One factor that greatly determines whether or not you’re successful in recovery is the kind of relationship you have with your partner. To begin our exploration of this material, we’ll identify which of the three different types of partners you have and from there, how you should go about taking care of your part in the Dance of the Relationship.
THE THREE TYPES OF PARTNERS IN ADDICTION ARE:
DESCRIPTIONS OF THE THREE DIFFERENT TYPES OF PARTNERS
These partners are ready to participate in the healing of your relationship. They are prepared to examine, take responsibility for, and change their part of the Dance.
These partners have some reservations about investing their time and energy in healing your relationship. They are hesitant to jump in and have trepidation and doubt. This is most likely because they know that you can hurt them or let them down once again. They adopt a, “Let’s wait and see if you’re able to do your part, and then, maybe I’ll be willing to join in” kind of attitude.
These partners see the problem as 100% yours and they don’t want any part in any kind of healing in the relationship. They say, “Look, you’re the one who went to treatment and you’re the one with the problem. Get yourself fixed; period.”
THE GOOD AND THE DANGEROUS
With willing participants, the good news is that you have support. There is an agreement that you’re both in this together, which in and of itself, offers a clear path forward.
A possible danger is that your partner is too willing, too soft, too yielding, and that you’re able to enforce old patterns of addiction back into the relationship. This could appear as you controlling the situation through your anger or poor me/victim roles, which spark the same old reactions from your partner, which has you both going around and around in the same old ways. Not good.
The good news with a reluctant participant is that you can get their support after satisfying a requirement or two. If these requirements are clearly laid out and have clear, achievable, and agreed upon goals, then this could be great. This is an opportunity for you to feel good about yourself by reaching a goal and forming new bonds of trust.
The danger is if the goal posts keep moving. Meaning, there’s ambiguity about when, where and how the requirements are achieved. This results in a situation where you you may feel like you’ve satisfied the requirements but it just wasn’t good enough from your partner’s perspective. This is a nightmare situation, which is only going to cause more resentment, anger and problems on both sides. For you, this can feel like a carrot on a stick that never gets achieved, and for your partner, it’s another example of how you can’t follow through on your promises. Ugh; not good.
There’s good news even with an unwilling partner and this is that it is absolutely clear where they stand. The ambiguity that conditional partners run into is not here. You can go about your business without any worry about their expectations. This is actually pretty freeing for many people once they accept that this is the kind of partner they have.
The danger is in the obvious: you don’t feel like you have support. For me when I’m working with someone, I feel it gets even more dangerous to dig into the question, “Will you ever get it?” and then, “What exactly does that mean?” These answers may take things in a painful direction but once again, at least the next steps will be clear.
Once you’ve identified your partner’s type and looked at the good and the dangers, then here are a few next steps:
If you have a willing partner…
Make sure you acknowledge their support and tell them what that means to you.
Thank them for offering this support, especially since you’ve probably taken advantage of it during times of active addiction.
Openly acknowledge the danger that you don’t want to use your “old tricks” to control the relationship. And ask to be called out on this if these old behaviors appear.
If you have a reluctant partner..
You must acknowledge that there are requirements that you have to achieve.
Clarify exactly what these requirements are.
Make sure you both agree upon these requirements as realistic, reachable and that they have distinct and clear endings.
If you have an unwilling partner…
Acknowledge your partner as an unwilling type and that you understand and accept their position.
Also acknowledge that you’re working on your side of the street and if they want, you can have another talk after you’ve reached your goal.
You understand that there’s no guarantees. Either way, you’re accepting of the outcomes and will continue to do the next right thing in your recovery.
Your relationship with your partner can be one of the most important determining factors in your recovery. So, it’s important to get off on the right foot! Determining which one of the three different types of partners you have is a great way to do exactly this. From there, take your next steps and slowly but surely, you’ll find that the Dance of the Relationship will take on a completely different tone, rhythm and beat. Enjoy!
Randal Lyons helps people struggling with addiction who want long term, holistic care. He uses his own experience in recovery combined with his training as a Doctor of Oriental Medicine through his program, Alchemist Recovery.
If you've got questions about this or any other topic in sobriety, please contact me.