Relationship Fitness

P21 E6: The Role Addictions Play in Men’s Relationships

Addictions are pervasive and often insidious elements that can profoundly affect men’s relationships. They serve as coping mechanisms for deeper, unresolved psychological issues and can create significant barriers to intimacy, trust, and connection. In a recent episode of the “Relationship Workout for Men” podcast, host Vince Vasquez and clinical social worker Roni Maislish delved into the complexities of addiction and its impact on men’s relationships, shedding light on the underlying psychological roots and the path to healing.

The Emotional Hunger Behind Addictions

Roni Maislish introduces the concept of “emotional hunger” as a core driver of addiction. Many men wander through life with a sense of emotional starvation, lacking the nourishment of meaningful relationships, purpose, and self-understanding. This hunger stems from unaddressed emotional voids, often originating in childhood, where the essential needs for emotional connection, guidance, and safety may not have been fully met.

This emotional starvation is distinct from a healthy hunger for growth and connection. While hunger can drive men towards fulfilling their passions and building meaningful relationships, starvation leads to a desperate search for immediate relief. This often manifests as addiction, where substances or behaviors temporarily fill the void but ultimately leave men feeling even more empty and disconnected.

The Root Causes of Addiction

Understanding the root causes of addiction requires exploring early childhood experiences. Maislish emphasizes that a nourishing childhood is characterized by understanding, protection, and a sense of safety. When these elements are missing, children can grow up feeling emotionally neglected, leading to what Michael Eigen terms “psychic deadness”—a profound sense of emptiness and disconnection from one’s true self.

Addictions serve as temporary solutions to this psychic deadness, providing momentary relief from feelings of inadequacy, loneliness, and depression. Whether through food, alcohol, work, or other substances, men often turn to addictions to escape the discomfort of their emotional reality. However, this escape is fleeting and ultimately perpetuates the cycle of disconnection and emotional starvation.

The Impact on Relationships

Addictions can have a devastating impact on relationships. They create barriers to emotional intimacy, as the addicted individual becomes increasingly preoccupied with their substance or behavior of choice. This preoccupation leads to a lack of presence and engagement in the relationship, causing partners to feel neglected, unimportant, and disconnected.

Moreover, addictions often lead to secrecy and deceit, further eroding trust and intimacy. Partners may feel betrayed and struggle with feelings of helplessness and frustration. This dynamic creates a toxic environment where genuine connection and mutual support become nearly impossible.

The Path to Healing

Healing from addiction involves addressing the underlying emotional hunger and building a stronger connection to oneself and others. Maislish highlights the importance of curiosity and self-reflection as starting points for this journey. Men need to explore the root causes of their emotional voids and develop a deeper understanding of their childhood experiences and how they shaped their current behaviors.

Developing a sense of purpose is also crucial. Purpose provides direction and meaning, helping men navigate life’s challenges with a clear sense of motivation and fulfillment. Engaging in activities that align with their values and passions can help men build a stronger connection to their true selves and reduce the reliance on addictive behaviors.

Building Supportive Relationships

Supportive relationships play a vital role in recovery. Engaging with empathetic and understanding partners, friends, and communities can provide the emotional nourishment needed to heal from addiction. These relationships offer a safe space for men to express their vulnerabilities and receive the support they need to build healthier habits and coping mechanisms.

Maislish also emphasizes the importance of professional help. Therapy can provide the tools and guidance needed to navigate the complex emotions and behaviors associated with addiction. Through therapeutic interventions, men can learn to develop healthier relationships with themselves and others, fostering a deeper sense of connection and fulfillment.

Conclusion: Transforming Addictive Patterns

Addictions are powerful forces that can undermine men’s relationships and overall well-being. By understanding the emotional hunger that drives these behaviors and addressing the underlying psychological issues, men can embark on a path to healing and transformation. Building supportive relationships and seeking professional help are crucial steps in this journey.

In essence, the role of addiction in men’s relationships is multifaceted, deeply rooted in early emotional experiences and exacerbated by societal pressures and expectations. By fostering self-awareness, purpose, and connection, men can overcome addictive patterns and build more fulfilling and resilient relationships.


Listen to the Episode

Roni Maislish is a clinical social worker and psychotherapist, working for 20 years on the psychological roots of emotional eating, food addiction and obesity. For more information about Roni’s therapeutic’s sessions, supervision, workshops and training program, contact him on Linkedin.

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