Now that you have completed rehab and you’re living as a recovering addict, you may begin to think about relationships. Your therapist may suggest that you hold off on romantic relationships until you feel more secure in your sobriety, but once you’re ready and you’ve met someone you really like, you could probably use some advice. As an addict, you likely did not contribute to relationships that were very healthy. If you want to have a successful and satisfying relationship now, here are some steps to take to build it:
- Communicate openly. The one word of advice that almost all relationship experts give is to communicate. This means talking openly about important things, like your feelings. To establish good communication early in a relationship, be a good listener. Don’t interrupt or judge. You don’t have to avoid arguments, but argue fairly and be kind. In return, be open with your partner and express yourself honestly. Never be afraid to bring up an issue that bothers you. Talking through it will make your relationship stronger.
- Be honest. Don’t hide feelings that you think might be scary or difficult. Be especially honest about your recovery. Hiding your struggles from your partner and trying to bear them alone is not helpful for you or your relationship. When you’re having a tough time and triggers are making you crave drugs or alcohol, be honest about it and let your partner help you.
- Explore together. Spending time together is another important factor in a good relationship. Take time to engage in your shared interests If you both enjoy working out, go to the gym together. Try out each other’s activities, too, and try new activities with each other. Learning something new or exploring a new activity or hobby together is a great way to bond and become closer.
- Be kind. Research has shown that the most successful relationships, and the most long-lasting, are those in which two partners are kind and generous to each other. It isn’t always easy to be kind, especially if you are struggling personally, but try to develop habits of being kind to the person you care about and your relationship will be better for it. And keep in mind that kindness is important not just when someone is suffering, but also when he or she is doing well. Cheer your partner on and always be a kind supporter.
- Work on intimacy. Intimacy doesn’t just mean sex. To have a good relationship, you need emotional, intellectual and experiential intimacy as well as physical intimacy. In other words, you need to be close to each other in many ways, and that doesn’t necessarily come automatically with love or caring. Don’t let this aspect of your relationship slide. Spend time doing things together that you both enjoy. Talk about your feelings. Discuss books you’ve read or movies you’ve seen together.
Developing a relationship that lasts, that is healthy and that makes both partners happy isn’t always easy. This is especially true when you have a deep personal struggle like addiction. It may be best to hold off on a relationship until you feel secure in recovery and in being sober. When you are ready, make sure you are thoughtful, caring, open and honest with your partner, and the two of you will be able to develop a wonderful and lasting relationship.