Sober Relationships

The same man will drink again.

 Not to mention most of us come into the rooms with horrible relationship skills.  We are skilled in the art of getting what we want at nearly any cost.

When I got sober in 2006 I swore the last thing I wanted was another relationship.  I would make my new life about working on me and taking care and getting to know Lori.  I had been in three failed marriages and numerous sick and abusive relationships in my life.  My mother was unavailable and my father had an instinctive aversion to encouraging his children in any way shape or form.  I asked my new sponsor “What are the signs that I am in a sick relationship?” In all her wisdom she answered “You will be in it that’s how you’ll know>”  Ha ha kidding!.

 

But really her answer would have been the defining factor prior to my year in recovery therapy.  My therapist taught me communication skills.  He also told me and several other women that he had never in all his years of counselling addicts seen any of them embark in a romantic relationship in their first year of recovery and stay sober.  Me and two of my friends were all dating men in recovery at that time.  We just looked at each other knowing full well none of us were about to jump off the lavish and fulfilling pink cloud of our new found relationships with the men we had hooked up with in the spring fever of 2006.

Jody found her man right out of rehab.  And a good man he is.  I can say that because he was in therapy with us which means I know him at a core level.  They married sometime in their third year of recovery.  Man we used to have some laughs and some cries in group therapy.  Jody worked her own program while her and her new boe grew up together emotionally. Some things are simply meant to be. Jody now has her masters in psychology and will soon be a full-blown licensed therapist. She has had many accomplishments since she got sober in 2006 in spite of being in a rehab spawned relationship. They are still happily married today.

My other friend and now sister in rehab therapy with me is Pam. Pami’s man a true Alcoholics Anonymous icon who has graduated to guru status by recently picking up his twenty seven year medallion was quite a catch.  They make All the bike week gatherings in Daytona.  She darts around town in the hot sports car he bought them both.  And their life is basically a year round vacation save the occasional renovations they themselves make on their numerous rental homes.  Her life is picture perfect on Facebook but she also shows the other women in recovery her vulnerable side to teach them that without embracing the hurt and scared side of ourselves there can be no healing.  I am very proud of my sisters who are the first women I have loved since high school.

Me… I found my guy at my homegroup in A.A. also.  He matched the description of a prophecy I had been given back in the nineties of what my true soul mate would look and be like.  My daughter was nine when I got her back.  I will never forget her running up to me so excited.  “Mom! He has blue eyes!”  She remembered the prophecy.  My daughter never liked any of my friends when I was in my addiction and her father was a very unhappy and mean man.  Thank God I got her from him when I did.

My man had seven years sober in 2006 and back then I thought that was a long time.  God it seems like a lifetime ago.  So much has changed.  Relationships in recovery can work.  Some things really are just meant to be but it takes work to learn how to love and respect another human being through your own pain.

Lesson One communications

NO SARCASM- PERIOD SAY WHAT YOU MEAN AND MEAN WHAT YOU SAY.  That is not a free pass to hurt people.  We don’t pay people disrespect by unconscionable remarks of how ugly they might be or how badly they need liposuction in the name of truth.  “Brutal candor” and “truth” are two different things and I do not have to be candid to be honest.

Lesson two responsibility

I am responsible for processing my own feelings.  People can hurt me by there words because I am human.  I am not the tough girl I pretended to be in my addiction.  I am not working at surviving on the streets of hell anymore.  I am learning how to live serenely.  Only I can do what it takes to work through the hurt so I will heal.  It is my responsibility to let other people (who I want to continue in a relationship with) know when I feel I have been disrespected by them.  But if I am newly sober my feelings will be coming up from the past triggered by events in the present.  Every time my new boyfriend triggered an intense emotional feeling and fear in me I thought it through. I did not say a word to him.   I picked up the phone and called one of my girlfriends in my support group.  I told her what happened and how it made me feel.  First she validates and relates to my feelings.  She mirrors my words so I know she cares enough to hear what I am saying.  Then she gives me feedback.   Did he mean to hurt me?  Did he really disrespect me or is it one of my fears/character flaws that are flaring up.  Is it my low self-worth telling me he meant disrespect?  Are my feelings coming from a traumatic issue of my past such as one of my divorces or maybe a daddy issue?  If so I need to write and talk about the original pain. Go back to the past and work through the issue I repressed for so long.  I can write letters that I do not send telling my father how he made me feel as a child.  I can do anger exercises, cry, beat the bed, scream all while focusing on the original pain.  Many of us fear abandonment, betrayal, REJECTION.  Omg did I have rejection and entitlement issues galore.  I saw rejection in so many of my new boyfriend’s actions.  I felt like he owed me because I was sleeping with him.  He was responsible I thought for fixing my car when it broke down.  But the thing is it was my choice to sleep with him.  He owed me nothing.  Was I a prostitute?  Then I should tell him the fee before he buys the product right? (just using this for an example).  Once we realize our partners owe us nothing except respect it clears allot of the confusion away.

Lesson three Boundaries

If he truly had disrespected me which he didn’t then it would have been up to me to let him know that I considered his behavior toward me wrong.  Then if it continued it’s up to me to set a boundary by walking away.  Staying in a sick relationship tells my partner that it’s okay for him to treat me bad.  Arguing and fighting in hopes things will change ARE NOT BOUNDARIES.  Me telling another adult how to act is not a true boundary.  I can’t make anybody treat me right it must be their choice.  All I can do is let them know what I consider wrong behavior toward me.  If it doesn’t change I should make my choice to accept him as he is and stay or leave.

COMMUNICATION and Trust Lesson four

TRUST IS VITAL.  Lying is wrong and it will destroy a relationship.  Sarcasm is hurtful and not only that it is also dishonest by its very nature.  Sarcasm is to say what we don’t mean and expect the hearer to repent by it.  Sure it’s better to understand than to be understood but also we need to know we are being heard by our partner and visa-versa.  We can teach our partner how to listen by being attentive.  We respond by mirroring, shaking our head in agreement.  We can say “I understand how you feel”.  “I understand why you feel”.  We need to learn to LISTEN.  We mute the TV when our partner is talking.  We shake our head in acknowledgment.  We try to understand where our partner is coming from and we look for the similarities rather than the differences.  We don’t make choices for any adult.  We allow our partner to grow emotionally by making their own mistakes.  We don’t take on our partner’s responsibilities.  We don’t bail them out of trouble as a habit.  We are not their emotional roller coaster or their enabler.

We do not manipulate people.  If we want a favor, we ask for a favor.  We don’t play games of neediness or fem-fatal.  We don’t play the helpless games of building him up so we can get what we want from him.  At least not if we are working on building our own self-worth.  These types of women’s allurements build our ego while cutting our self-esteem to the quick.  Our heart of hearts knows the difference between accomplishment and dependency.  Having a sugar daddy is belittling to a woman.  And although it takes a certain amount of intelligence and sexual beauty to manipulate a man.   A psycho-sexual manipulation conquest feeds our ego while depleting our true self-image.  We will crash and burn when our looks fade if we don’t grow up emotionally and gain independence.

Change Happens lesson five

We are happy to agree with our partners in the fairy tale phase of the relationship when passion is high but that phase WILL CHANGE.  It’s fun but it will change and we can flow with it or fight it trying to get that high back until it makes us sick.  Just because our lover isn’t chasing us and wooing us as he did when we were courting doesn’t mean he loves us less or is having an affair.  If we try to smother a man and hold him hostage we will lose him.

Lesson six Assertiveness NO MORE PASSIVE AGGRESION

It’s important to talk about my intense concerns before they come out sideways in a burst of emotional passive aggression due to the fact I held my feelings in because I was afraid he would not like me if he knew me.  TYPICAL ALCOHOLIC BEHAVIOR.  But what’s more typical is to NEVER ADMIT FEAR.  But we are as sick as our secrets.  Count yourself blessed if you know you are afraid.  Many a man walks the earth blaming others all day long for the way he alone has made himself feel.  He will tell you he is fearless while he skulks and hides in fright.  He lets no man ever see what is truly in his heart.  But his eyes reflect a man terrorized by a fear he does not recognize as his own.  Feelings are for sissies he says.  But not us by our assertiveness we will walk through our fear of loss.

More communication.  What do we want from our relationship with another human being?  If it is of a romantic nature we sit down and discuss our hopes, and wants.  What about sex?  Can we have sex with a man and be their girlfriend while that man plays the field and dates other women?  I had to ask myself this question.  When I was in therapy with the group sharing the highlights of my new romance my therapist asked me that question.  I didn’t think it was my right to tell a man I just started sleeping with that I could not date him if he dated other women.  Being that candid scared the hell out of me.  I guess I was afraid he would say “tough shit”.  Or “are you crazy bitch?”  But I had the backing of my group and I was embarking on a new way of communicating.  In the past I would have used far less assertive ways to express myself.  Passive aggressive was my code.  As long as I didn’t speak candidly about the way I felt about ANYTHING I didn’t have to worry about being labeled the fucking dreaded label of “WRONG & BAD” which I thought I was all of my young life.

But now well hell I had been exposed to every fatal addict type disease out there and come out of it scot free.  No H.I.V. AND NO HEP C…hell they even told me I wasn’t carrying and hep B virus and I knew for a fact I had it at least twice.  When I got that Aids test after years of risky behavior and at least two direct exposures I was not about to take the chance of contracting H.I.V. while in sobriety by God!  I listened to my therapist cause he ws right.  I loved myself too much to sleep with a man who could be seeing other women.  So we had the talk.

I used the words I had heard Oprah use.  I told my new boyfriend I wanted to “define our relationship”.  I told him I didn’t expect a commitment per say but he would have to get tested like I had done and make me the promise if he agreed that if he wanted to date other people he would tell me so then I would have the knowledge and option to walk away.  I was shocked that he seemed fine with all of it.  Soon after he and his friend both went down and got tested.  We held out on having sexing until that time.  And he agreed that if he did choose to date other women he would tell me.  It’s been ten happy years since we made that pact.  He truly is my soul mate and much like me.  Some things my friend, are meant to be.

MORE TRUST

We don’t fight or argue.   It’s funny I feel like we still treat one another the same way we did when we first started dating.  We are the type of people who take separate vacations.  I like to lay on the beach and he likes to fish in the sea.  About once a year we take a trip together and part ways when we reach our destination because he likes to do guy things and I like to do girl things.  We don’t cling to one another and that isn’t for everyone but we love it that way.  We spend quality time at home.  We don’t go out to dinner as much as we used to but we eat dinner together allot.  We are partners, help mates.  When I need him he is usually there.  He actually does more for me now than early in our relationship.  Reason being I was in a state of vital growth and needed to accomplish things to build my own esteem.  If he were to rescue me and take on my responsibilities I would not have grown into maturity.

He trusts me.  I have not earned distrust nor has he.  I have long term men friends in the town I grew up in who I have gone to visit many times and stayed.  But my boyfriend who is now my husband has made it clear he believes emotional intimacy with other men is a worse form of adultery than sexual betrayal.  Granted they are both a betrayal.  It’s not that I shouldn’t have conversations with my friends but I guess what he means is a confiding of deeply personal truths with another man while withholding intimacy from him would be a betrayal.  So I respect his views.  And I listen.  But truly it’s not in my nature to be intimate with other men while I am in such an intimate and trusting relationship with my husband.  Trust is the reason we can travel alone and not worry or fear what the other is doing.

More relationship articles:
https://www.recoveryfarmhouse.com/relationships/
https://www.recoveryfarmhouse.com/sober-relationships-part-2-the-mans-perspective/
https://www.recoveryfarmhouse.com/relationships-alcoholics-anonymous-3/
https://www.recoveryfarmhouse.com/relationships-alcoholics-anonymous/