Life with a spouse in recovery can be many be 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 relationships. The key elements to that encouragement are open and honest communication, understanding, education, and empathy.

Honesty and Openness

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, concerns that your partner may be having thoughts of using again, or a general feeling of uncertainty about how you spouse is coping and how he or she is doing emotionally, as recovery from an addiction is a life-long process. This can cause feelings of uncertainty and anxiety that may place unnecessary strain on your relationship.  However, 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 most importantly a 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 and 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 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.

Need Some Education

Educating yourself about addiction if you personally have not experienced it can be helpful if you have a spouse in recovery. Addiction is a complex disease that is effected by many different factors.  There are biological, environmental, psychological, and social components and 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 of 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 as 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.

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