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Oct 18, 2013

we are going to talk about The special challenges and blessing for the couple in recovery

and we might talk about the legacies affecting their children and future generations.

Let’s kick off this segment of the show with a voice message we received from Bronte in Austrailia.

Feedback from listeners

we posed the following questions to our listeners

3. Question:  When there is the disease of alcoholism in a family, the whole family is sick and dysfunctional.  In recovery, who is to take responsibility for this dysfunction?

  • Both partners must accept responsibility for the health or dysfunction of their coupleship.

  • Both partners bring their own addictions, personalities, family-of- origin messages, and individual dysfunctions into the coupleship.

  • This does not mean that one is responsible for any of the addictive or dysfunctional behaviors of one’s partner. Both partners are responsible for the presence or absence of intimacy.

4. In a recovering couple where only one has alcoholism, is there only one co-dependent?

  • Both partners may be co-dependent.

  • Mutual co-dependency may be an aspect of co-addiction. Partner co-dependency may be based on fear of abandonment, deep shame, or a need for approval. Enmeshed partner attachments may result, causing both partners to seek to control each other, usually to prevent their partner from leaving.

  • There can be two styles of control: manipulative and domineering. The manipulative co-dependents seek to secure their partners by always doing what their partners need or want. This compels these co-dependents to lose their independent identity and sometimes to almost literally die for their partners. This style, which is usually unconscious, might also include portraying themselves as victims, which projects images of being such poor, wretched, mistreated people that no one could ever leave them.

  • The domineering style is more directly controlling. In this style, the co-dependents use anger (or even rage), harsh orders, demands, argumentation, threats, and suggestions (in a variety of subtle and not-so-subtle ways) that they are superior and should control the behavior of their partners.

  • Whichever style is present, both partners fear the other’s leaving and use their own personal co-dependent style to prevent abandonment. In recovery, partners can learn how to be in the coupleship by choice. Before such recovery, co-dependent partners lack choice. They are in the coupleship out of necessity— the compulsion of their shared addiction to each other.

6. Is family of origin issues relevant to the recovering couple?

  • Both partners usually have significant family-of-origin issues.

  • The limited amount of research that has been conducted with addicted couples suggests that both partners may be victims of some kind of neglect or abuse. Addicted couples may have learned unhealthy styles of relationships in their families of origin, where they did not receive healthy modeling of nurturing and intimacy.

  • Each partner may be the victim of violation of personal boundaries—emotional, physical, sexual, or spiritual. Such violations often create suppressed rage, coupled with profound fear and anxiety. Addictions may develop as ways of coping with these feelings.

8. What about comparing our relationship with normies?

  • Couples are full of illusions about ideal relationships.

  • Addicted couples may have lists of requirements for what they believe makes a “Good Couple.” For example, the partners may think if they have violated their marital vows, have money problems, or are not perfect parents, they can never be acceptable as a couple.

9. Do you have slips in recovery?  What does that look like?

  • Just as individuals have slips, so will couples.

  • Just as individuals in recovery know that addiction lasts a lifetime and they must continue their programs for life, so partners learn they must maintain recovery in their coupleship for life. If couples stop working their program, experience has taught us that old patterns of dysfunction will likely return. Just as individual addicts have slips, so will couples. Slips occur in coupleships when:

• Communication breaks down,

• Old fights and patterns of interaction return, and

• Partners start distancing from each other.

10. What support do you rely on?

  • There may be little social support for the recovering coupleship.

  • When couples enter recovery, the social system around them may not comprehend or accept the changes both partners are making, and may not support the partners in their efforts. We have found RCA to be a useful support for us in our efforts to change.

12. Do you experience shame?

  • Couples will experience shame, just as individuals do.

  • We must be aware that our individual shame is doubled in coupleship when we become convinced that we are a terrible couple. Sometimes we may feel we are “terrible” friends, parents, sexual partners, communicators, managers of money—seemingly not doing as well as other couples in RCA, etc. This is called couple shame. We may think that we are in the worst coupleship imaginable. In this state of mind, it may seem to us that the only solution is to end the coupleship.

  • The answer for couple shame is the same as for individual shame. As we tell our story to other couples, we learn that we are not alone in our problems. In this way, we can also experience affirmation for our progress in recovery. Additionally, by getting a sponsor couple, working the Steps, and working our own individual recovery programs we will begin to heal. Gradually, over time, we can experience intimacy that few other couples know.