When one part of a couple is struggling with addiction, the other part of the couple is struggling with the effects of addiction. Both parties are struggling, but in different ways. Unfortunately, this can lead to couples becoming disconnected, primarily focused on their own pain and frustration.
Fortunately, there are ways to turn this pattern around and learn how to reconnect. This is accomplished by improving several key elements of the relationship: Communication and empathy; boundaries and trust; and emotional healing.
In this situation, communication is not about talking, but instead it is about learning how to listen. By taking a non-judgmental stance and becoming truly engaged in learning about the other person’s struggles, fears, and weaknesses, empathy can be enhanced. One way to practice this improved communication skill is by asking questions about your partner’s inner struggles in a calm and supportive tone. The goal is to learn something new about your partner that you had not considered.
Boundaries are important in every relationship, but are especially important for couples recovering from the effects of addiction. It is essential to get in touch with your own sense of self. For example, ask yourself, “What do I stand for,” and equally as important is the question, “What won’t I stand for?” Be specific, communicate with each other, and spell it out so there is nothing left to question. Having firm boundaries in place allows trust improvement that is measurable to both parties. When trust is improved, the relationship is improved.
When it comes to emotional healing, remembering to have fun together is key. A healthy dose of laughter, spending time together doing new things, or revisiting something that you used to enjoy as a couple, can all be ways of upping the fun factor. Even when there has been a lot of damage, having fun together as you rebuild can go a long way towards overall couple improvement.
In some cases, individual counseling for each person is recommended until a certain level of stability has been accomplished. Other times, couples counseling is suggested to help reach mutual goals that have been established by the couple. Either way, a therapist can guide you through the ups and downs of finding a new normal in your relationship.