Q&A: My partner's on drugs and our relationship is in crisis

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By psychologist Angie Willcocks

Q: I recently discovered my partner spent a week in Perth secretly after getting sent off-site for drugs. I'm not sure if he's been cheating but we've been together for many years and in recent years he's started FIFO. He's been detected for THC use, but as he seems to be functioning physically I am at a loss. He never initiates sex although he also hardly ever says no. We've tried counselling but he lied about his drug use. I am starting to get very paranoid and have asked him for a separation, to which he strongly objects. I don't know what to do.

A: Thanks for your email. Wow, it sounds like things have been really tough for your and your relationship recently.

As you've been together for a long time, the two of you obviously have a good foundation to work on. Well done for trying to get some help. FIFO is really hard for couples to cope with when issues like lack of trust aren’t managed, and counselling can be a good way to start to address these issues. Of course, it won’t work well if you’re not both upfront and honest about what’s going on, as your partner wasn’t.

Having said that, drug use can be a very hard thing to own up to, especially in counselling, so it’s not surprising that he lied about it at first. If your partner is willing, it would be worth giving counselling another go. From your email, it sounds as though your partner is struggling with drug use, and I think that it’s probably the main issue, so seeking help for this might be the best place to start.

Although you say he’s functioning physically, it sounds like his use of THC is negatively affecting him in a number of different ways, including sexually. Obviously, it would be good for him, his work, and your relationship for him to stop using THC. I understand that you can’t make this decision for him, and this can be terribly hard when you’re living with the effects of it.

For information on where to get some help related to drug and alcohol use, call Direct Line on 1800 136 385, or visit www.druginfo.adf.org.au.

Regarding the sex issue, problems in the bedroom are very, very normal in long-term relationships. One person losing interest in the other sexually doesn’t necessarily mean they are getting sex elsewhere, though it does mean some work is needed to get things back on track. It sounds to me that the sex issue has come about because of the other problems – like his drug use, lack of trust, him working away, and problems with communication. My advice would be to try to get the other bits and pieces back on track, and then deal with the sex a little while down the track.

Whatever your partner decides to do about counselling for himself, I’d like to strongly urge you to get some counselling support of your own. It’s totally understandable that these issues with your partner have led to you feeling irrational and being unsure of what to do next. It’s also understandable that your self-esteem is very low at the moment. Improving your own self-esteem will help you know what you really want, and give you the strength to either face the relationship issues, or leave your partner if he continues to treat you badly.

For information on where to get help, talk to your GP or visit www.beyondblue.org.au.

Also, here is a website offering information on self-esteem and confidence: www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au

To read other columns written by Angie Willcocks during her six years with Mining Family Matters, please click here. And remember that we offer a free email Q&A service with our psychologists, so just click here to ask a question about relationships, parenting or your career. All advice on Mining Family Matters is for general information only and should never be regarded as a substitute for professional health services or crisis services. To talk with a trained volunteer telephone counsellor at any time of the day or night, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. To contact the info line at beyondblue: national depression initiative, phone 1300 22 4636.

Angie Willcocks is a registered psychologist with a private practice in Adelaide – for details about Skype consultations please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. She’s an expert in tackling issues such as depression, anxiety, postnatal depression, child sleep routines and relationship difficulties. She has a Bachelor of Health Sciences in Psychology and a Masters of Counselling Psychology. She is also the co-author of The Sensible Sleep Solution: a guide to sleep in your baby’s first year, which can be ordered from her website www.angiewillcocks.com.