Relationships and Recovery

Written by Dave Cooper

August 4, 2014

Couple in relationship

Relationships and Recovery go together

Relationships and Recovery from addiction

Relationships and recovery go hand in hand. I would go as far to say that the quality of your relationships will equal the quality of your recovery!

Let me put it another way. The effort, open mindedness and courage that you are willing to bring into your relationships will reflect the progress you make in your recovery. That is how important relationships are in your plans and efforts at recovery. Read on if you want to know more about how this works.

I thought it would be a good idea to try and create some clarity on this subject, particularly for anyone following and practicing my own approach. At the end of blog you should know what I think about this subject and what I advise for those in early recovery.

Don’t give up on relationships!

Most of the ‘YouTube’ wisdom these days bothers me. Most of the advice is telling you to ‘get out’! To listen to some of it you would think they had married an axe murderer! Now call me an optimist but there is a very good reason why I try my best to ‘reconnect’ couples who I work with and it’s to do with the phenomenon of attraction itself. To describe this I always use the idea of icebergs!

Icebergs and attraction

No I am not saying people are cold or anything like that! It’s more to do with the unconscious. Icebergs are seven eighths under water. Picture two icebergs in the sea as two people meeting. The eighth that you can see above the water is the look of a person, their speech, clothes and everything else you can see and hear etc. But whilst you are looking at each other above the water, there is much more of us saying hello under the water! Remember the seven eighths under the water is meeting too! This underwater ‘psychological shape’ of each person can ‘fit’ with the other or can ‘jar’ with the other.

When you meet someone you are attracted to you ‘psychologically fit’ with the other person. You feel ‘attraction’. When you meet someone who ‘rubs you up the wrong way’ you have a bad fit (remember those times when you just think “I can’t stand them” for no obvious reason? Well now you know why. We cannot ‘see’ the unconscious (underwater) and so we experience a good ‘fit’ as attraction. Like two jig saw pieces that make a perfect picture!

If you do not change you will continue to be attracted to the same psychological ‘type’. This is why a lot of people who see leaving or ending the relationship as a strategy find themselves in another relationship but with the same issues! Clearly this is a fruitless strategy and why we see so many unhappy people who seem to keep ‘finding’ the same person again and again!

The key is always to change you, you are the only one you can control! Then you will be attracted to and be attracted by someone of a different psychological type. Of course changing is not always easy.

 Narcissism and co-dependency

Of course in addiction and recovery we are going to be talking about Narcissists and co-dependents and the way they are attracted to each other. Using the model above you can see that there is a perfect fit between your self as the narcissist and the co-dependent or the other way round. It never ceases to amaze me whenever I see these two types meet. They look like they are in heaven! All their prayers have been answered!

I cannot tell you how many times I have tried to persuade a couple like these to at least suspend their relationship until they finish treatment! I have to tell you that I was never successful. A couple in this state cannot listen to anyone. They must have their way! Even though they have spent thousands on their treatment, they give it up in an instant to be with their perfect partner (or so they think).

Missing the greatest opportunity for growth

The simplistic answer to ‘GET OUT’ of the relationship is missing a vital part of the picture, which is that we are still talking about genuine attraction, and for reasons that would take much too long to go into here, this means that there is an opportunity for growth inside the realtionship that will present itself in no other way!

One of the saddest moments of my working life as a recovery counsellor in residential rehab was working with someone who had taken this advice to the extreme. Having had two serious relationships in her life which both turned out to be raving alcoholics she worked out that she was co-dependent. Putting two and two together she came to what seemed to her to be a logical solution, never have another relationship! Simply giving up on relationships means you will miss out on one of the main opportunities in your life to grow personally.

Being abused does not help you grow

Now let’s make sure we cover one really important point here. You need to keep your self safe. You should leave if you are  being consistently abused and are constantly in danger of your life. But to say that you should leave because your partner suffers from a condition and is not interested in improving, or shows no sign of recovering? Well, if they had cancer or Alzheimer’s would the advice remain the same? Remember if you are married, it does say ‘in sickness and in health’ doesn’t it?

Starting your recovery started in a hostile environment where the partner is undermining your efforts and not supporting you is the greatest challenge in recovery. But that is often the best way! Without that level of challenge a lot of people just roll along with an underdeveloped recovery that cannot take any pressure.

Difficulties can be our best Teacher

Using your difficulties to grow is the only way your recovery will work. Developing something that will work in any circumstances. Well, the family home now seems like the ideal place to develop such a thing! Remember Recovery and relationships go together!

If you have a tendency to be overly helpful and ‘co-dependent’ the best place to learn about boundaries and self love and all the rest of it is in the company of someone who will test those new strategies and developments, that sounds like your partner!

The ‘alternative to rehab’ service keeps you at work and at home with your family. My experience has been that if you are willing to learn to use the challenges that face you to grow and to learn about your self you are setting yourself up to succeed .

Thanks for taking the time to read this. Till next time.

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