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Why Looking Back Is Important

Couple Recovery Tip #1: Develop Skills in Interdependency

Couples impacted by an addictive disorder have a lot to process. When the relationship has been impacted by an addictive disorder, or problematic substance use that has created some damage, the tendency may be to just want to look forward, taking “one day at a time”. This is solid advice when getting caught up in fears about the future, or getting bogged in the past stirring up anger, resentments, guilt, shame, and/or countless other emotions. 

However, not getting stuck in the future or in the  past does not mean that you do not acknowledge the past, or its consequences. Claudia Black, a pioneer in bringing the focus of recovery to include families, identified the three major rules (injunctions) often found in families where alcohol and other substances are problematic: 1.) Don’t talk, 2) Don’t trust, and 3) Don’t feel. This dynamic of not being able to talk about what is happening, is the proverbial “elephant in the living room” dynamic. How that translates: “It is not okay to share your thoughts, feelings, and perspectives.” This is in many ways the epicenter of the damage that comes with a substance use, or compulsive behavioral disorder. In contrast, “interdependency” t reflects a healthy relationship agreement in the relationship that it is okay for partners to express their thoughts, feelings, perceptions AND needs. This agreement is a core recovery tool to know about and in which to develop some skills, so that it is done in a way that avoids criticism, blame, and defensiveness.

If not talking about the realities of addiction is at the heart of family pain from the addiction, then the recovery tool of interdependency is the antidote to start to bring healing to the individuals and to their relationships. As partners learn to talk about their pain, and feel heard, then the shroud of the don’t talk, don’t trust, don’t feel rule starts to give way, and recovery for the individual and the relationship can start to build on the healing that occurs when feeling understood, and not alone in the pain.

In this blog I will be sharing tools from Roadmap for the Journey: A Path for Couple Recovery, a workshop developed specifically to foster couple recovery. Tools for dealing with the impact of addiction and from the impact of recovery are based on the fundamental principles of interdependency. In the process of looking back, couples will have a new and empowered ability to look forward, rebuilding, and developing vision for the future.

Dr. Robert Navarra

Robert Navarra, PsyD, LMFT, MAC, is a Master Certified Gottman Therapist, Trainer, and Speaker, and an author. He is is certified as Master Addiction Counselor and specializes in treating and researching couples in recovery from addictive disorders. Dr. Navarra created "Roadmap for the Journey: A Workshop for Couples Embracing Recovery" and "Couples and Addiction Recovery: A Gottman Approach for Therapists, Counselors, and Addiction Professionals".

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