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Love ever after, despite all difficulties, is a consoling concept and does, in many instances, exist. In the best of times, a couple’s relationship goes through ups and downs, sometimes more of one than the other. The strength, love and commitment of the couple serve to help them weather the tough times, enjoy the good ones, and enrich their relationship in the process. But when one partner is in recovery and the other is not fully supportive, complacency, anger, resentment and a desire to control can severely chip away at recovery.
The signs a relationship may be toxic to your recovery include both external and internal ones. They should never be taken lightly, for once they start to occur, they’re likely to continue and get worse. This not only threatens your recovery, they can do tremendous damage by undermining all that you have achieved in sobriety.
EXTERNAL SIGNS OF A TOXIC RELATIONSHIP
It’s not hard to spot a toxic relationship when it’s happening to someone else. When it’s you who’s affected, however, the signs may not be something you want to see. Be on the lookout for these external signs that the relationship with your partner is potentially toxic to your recovery.
- There’s physical or verbal abuse.
- Your partner neglects your needs.
- Nothing you do is ever good enough. Your partner shows his or her disapproval in body language, facial expressions and words.
- Words your partner uses toward you and about you tend to be harsh, accusatory, degrading and humiliating.
- The relationship is one-sided. There’s none of the give-and-take that characterizes healthy relationships.
- Your partner doesn’t support your recovery. In fact, he or she may seem to go out of the way to thwart your sobriety.
- He or she starts controlling more of your life. This includes finances, what you wear, what food you eat, monitoring your email, phone and social media accounts, sorting through and reading your mail, discarding what he or she believes you shouldn’t see.
- There’s a deliberate attempt to keep you from family and friends. This is a means of making you completely dependent on your partner for everything.
- Your partner continues to drink or do drugs in your presence with complete disregard for its effect on your recovery.
- He or she seems oblivious to your struggles and dismisses your concerns.
- Your partner makes little or no effort to change, feeling there’s nothing wrong with him or her, so there’s no need to do anything different.
- He or she expects you to be like you were before you went into treatment.
- There’s a growing resentment of your time at meetings.
- It’s all about him or her.
- Your faults are always center-stage. Your partner picks at them non-stop.
HOW A TOXIC PARTNER MAKES YOU FEEL
Beyond the external signs of a toxic relationship and how those can seriously undermine your recovery, there are several internal markers that indicate the toxicity of this bond and what it’s doing to your sobriety. How your toxic partner makes you feel can be an early warning system that this relationship is not conducive to effective recovery.
- You feel drained of energy and life.
- Your stress level ratchets up. As Psychology Today says, toxic relationships are a “silent killer.” They’re stressful emotionally, physically and mentally, wreaking havoc on your overall well-being and your sobriety.
- You can’t remember the last time you felt happy.
- Instead of conversing normally and without restraint, you find yourself at a loss for words, afraid to speak, worried about an angry outburst, harsh criticism or outright rejection.
- Your self-confidence and self-esteem plummet.
- You start judging yourself negatively.
- You’re always trying so hard to be accepted that you pay less attention to good self-care, working your recovery, going to meetings.
- You feel that you can’t be yourself, that you’re inherently not good enough.
- Life’s always a challenge with your partner, to the point where you no longer enjoy good times together. Your partner may even remind you that you used to be fun, but now you’re boring.
- Your goals for growth and change feel stifled by the weight of this toxic relationship.
- You feel dissatisfied and may express this unhappiness to others. You may want to leave, but are afraid to be on your own, fearing the break would be even more disastrous for your recovery.
- Your sense of accomplishment at achieving recovery goals is somehow diminished by this toxic relationship. Since there’s no affirmation, support or encouragement for attaining milestones or successfully completing steps, overcoming challenges, avoiding triggers, or working on self-improvement, you may begin to feel that recovery is too much work, too hard to maintain.
- Hope becomes more elusive. You find yourself wondering, “What is the point?”
- Faced with unrelenting toxicity in the relationship, you may feel defenseless against the allure of alcohol and drugs. Relapse becomes more likely the longer this situation continues.
Despite the negatives in a toxic relationship, there is something you can do about it. Strengthen your resolve and commitment to your recovery, reach out to supportive friends and family networks, participate fully in self-help groups, get additional counseling or therapy to help you deal with intense emotions and work through the challenges this relationship poses to your sobriety.
Keep in mind that you need to heal yourself and your recovery must come first. Furthermore, it’s important to recognize that you cannot change someone who’s bent on destroying a bond you’ve worked hard to create. The time may come when you must consider whether to sever the toxic relationship. For now, recognize the signs that one exists and tend to what matters most: your sobriety.