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Couples in Recovery: Becoming an Authentic Couple

Issue 24

The key to unlocking true intimacy as a couple, is discovering your authentic self.

Couples in early recovery often start their relationships from a place of codependence, that is where one or both parties feel a need to please the other at the expense of their own needs. For lots of reasons, they may not yet have found their voice to be authentic with their partner.

People with codependency issues often had problems with their families of origin, trauma, or social norms; and have adapted by being secretive or inauthentic. Early sobriety often puts pressure on the sober partner to fix, control, or put their own needs on hold. All of these situations can put couples on an authenticity hold.

In recovery, people begin to explore the wounds they bring to the relationship, and work towards becoming their more authentic self. With trust, one can then share these insights with each other. This can be a very intense time for couples, bringing both more intimacy but also fear, as the dynamic of the co-dependent relationship is disrupted. Moving toward interdependence often requires the help of a couple’s therapist to guide this process.

Six steps to consider while moving towards authenticity in your relationship:

• When you both get “triggered” at the same time, determine whose unmet needs get addressed first, understanding you will take turns asking for what you need.

• Be emotionally vulnerable by telling the truth, even if it may create a conflict. Redefine intimacy to include conflict.

• Agree to stay engaged during deep conflicts. This creates safety from behaviors such as withdrawing, engaging in addictive behaviors, walking away, or escaping into another relationship.

• Respect each other’s boundaries. Renegotiate as needed.

• Develop spiritual practices together such as meditation, attending meetings together, walking or exercising together.

• Ask for support from your partner when resolving conflicts. We are all perfectly imperfect. Be gentle with yourself and each other. Express gratitude  and compassion. Seek professional help if needed.

It is possible for both people in the relationship to live their authentic selves and recover together as an authentic couple.

Taking responsibility for one’s life is hard work but the rewards are truthfulness, integrity, and a move towards the authentic self.

Ultimately, it is a move towards becoming a trusting and intimate authentic couple.

Elaine Shamos
Elaine Shamos
Elaine Shamos, MPH, has 30 years experience as a public health professional and is the former director of Dartmouth’s Women’s Health Resource Center. Glenn Simpson, LCSW, CADC, has a private practice specializing in substance use disorder, and couples therapy. They are working together on a book for couples in recovery.

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