Five Challenges the Partners of Alcoholics in Recovery Face

1.  “I am still not the priority?!” When one enters recovery, their partner is usually feeling a great sense of relief and gratitude. Possibly believing some “normalcy” will return to their lives. Time together, evenings out, no more fighting the booze for attention. Over time; however, the truth reveals itself. No, it is not the alcohol that consumes their time – now it is their recovery. AA meetings, coffee afterwards, meeting their sponsor, doing step work. All of these things take time. It is often difficult for the partner to now have to share their spouse with the program. “How do I come second…..again??” The truth is, making recovery the priority IS making you and your relationship the priority. The program of recovery is one that must be attended to as often and as frequently as the alcoholism was. There is a saying “everything you put before your recovery you will lose”. So remember, you are the priority – now more than ever. “I don’t recognize you….” In the early stages of recovery the alcoholic is learning a new way of life – a new way to be – a new identity is forming. Perhaps while drinking your partner was passive, compliant, had a dependency on you. Perhaps while drinking your partner was upbeat, outgoing, life of the party. Now, who is the person before you who has lost or changes the personality you knew? In recovery the alcoholic is discovering who they are without alcohol. In turn, you as the partner, may be learning new things about them. Very often a new set of beliefs are developed and...

Learning to Fight Right

You and your partner (P1 & P2) are sitting on the couch after dinner and one asks the other – P1:“did you get the dry cleaning like I asked?” P2 “what dry cleaning?” P1 “what dry cleaning? The dry cleaning I asked you to get!” P2”why are you yelling? Its just dry cleaning” P1“BUT I ASKED YOU TO GET IT” P2”AND I WILL GET IT TOMORROW!” P1 “You never listen to me!” P2“you are always yelling at me!”………………………………….and so it begins… the “fight” In my work with couples the “fight” is often the tip of the iceberg and the couples are unaware of what lies beneath. There is a conflict over what appears to be a minor issue, however based on the escalation, quite possibly is about something else. The difficulty many couples have is their inability to “fight right”. There will be conflict in almost every relationship…but with conflict comes the opportunity for conflict resolution – that place where each may have a better understanding of the others needs and make attempts to meet them. In the work I do with couples, this resolution is the missing piece – leading to the belief that “all we do is fight”. In my work with couples I have come across different “styles” of fighting. I have labeled them below and how they ultimately lead to brick wall. All talk no listening In this style each individual in the couple has something to say, wants to be heard and needs to be understood. If we look at the example above – there are two issues that have been identified but remain...

Couples Therapy – Do we need it?

There have been several occasions where I sit with a couple for the initial session and I hear “I cannot believe that we are here – how pathetic”. The belief being that if you are entering into couple’s therapy, you have somehow managed to “fail” as a couple. This is a myth that I work on disproving the moment we begin our work. It is true, that there are couples out there who perhaps need to separate from each other that are somehow toxic for each other and some that can work through their issues and remain together. The only failure would be to pretend that perhaps, therapy is not needed. Entering into couple’s therapy is frightening and courageous thing to do. Anytime I have a couple in front of me I acknowledge that the fact that these are two people who are willing to take a look at what their part in the dysfunction may be. That is not always the case and there are those who seek out therapy so the therapist can “fix” the spouse. “Tell him that he is wrong!” or vice versa. Couples therapy is not about proving who is right or who is wrong It is about providing a safe place where thoughts, feelings, beliefs can be expressed without being shut down, dismissed or invalidated by your partner. The number one issues that presents itself in couple’s therapy usually is a lack of communication. Somewhere along the line the two have lost the ability to effectively communicate with each other. Part of the work is to find out how or why this breakdown...