Couples with a member in recovery are a specific challenge as a couples counselor. A couple that has had active addiction or alcoholism is like a couple who have suffered from an affair. And in a sense, I treat them similarly. The couple that has a newly sober member is now truly a couple. That demanding third party (alcoholism or addiction) is no longer making demands and calling the shots. Figuring out life after recovery can be difficult for a couple. Sometimes, more so than when there was active alcoholism in the picture.
So, what can a couple in recovery do?
Couples who have had an active addict who is newly sober, or couples who have a person in recovery sometimes suffer from:
- The non-recovery spouse has a lot of lingering feelings and resentments about how they were treated prior to recovery.
- The recovering person is working hard. They are trying to do something very difficult. And, their spouse is not appreciating their struggle and effort.
- The non-recovery spouse is sometimes suspicious of the new life-where are they? Are they really going to meetings? Are they really getting better?
- For both people, the progress of recovery can be hard to spot. aren’t we repeating the same old patterns, just without our drug of choice?
Why is working with a couple in recovery like coping with infidelity?
I work with couples in recovery as if it’s a couple with infidelity. I talk about marriage number one and marriage number two.
Marriage Number One
Marriage number one is the marriage that ended when the person got clean and sober. We have a lot of work to do with that marriage. There are some hurt feelings and amends to be made back in marriage number one. Mutual understanding back then was non-existent, usually.
Marriage Number Two
But we need marriage number two, the marriage you’re in now, to get some traction before we can get a lot done about marriage number one. We need marriage number two to be as joyful and loving as possible. That way, the healing can occur before we take a hard look at the conditions of marriage number one. We don’t sweep marriage number one under the rug, or shrug it off as the past. It’s always on the table. But, we don’t let marriage number one define what marriage number two looks like. Now, let’s make a new one.
Couples and Communication
Couples who have a member in recovery sometimes suffer from a commutation gap. The recovering person is entitled to their privacy about how they’re recovering so they can define what works for them. And, the family member is entitled to some information so they can feel safe and secure. To know that healing is actually happening and, that it’s sustainable. I help couples navigate this problem with mutual understanding and support.
As a couples therapist, I can help a couple in recovery feel more connected
If you’re ready to take the next step and have a professional help you rebuild your marriage and come back stronger, you’ll want a therapist who truly understand relationships, but also has a firm understanding of recovery. As a couples therapist who understands addiction as well, I’ve helped recovering couples who were separated to get back together. I’ve also helped couples who were literally not speaking to each other to open up a dialogue. To create the relationship they want on their terms, not on alcohol’s terms. And, I’ve helped couples navigate the difficulty of a relapse, and get the marriage back on track. What are you waiting for? Let’s get started.