Life with a spouse in recovery can mean many things. Like all relationships, there are moments that are challenging, moments of uncertainty, rewarding times, exciting times and everything in between. While all relationships are different and unique and there is no “right” way to approach life with a spouse in recovery, there are certain things we can do to encourage a healthy, happy and long-lasting relationship. The key elements are open and honest communication, understanding, education and empathy.
Honesty and Openness with a Spouse in Recovery
As with all relationships, open and honest communication between you and your spouse in recovery is essential. When in a relationship with an individual in recovery, there may be an underlying fear that your partner could relapse or concerns that your partner may be having thoughts of using again. You may experience a general feeling of uncertainty about how your spouse is coping and how they are doing emotionally, as recovery from an addiction is a life-long process. This can cause feelings of uncertainty and anxiety that may place strain on your relationship.
It is best not to let that fear overcome you. Instead, communicate with your partner about your fears and concerns, as would be necessary in any relationship. Take an honest, open and non-judgmental approach. It is likely that by openly communicating about these fears, both you and your spouse in recovery can discuss openly the realities of recovery from an addiction and offer one another support and reassurance.
Taking things day by day, rather than focusing on the uncertainty of the future, can be helpful in reducing anxiety about the “unknown” and the “what-ifs.”
Work with Supporters
Life with a spouse in recovery often means that your partner is actively involved in some form of community support, such as 12-step meetings or ongoing personal psychotherapy, as this is an important aspect of maintaining success in long-term sobriety. Working with a sponsor and surrounding oneself with positive sober support is highly beneficial as it provides those in recovery with a sense of community and camaraderie.
Often your spouse in recovery may be attending multiple meetings per week, and communicating an understanding and support of this can be comforting and encouraging to your spouse in recovery.
Seek Out Education
Educating yourself about addiction if you have not personally experienced it can be helpful if you have a spouse in recovery. Addiction is a complex disease that is affected by many factors. There are biological, environmental, psychological and social components. The more you understand about these complexities, the more support you can offer, as it is difficult to display compassion for something of which have little knowledge or understanding.
Finally, display empathy and compassion to your spouse in recovery. Empathy is a key ingredient in all relationships, and especially with a spouse in recovery. Conveying empathy sends your spouse the message that while you may not know exactly what it is like to be in recovery, the feelings your spouse experiences are feelings that you can understand and share. Empathy conveys a feeling of safety, understanding and trust: crucial components of all happy, healthy and lasting relationships.