Conversations That Matter Most in Relationships
Claudine Knox, MS, NCC
Clinical Mental health Counselor
Early recovery is a time of reinvention of self. Truly working the program means asking the questions, “Who am I? What do I stand for? What new values do I want to include? How will I demonstrate integrity in my daily life?” As you navigate the early days of recovery, some conversations matter more than others in relationships. You connect and fall in love by talking, so it makes sense for talking to be a vital part of healing the relationship from the trauma of addiction. What conversations should you have to heal? What conversations should you have to reinvigorate the connection and passion?
- Trust and Commitment: Trust and commitment are severely damaged by addiction. Show your partner that you can be counted on by being consistent with obligations and your word. Regaining trust is a slow process. Accountability becomes a measuring stick for your partner’s perception of your recovery success and your commitment to the relationship. Do you know each other’s expectations?
- Recovery Boundaries: You partner needs to understand what is required for ongoing recovery. Communicate your recovery needs and discuss what is required for coping with your triggers. What are your non-negotiable boundaries? What support will you request from your partner?
- Navigate Pain and Resentment from Active Addiction: Be willing to discuss and honor your partner’s pain. Foster an atmosphere of taking responsibly for wrongdoings. Self-righteousness erodes relationships. Be open to couples therapy to help navigate this process and support your own recovery if necessary.
- Conflict: Every relationship has conflict. It is unrealistic to avoid it. Each argument is a failed attempt at a discussion that needed to happen. Be willing to revisit the topic to get to know your partner better and develop deeper intimacy as you work through your differences.
- Sex and Intimacy: Couples who talk about sex have better sex lives. Discuss sober sex and your feelings about it with your partner. Improve intimacy by agreeing on rituals of connection e.g., plan regular dates, have meals without screens. Passion in an ongoing work in progress.
- Money: Money is a common area of conflict in many relationships. However, we don’t argue about money. We argue about the meaning of money. Understanding what money means to both of you can reduce perpetual arguments on this topic.
- Fun: It’s easy to get caught up in the demands of life and feel burdened by stress. Sober fun is vital to a healthy recovery and relationship. How will you have fun together? How will you keep it light and adventurous?
- Growth and Spirituality: As human beings we grow and evolve over time. Early recovery is a time of immense growth. How will you understand, support, and accommodate the growth of your partner? How will you support each other’s spiritual journey and practices?
- Dreams: Each of us have individual dreams. Sustaining a lifetime of love means supporting your partners dreams and bearing witness to them. Relationships are easier when we feel like our dreams are supported by our partners. Do you know each other’s dreams?
Relationship happiness comes from supporting each other’s dreams and recovery. It’s an on-going conversation of navigating each other’s differences and making an effort to connect, even when life gets “lifey”!
Gottman, J., Schwartz Gottman, J., Abrams, D., Carlton Abrams, R. (2019). eight dates: essential conversations for a lifetime of love. Workman Publishing, Inc.