Like recovery, reviving a relationship is best done one step at a time. Here are five ways for couples to chart a return to trust and intimacy.
1. Support each other’s recovery.
Go to open meetings offered by your spouse’s program, which will help you understand what he or she has been going through. “But keep your ‘home meetings’ for just yourselves,” suggests Twelve Step veteran Russell B. “That’s your safe place.” Attending meetings as a couple or meditating together at home also breaks your dysfunctional behavior pattern.
2. Make amends without expectations.
You’re not married to a priest; your partner can’t grant you absolution after confession. “When the addict comes clean about sex outside the relationship, the partner feels violated,” says psychotherapist Ellen Katz. “And the addict has to give the partner space to be pissed and hurt.”
3. Define your goals.
Understand what the rules are in relationships, what the rules are in your relationship? What will it take to create change? What kind of change do you want? With the exception of staying sober, there is no right answer to these questions.
4. Listen to the voices of experience.
Some couples have been going to Twelve Step rooms together for decades; most are happy to offer you the wisdom they’ve accrued. Recovering Couples Anonymous (RCA), for example, might be helpful.
5. Be patient.
Many recovery programs tell you to avoid making impulsive lifestyle changes. Just as you shouldn’t start a relationship in your first year of recovery, neither should you abruptly end one (unless there is physical abuse). Even if you and your partner eventually choose to separate, waiting allows you to do so with confidence and serenity.