a few times since then (the past two years), in varying situations. I believe we both have valid opinions (from our own perspectives and upbringings), although very different.
My side is that it’s illegal. I don’t fully understand the health risks and have read stories about mental illness and death in the past, which worries me. And finally, I feel like his decisions are no longer just about himself but do have (or could have) an effect on me, ranging from me having to be the one to look after him if he’s not well on a particular night—or longer-term if something goes wrong—to large fines or other legal consequences, to me worrying about him whether I’m there or not. I want to know what he’s doing and don’t want to be left out of part of his life that’s important to him, but I also don’t really want to know about it because I don’t want to have to take (part) responsibility for his actions, or feel like I need to look after him. Essentially, I just don’t want him to want to take them anymore, which isn’t the case.
So my question is—how do we bridge this gap when we both have strong opinions? I don’t want him to feel like he’s missing out on something that (to him) has very little risk and has been an important and enjoyable part of his life in the past. Is it something worth going to counseling for, or is there a risk of them reporting him due to the illegality (I assume not, as it’s relatively minor)? I know that part of my aversion is the lack of knowledge and understanding—is there a trustworthy source for actual facts about risks and consequences (health and legal)? Is there something else we can do to get on the same page?
—Anti Drug Girlfriend
A: Dear ADG,
You’re right when you say that his decisions completely impact you from now on. Quirks, habits, hobbies, and flaws all are suddenly a part of your life when you agree to tie yourself to somebody. It’s not always a positive thing.
You pose your questions under the assumption that one of you can win over the other, and I’m concerned that that’s not entirely plausible. Go ahead and do that digging, read up on things, and share with him whatever knowledge you gather (Erowid has a lot of information that you might find helpful). I’ll open it up to the readers in just a second for other good sources of info on the topic, but before we do that, let’s come at this assuming what tends to happen most often: neither of you much change your minds. What if you both do a ton of reading and land exactly where you are now? What then?
You very well could say, “Hey this bothers me, can you take it out of your life completely?” But, because you guys are coming at this from very different perspectives, it’s unlikely that could work out. Let me explain what I mean.
There are a few ways that being in a relationship can change a person. We all (hopefully, ideally) change our flaws at least a bit in partnering up. My husband doesn’t see bettering me as part of his job description, but just by nature of being around him, I’m forced to be less terrible.
Many of us also find new interests as a result of a good relationship. We try new foods, get sucked into new TV shows, discover new places to go and things to do. Lots of us add new hobbies as a result of a good partner. But very few of us drop them. I would actually worry quite a bit if a friend said, “I used to love competitive model ship building, but that was before I met Stan,” or, “K convinced me to stop whitewater rafting.”
The problem is that you see this as a flaw, and he sees it as a hobby. The likelihood of “stop doing this thing” working out when you aren’t aligned in how you see “this thing” is pretty slim. If you both agreed that this was a bad thing, it’d be a no-brainer. You’d figure out how to make it easy for him to stop, the way I try to make it easier for my partner to stop forgetting stuff. If you both agreed that this was an innocuous, fun thing, of course it’d be okay for it to continue, the way my continued obsession with Project Runway (yes, still) is tolerated. But you guys don’t agree. You think it’s a bad thing; he thinks it’s innocuous. That means even if he does agree to stop, that agreement could breed resentment (particularly if it means skipping some specific outings with friends, or even cutting certain friends completely). It could add tension. It could create a layer of dishonesty and mistrust (things that have already crept in before).
If you guys aren’t able to convince one another in one direction or another and asking him to just stop seems unlikely, it becomes a question for you. Can you live with this for the rest of your life? Assume that nothing changes. In fact, imagine worst-case scenario. The nights of not feeling well, the fines and arrests, the occasional tense conversations about how much and when, and more to the point, the worry and disappointment that you describe. This kind of decision is difficult, but it’s not unique to your situation. No partnership is perfect, so there’s a point in every relationship where both people see the negatives and decide, “Okay, yeah, but I can live with this.” For you, is this livable?
That question has just a bit of flex to it. Maybe you can live with it, but only within certain parameters. Maybe you can figure out some expectations that would make you feel more comfortable with the whole thing—he always lets you know in advance, or he doesn’t actually meet up with the dealer. You’re right, it may be a good idea to meet with a counselor to discuss those parameters and expectations (no, they can’t turn you in for sharing about drug use). Or, you know, ideally your original questions are right on, and someone in the comments today shares a link that totally changes either your mind or his. But more likely, you’re going to have bad feelings if he continues to use drugs, and he’ll have bad feelings if you ask him to stop and he acquiesces. Are those bad feelings something you can live with?
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