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In my previous post, Partner of an Addict? Getting Your Unmet Needs Met, I discussed the fact that partners of addicts are often unhappy not only because of the addictive behavior itself, but because they are not getting their needs met.

In Part I, I outlined the two steps needed to remedy this shortcoming: identifying your unmet needs, and discovering how to get your unmet needs met in healthy ways. The previous post discussed the first of these steps. This post is focused on the second step—finding alternative, healthy ways to meet your needs whenever and wherever your partner is unable to meet them.

In getting your unmet needs met, it’s helpful to begin with things over which you have control. I can’t emphasize this enough. You must start by focusing on things over which you have control. Partners of addicts sometimes spend inordinate amounts of time and energy attempting to get the addict to change his or her thinking and behavior. As understandable as that is, it’s an impossible task. The only person we have control over is ourselves, and sometimes we don’t even have control over ourselves.

For example, if your partner has been sexual with other people and has potentially exposed you to a sexually transmitted infection, you have a need for sexual safety that is not being met. At that point you should ask, “What can I do to protect myself?” First and foremost, you need to get tested for sexually transmitted infections. Sure, you might think, “Why should I have to get tested? It’s not me that had unprotected sex outside my relationship. My partner should have to do it, not me.” But your partner is not ultimately responsible for your health and wellbeing. You are.

Admittedly, you can try to push this off onto your cheating partner, but he or she might or might not actually get tested. And he or she might lie about that, or about the results. So, until you actually take action around what you can control by getting tested yourself, you will have to live with uncertainty. It is fundamentally unsafe and illogical for you to rely on another person to verify and take care of your physical health.

Unfortunately, not all of your unmet needs are so easily met. Sometimes you may need external assistance and guidance. To determine if this is the case, ask yourself:

  • What actions are in my control that can help me get my unmet needs met?
  • What help is available to help me get this unmet need met?
  • Do I need guidance to help me figure out how to get this need met?
  • If getting a need met is out of my control, what do I need to do to accept that I am powerlessness and protect myself, if protection is needed?

I strongly encourage you to get support and feedback about your list of unmet needs and how they can be met in healthy ways.

In crisis we tend to get tunnel vision, and because of this we have difficulty generating a list of possible actions. The good news is that there are plenty of people who can help us—sponsors, mentors, or highly qualified addiction focused therapists who are just as adept at helping partners of addicts as addicts themselves. If you seek advice and feedback, you are likely to develop a better understanding of your needs, and how to get them met.



  1. I think this article is quite shallow. The example of getting yourself tested for sexual disease because you can’t rely on your partner to take care of your sexual health is infantile .
    Perhaps mentioning and giving good examples of unmet needs that you could exercise control over also, such as loneliness, increased responsibility, etc. would give more direction, as well as give a sense of confidence from relatable examples of actual healthy ways to meet those needs.
    I just felt this was clickabait to be given that lame example for morons and then given the brush off to talk to highly trained and expensive professionals instead of giving me information that I could actually use.
    To preface this article as if it will give information to self help, and then refer to professionals, does not foster a sense of self-efficacy.
    Please think about these things when next writing for people who really need strong support.

  2. I am glad that professionals like Palmer are putting this information out there. For those of us in crisis due to the recently discovered behaviors of a sexually addicted spouse (my wife in my case) it is invaluable to know there is awareness of this situation.

    I must agree somewhat with the other comment here. This piece provides very little information other than name dropping Palmer’s book. This is an industry and the authors and therapists must make some money – I get it. But there also seems to be an altruistic responsibility that is accepted by the folks that write these pieces to provide some useful information. I would have liked to have read more about loneliness, fear, anxiety, grief and the like.

    I have Palmer’s book by the way. It is basically a cook book on how to build boundaries from your addict partner. Good stuff. For me it was redundant to other better sources of this information that I have accessed.

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