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While it’s not a good idea to get involved in a new relationship during your first few months of sobriety—you have enough life transitions and adjustments to cope with right now—if you’re already in a committed relationship, taking steps to rekindle and nurture the romantic element can be a major help in staying sober:
- You’ll find new joy and passion in living a healthy life.
- The “new you” will be a pleasure to spend time with, giving your partner additional motivation to encourage your sobriety.
- As enjoyment and mutual desire increase, your relationship will be reinforced and nurtured in every aspect, and you won’t have “fear of breakup” stress chipping at your sobriety resolve.
One caveat: “romance” is not sex, or any other aspect of your relationship that emphasizes the physical. That physical element is “passion,” and while it certainly has its place in committed relationships, it’s easy to start using it as a substitute for real romance. Romance is a matter of:
- Mutual understanding and appreciation
- Communication on multiple levels
- Going the extra mile for the other party—and being literally delighted to do it
- The gentle side of physical contact: tender touching, an arm around the shoulder, light kissing and embracing
If you’re recovering from addiction, the problems with overemphasizing the “heavy” side of physical contact will likely sound familiar: It makes everything all about feeling intensely good in short bursts. It avoids trying to understand deep issues or think about past and future. It does nothing to nurture understanding, caring or personal development—indeed, it makes it easy to neglect these vital relationship aspects. Ultimately, being all passion and no romance does more harm than good.
To make genuine romance a part of your successful sobriety journey:
CONSIDER THE PAST
- Remember why you “fell in love” with your partner. It probably wasn’t just a matter of good looks. Did you have major interests in common? Were you impressed by his or her work ethic, intelligence, attention to detail? Re-commit yourself to appreciating and encouraging these good points.
- Remember why your partner fell in love with you. (Better yet, ask: the reasons may not be what you think.) Were you more attentive then, more eager to listen, more generous with compliments and little gifts? Start doing more of all that now.
- Sometimes, the very character traits that initially attracted us become annoying once we’re living with them up-close and day-to-day: the “conscientious” partner is now a “nag,” the “easygoing” partner a “slob.” Purge your vocabulary of loaded words, commit yourself to seeing the good side of your partner’s habits, and encourage him or her (regular compliments are a great encouragement tool) to concentrate on that better side.
CONSIDER THE PRESENT
- Practice getting lost in the moment with your partner. Plan long walks, or times to hold hands and listen to soft music, without fencing things in with set “start” and “end” points.
- Don’t, however, take an attitude of “We’ll spend time together when we get around to it”—you’ll never get around to it. Schedule regular “dates,” at least three hours once a week, to just be together and turn off even your phones.
- Remember—or learn—your partner’s “love language.” Does he or she respond best to encouraging words, help with everyday tasks, material gifts, quality time or physical contact? Provide lots of attention in the form your partner loves most.
- Males in “traditional” relationships: do not give your partner a “practical” gift on occasions where gifts are expected. Any woman remotely typical of the feminine wants something “sweet” to assure her you love her for herself and not just for what she does.
CONSIDER THE FUTURE
- Plan and dream together. Talk about where you’ll go on vacation, what house you’ll buy when starting a family and what you’ll do together in retirement.
- Even if you aren’t sure your relationship is “till death do us part,” live as if you believed it. Confidence and a sense of security do wonders for any relationship.
- Develop daily romance habits and resolve to keep them daily, always and ever. Like any other healthy habit, romance lasts best when treated as a natural part of everyday life!