Several years ago I recall working with a couple Jeff and Eileen (not their real names). In a session just prior to Father's Day, Eileen and Jeff were discussing their concerns about getting together with Jeff's parents for a family dinner to celebrate Father's Day. Jeff's sister and her husband would be there as well as his brother and partner. as well. It turns out that what happened that day changed Eileen and Jeff's relationship in a profound way, providing an impactful boost in intimacy, closeness, and trust.
Margaret and James used to have a good time together, then life and responsibilities seemed to loom larger and the fun times seemed to fade. They rarely fought during the times they had lively conversations filled with laughter and fun activities, they both saw this time as a time to bond. As less time was dedicated to spending some fun time together, not coincidentally, their relationship satisfaction dropped.
There have been many studies over the years on the impact of alcoholism on couples and on families, but nobody had ever asked the question: What is normal in family recovery processes? This research has potential implications for all families impacted by any serious mental health, behavioral, or physical disorder.
There is a difference between guilt and shame. Not knowing the difference puts at risk both individual recovery and relationship recovery.
In my last blog, My Partner Is In Denial: Part 1 The Problem, I address the impact of a partner's denial, When we care about somebody who is in denial, and that denial has an impact on our own wellness, feelings of isolation, anger, resentment, fear, and frustration typically follow. Initial steps should include a focus on self-care, letting go at least initially, of what to do about the partner. In this article, I suggest some strategies to consider in addressing your partner's denial.
At first glance denial might seem like an immature behavior, like pretending something isn't a problem when it clearly it is and others seem to see it for what it is. In a closer look, consider how psychology defines denial as a defense mechanism to avoid painful realizations. This inability to take in the reality of what is happening is actually an unconscious mechanism to protect the individual from painful or uncomfortable thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Typically, the stronger the denial, the more is at stake emotionally for the person.
Codependency is an ever-present concept in the language of recovery. Partners, family members, and friends of people who struggle with problematic substance and behavior are typically automatically assigned this label. It is assumed that anybody in a close relationship with a person with an addiction is, by definition codependent.
This is a really good question to grapple with, one that can be answered from many perspectives. Let's start with some definitions found in some mainline professional addiction treatment sources.
Couples impacted by an addictive disorder have a lot to process. However, not getting stuck in the future or in the past does not mean that you do not acknowledge the past, or its consequences.
I was asked to write a response to the above question in the Thrive Global article series, "Asking for a Friend". This is a question that many people struggle with, not knowing what to do when there is evidence of a drinking or other drug use problem with the person they care about.
Steps to Increase Intimacy and Closeness Friendship is essential in developing and maintaining an intimate relationship. Based on John Gottman’s groundbreaking research involving 3,000 couples over 40 years on what makes relationships successful. We…
It has been a remarkable journey. I developed the Couple Recovery Development Approach (CRDA) in 2002 for my doctoral dissertation on couples in long-term recovery. The model is based on my research from the Family Recovery Project housed at Mental Research Institute in Palo Alto, California.
Jerry and Carol (not their real names) came in for couples therapy. They stated that they had a good marriage, but that they needed a "tune up". Jerry talked about how he felt that stress was impacting their relationship, Carol agreed, but also expressed concern over Jerry's alcohol use and wanted him to better control his drinking, like he used to.
Some years ago I remember leading a family group at a drug and alcohol treatment center. I opened the group with the question: What does it mean to be a family or couple in recovery? Some people struggled with the idea that the non-addicted members of the family had some part in going forward in recovery.
Initially there’s a collective sigh of relief when a partner or loved one gets sober. Partners feel hopeful that a sense of normality can find its way back into family life. However, relief is almost always followed by increasing levels of resentment, anxiety, fear, anger, and a host of other negative emotions. Making sense of these co-existing oppositional feelings is confusing. You’re probably thinking, “Shouldn’t I feel better now that my partner is finally sober?” But often, it’s not that simple.
In my article, "Trauma is Not Codependency: Learning the Difference", I address the importance of acknowledging and understanding that active addiction creates trauma for both the person with the addictive disorder as well as for partners and family members. It is important for couples to recognize and accept that the impact of addiction often follows couples and family well into recovery. This is normal and to be expected in most most circumstances.
I remember as a kid we would be on vacation. At scenic observation areas on the way sometimes there were those coin-operated binoculars. I also remember being absolutely fascinated with those things thinking how cool they looked. They were all metal and indestructible. Those beauties, made by Tower Opticals, could swivel to move the viewing area vertically and horizontally. All it took was an available binocular and 25 cents.
For more information on addressing substance concerns in relationship: Interview "How to Manage Substance Abuse Issues and Recovery in Relationship". Featured on Podcast with Dr. Jessica Higgins There's a Problem: No There Isn't Morgan…
When a partner gets into recovery all sorts of emotions tend to come to the surface. These emotions may at times feel in opposition: hope next to fear, relief side-by-side with anger, and so on. If you have experienced these swings then you know how confusing and overwhelming emotions can be, sometimes rapidly go from one feeling to another.
Trust is basic to the foundation of any significant relationship. It is hard to imagine anybody feeling comfortable in a relationship where trust has been broken consistently. How do couples impacted by addiction and by recovery deal with the ongoing issue of trust - or more to he point mistrust?
Joe, Anna, and Leo struggle not knowing what “normal is” in their couple and family relationships. Since beginning recovery with their partners each of the couples have been working on establishing new ways of being with other and have begun to make progress.
Deciding whether to deal with the relationship while managing individual recovery requires some sorting through. There are risks to couple recovery, but the evidence suggests that healthy relationships lead to better long-term recovery outcomes.
John is 38-years old, works in a job that he loves in high tech, has been married for 6 years to Carol, He also has an alcohol use disorder, severe. John noticed that his drinking seemed to pick up over the last two years,
John had hit bottom and decided to get that help. He began an outpatient program and got into recovery. Carol was relieved and felt that the problem was finally being addressed and that their life could maybe get back to normal.
Carol met with the counselor, despite her reservations and having more than a little bit of anxiety. The counselor asked how she was doing and how thing have been since John started recovery? At first Carol didn't understand what she was being asked and thought the counselor was asking her how she thought John was doing.