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Unhealthy Habits: 10 Steps to Help Your Partner Beat Them

It could be drugs, or even a borderline eating disorder. Is your partner’s unhealthy habit ruining your relationship? Here’s what to do about it.

Unhealthy Habits

Due to a variety of reasons, from family issues to depression, your partner could develop some kind of addiction, culminating in unhealthy choices that can ruin your relationship. When this happens, it can feel like your whole world has turned upside down, with you suddenly having to deal with something you never expected. You might think, “How can this person, someone without prior issues like these, decide to do this all of a sudden? Was I not enough?”

It is important, even in the direst of circumstances, to remember that they are still your partner, and you’re with them for a reason. Don’t be afraid to work things out and solve the issues rather than walk away. Your relationship deserves a shot at survival!

How to help your partner overcome an unhealthy habit

At a loss when it comes to what to do when you suddenly discover that you partner has an unhealthy habit? Here are 10 ways you can help them get through it.

#1 Understand that the issue is not your fault. Everyone makes their own choices, and clearly, they chose to cope in this way. It’s easy to put the blame on yourself, especially over something serious, but it is beyond important to understand that you didn’t make your partner do anything.

For instance, if you and your partner broke up briefly before, they could have turned toward unhealthy choices as a way to cope and escape reality. If you’re back together, but the habit hasn’t been kicked, you may feel guilty. In this case, it’s important to remember that you weren’t even around at the time. It could also be work, stress, or even family issues–none of which are your fault.

Always, always keep this in mind, because otherwise, you’ll run around feeling insecure in your relationship–something your partner really doesn’t need while dealing with this habit.

#2 Talk about the issue in a constructive manner. You need to get your partner’s point of view and share your concerns, so you both know where you stand. Fair warning: it may be hard to hear what your partner has to say. They might be defensive, claiming that their way of coping is just different from yours or that they enjoy it.

Don’t feel bad if they don’t readily want to acknowledge the problem. This is perfectly normal–not wanting to admit they’re wrong, or not wanting to kick a habit that has become a coping mechanism. State your points clearly, so your partner knows where you stand.

Both of you should be level-headed and clear enough to lay everything out without being rude, but remember: this conversation may need to be repeated every once in a while until your partner realizes you’re just trying to help. [Read: 9 ways to master the art of constructive criticism]

#3 Try to suggest solutions you’re both comfortable with. It may be difficult to find common ground, especially if the issue at hand is very serious, but try to work something out. You don’t need an immediate solution that will quickly get rid of the problem. Instead, what you need is a series of short-term solutions that lead up to finally eliminating the habit.

For instance, if your partner has a drug habit, you can promise not to nag them about it, as long as they try to limit their usage. Afterward, you can open up the idea of going with them to seek professional help. The idea here is to take a step toward a permanent solution without being too abrupt or forceful about it.

#4 Do not tolerate lies. Make sure you stand firm on this, because chances are, your partner will try to lie about quitting at some point. Don’t take this to heart, because it’s a logical human response to want to hold onto something that makes coping “easier.” Your partner may claim to have stopped, but you won’t really know for sure. Make it clear you won’t tolerate lies, and prefer the truth–even if it hurts.

The truth will always be easier to handle than being lied to. If you’re unsure about this, and wonder how to find out if your partner is lying, remember the saying “the truth always comes out.” Either your partner will feel guilty and eventually tell you, or you will find evidence while cleaning up the house, or talking to a friend.

Resist the urge to go through their social media accounts, emails, and phone without their knowledge or consent. That’s unhealthy and can turn into a poor habit in and of itself. If the situation is absolutely dire and you have to go through those things, make sure to tell your partner, ask for permission, and never make it seem like you’re being an overbearing parent. [Read: 15 types of toxic relationships to watch out for]

#5 Know what your limit is. You have to know how much you are willing to do and put up with before you realize there’s nothing more to be done. At some point, if there’s no change, you have to walk away for your own sake. You have to be there for your partner, but you also can’t stay if they make it clear they’re unwilling to change. That’s why you need to be firm with what you can and cannot put up with.

A helpful tip is to stay in a relationship if your partner still makes you happy, despite the problem, but to leave if the happiness has become sparse and fleeting. Another important tip is to let your partner know your thought process. Despite the worrisome topic, your partner has the right to know what your thoughts are, and where you stand. Let them know you’re trying to protect yourself from any potential danger, unhappiness, and unhealthiness.

If they react angrily, remember that they love you and don’t want to lose you, so this upheaval may not be directed toward you, but toward themselves for pushing you to this point. Despite this, they need to know where you stand, so they understand your point of view. After the initial anger or frustration, your partner may see reason, and use this information as a wake-up call. [Read: 12 signs it’s time to jump ship and leave your partner]

#6 Don’t expect change overnight. Carrying over from #5, don’t set unreasonable demands. Don’t say, “If they’re not over this in a month, I’m gone,” because change takes time–especially bad habits. There should be signs of improvement in a month, and even more so in the second month. While there may be times when your partner will go back to their bad habits due to external factors like stress, always take note of the effort they exert to overcome their problem.

#7 Make yourself available to be helpful and supportive. Just like in any other situation, you’re in this together. The goal is to be understanding and work through it together. If your partner needs to talk, be there for them, even at 4 in the morning. If they ask you to help them get rid of temptation *like drug paraphernalia or their hidden stash of cigarettes*, lend them a helping hand. Be there when they request your help, just like you’d want them to be there for you. [Read: 15 rules to be a good partner in a relationship]

#8 Don’t worry about what others have to say. Your friends and family may only be looking out for you when they encourage you to leave your partner. However, don’t just pack up and leave when they say so. Only you know what goes on in your relationship, and only you can decide if staying is worth it. You can listen to what they have to say, but never allow others to dictate what you do.

Despite what they may say about your relationship, if you feel that there is hope for your partner to overcome their habit, do whatever you can to make sure it happens. [Read: 5 lessons to help you deal with judgmental people]

#9 Solve the root of the problem, or it will keep coming back. When someone turns to an unhealthy way of coping, it usually means there’s a big issue they’re trying to avoid. That’s the whole reason they started making poor choices, so that’s the issue you both need to solve. Otherwise, the issue will linger and your partner may revert back to bad habits, or even pick up worse habits.

If it’s family issues, your partner may need to sit with the family members involved and try to resolve things, seek closure, or even cut people out, depending on what the problem is. If it’s work-related, then perhaps taking some time off or moving to a different company would help. If the bad habit is brought about by deep-seated psychological problems, there are numerous forms of therapy that might help. [Read: Why we need to break down the stigma of mental illness]

#10 Make a reward system together. This may sound a little too similar to pet training or child-rearing, but sometimes, people just need some sort of motivation to work on eliminating their bad habit. If your partner manages to get through an entire day, an entire week, or even an entire month without wanting to indulge in their bad habit, give them incentives to keep them motivated.

It could be a special date night, a new set of kicks, reservations at their favorite restaurant, or something as simple as words of encouragement. Ensure that you really make your partner feel that their reward is due to the progress they’re making in their effort to get rid of their nasty habit.

[Read: 12 things about love that you’ll only learn from experience]

No one wants to be stuck with a partner who indulges in a nasty habit, but as their partner, you must do what you can to help. With an extremely supportive partner and an array of different methods to help them out, your partner can eventually kick their bad habit to the curb!

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Jennifer Mendez
Jennifer is a writer, director, consultant and author, with a passion for all things literary. While she works on a variety of projects at a time, her one true ...
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