Last week, I asked you and your partner to discuss your experiences with conflict. Unfortunately, a common source of family conflict is substance abuse and mental illness. The presence of these difficulties in our childhood homes can have a significant effect on our adult relationships.

Substance Abuse and Mental Illness

Many families struggle with the complicating factors of mental illness or substance abuse, and these will usually have dramatic effects on family life and relationships. Besides the impact of the disease itself and how each family member is affected by the problem, there are family dynamics around admitting and addressing the issues versus avoiding and pretending that they don’t exist. Consider the following questions:

  • Were there substance abuse issues in your family?
  • If so, who struggled? How were they handled?
  • How did the household adapt to the use?
  • What about mental illness? Were any of your family members anxious or depressed?
  • Did someone struggle with a more significant disorder?
  • How did these struggles play out in your house as you grew up?
  • What was your role around each of those topics? How did it change the way your family members related?
  • Was your family open and honest about any challenges? Did they pretend in public? Did they pretend at home?
  • What did you learn? Are there issues with substance use or mental health that are relevant to your life now?