Will Your Partner Give You Another Chance?
As noted in the classic Twelve Steps, making amends to everybody one has hurt is an important part of addiction recovery. When the injured party is someone you have a longstanding relationship with, amends don’t stop at replacing damaged property or repaying misappropriated funds—they extend into your future relations and involve long, slow rebuilding of trust.
With someone you’re married or otherwise committed to, rebuilding is especially challenging. This is someone who’s known you intimately, probably shared your household and personal belongings, perhaps had children with you—and probably suffered more than anyone from your dishonesty, intoxicated behavior and pressure to keep outsiders from finding out.
Perhaps, despite all this, your partner will be waiting at home when you’re released from inpatient drug rehab. Perhaps he or she has moved out, but expressed willingness to try again if you get help. If you’re less lucky, however, perhaps your relationship is as good as dead, or even legally dissolved, and someone you still love wants nothing to do with you ever again.
Even if your partner welcomes you back, memories of broken promises will keep a cloud of distrust hanging over your relationship for some time. So accept that the burden of proof is yours.
Here are some hints for various relationship situations.
IF YOU AND YOUR PARTNER ARE STILL TOGETHER
- Focus on being as responsible and understanding as you can.
- Maintain active peer support in the recovering-addicts community. It isn’t fair to expect your partner (who has suffered enough trying to maintain loyalty and support while you were at your worst) to carry the full burden.
- Arrange shared family therapy for yourself, your partner and any other residents of your household.
- If enablement (your partner’s covering up for you) is a concern, make plans together to eliminate it (you can use a variation on your sobriety plan template).
- Show your partner our “Help For Your Loved One” articles.
IF YOU’RE SEPARATED, BUT RECONCILIATION REMAINS A POSSIBILITY
- Stay in regular touch, but don’t beg, and don’t do anything that might be perceived as harassment. Respect your partner’s comfort zones.
- Plan on attending family therapy together even though you’re living apart.
- Ask your partner to help define how you can prove yourself, and how long a “probationary period” should be observed before you decide whether to get back together.
IF YOU’RE LIVING APART, BUT HAVE DEPENDENT CHILDREN TOGETHER
Whether or not the partner relationship is repairable, you’ll probably see each other more frequently than if only the two of you were involved.
- If you and your partner are working to mend your relationship, include the children in family therapy.
- If your rights to see your children are limited by court order, talk to your lawyer about requirements for reclaiming parental privilege.
- Remember you owe amends to your children as well. Be kind, attentive and understanding. Reassure them your problem isn’t their fault (even if you once blamed them), and ask forgiveness for specific hurts you caused.
- If the other parent is antagonistic, be the mature party and avoid reverting to post-detox habits. If you have real trouble, bring along another relative or someone from your support network when you pick up the kids—the presence of another adult tends to curb rude behavior.
IF THE RELATIONSHIP IS PAST SAVING
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, a former partner may not forgive you—or may already have found someone else. To move on:
- Don’t get lost in self-pity or regret: it doesn’t help anything, and it’ll increase your relapse risk.
- Continue therapy to work through lingering issues.
- Along with staying active in sobriety support, join volunteer activities or hobby groups to develop your other interests.
- Don’t rush to replace your lost relationship with a new one: you’ll be emotionally vulnerable for months, and a new relationship could easily prove the truth of “marry in haste, repent at leisure,” or could raise new stresses you aren’t ready for.
There’s one other relationships-after-detox possibility. Your partner may be willing to take you back—into a relationship not worth saving. You should consider ending things for good if any of the following apply:
- Your partner is still addicted.
- Your partner is controlling or physically violent.
- Your partner not only shows no interest in supporting your sobriety, he or she has a history of deliberately subjecting you to “drive me to drink” pressures.
Sure, it’s painful to lose someone you care for on top of all the other changes sobriety requires. But if you’re strong enough to overcome addiction, you’re strong enough to recognize when a relationship is toxic, to get out—and to be confident of eventually meeting a much better partner!