“My partner seems to prefer the company of a drink to spending time with me.”
The relationship one has with alcohol, drugs, internet porn, or gambling can have an enormous negative impact on couplehood and marriage. At the same time, difficulty in the relationship can contribute to the continued cycle of substance abuse and relapse. It is not unusual for the impact of alcohol or drugs use to creep up slowly and take over the life of a couple or family. When one partner begins on the road to recovery, it is important to have all the support they can have. Yet, there might be years of lies and hiding, betrayals and hurts that would make it difficult.
Whether one chooses abstinence, rehab and medication assisted treatment, 12 step program, or harm reduction, your relationship with your partner is affected. For the first time in years, there might be an opportunity to heal old wounds and to create a new relationship based on trust and security. However, the first step is to stop the relational patterns that may be contributing to relapses and continued abuse.
The difficult issues facing couples in recovery can be ignored or given superficial treatment by inexperienced psychotherapists who are not familiar with the needs of these couples.
At the Center for Psychological and Interpersonal Development, we work with couples in recovery using Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT), a highly effective form of couples therapy.
The Negative Cycle
When relationships aren’t going well, we can get stuck in a vicious cycle of blame and withdrawal. We may feel like our partner isn’t there for us when we turn to them to discuss our needs or when we need them for support. So we get angry, criticize and blame. Or we may begin to feel that there is nothing we can do right, that we are both better off staying away from each other. So we withdraw into work, drinking, or internet. We may not even feel like they really love or accept us, and we become disconnected further from them.
Sam and Kathy (not their real names) came to us after Sam returned from the rehab for his alcohol abuse. Although he is committed to recovery, he remains withdrawn and doesn’t talk to Kathy. Kathy has been fed up with his drinking and excuses. She wants to support him but doesn’t trust him and feels so angry after many years of carrying the family on her shoulders. She constantly checks on Sam, calls him or txts him to see where he is. Sam is frustrated and feels that he is treated like a child. The more Kathy is distrustful and angry, the more Sam withdraws and the more Kathy feels alone.
In therapy, Sam and Kathy begin to see this negative cycle as the enemy. As Sam is able to share some of his struggle with recovery, shame about the past and his need for Kathy’s support, Kathy feels closer to him. She is then able to share the pain she experienced over the years and feels for the first time that Sam is really here, listening. Kathy begins to trust him more as she learns about his program and his sponsor and, at times, can reach for Sam as well. They are building a new secure relationship.