Healthy Relationships Should Be a Priority in Recovery
Having healthy relationships in recovery is critical to our personal growth. This includes romantic relationships, of course. But, we are also talking about relationships with friends, family members, our sponsor, coworkers, counselors, and acquaintances.
There are an infinite number of reasons why we should pursue healthy relationships as we remain committed to a sober lifestyle. For starters, relationships with others add joy and fulfillment to our lives. Also, they provide us with much needed support and encouragement. They enhance our 12-Step journey. And, having people who care about us makes life a little more bearable when the going gets tough.
The problem is, many of us have a history of unhealthy relationships. A lot of the relationships we experienced during our addiction were codependent. Some were abusive. Others were just downright dysfunctional. Many of the difficulties we had in relationships with others stems from our inability to have a healthy relationship with ourselves.
We experience much healing in the area of relationships as we continue to work the 12 Steps. However; we should place the pursuit of healthy relationships as a top priority in our recovery from the very beginning. In order to do that, we need to know what a healthy relationship looks like.
Here are the top three signs you are in a healthy relationship (in no particular order).
# 1 Your Relationship Centers on Healthy Boundaries
Healthy and appropriate boundaries should exist in any healthy relationship. Consider boundaries imaginary lines that tell you where you start and other people stop.
Boundaries are designed to allow you to assert your autonomy from others. They help to maintain your own sacred space – physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. Having boundaries teaches other people how to treat you. Boundaries give other people guidelines for what behavior you consider appropriate.
For instance, you might not like for people to hug you at meetings. Or, you may not feel comfortable when a coworker from the opposite sex touches any part of your body. You may not want to discuss specific aspects of your life with certain people. Another example of boundaries is requesting that people knock before they enter your bedroom or home.
Likewise, other people have boundaries. This gives them the freedom to teach others (including you) how they want to be treated.
To maintain a healthy relationship, both parties should honor the other person’s boundaries. It is important to establish your own boundaries. It is equally important to learn the boundaries of the important people in your life. Doing this is a sign of mutual respect. The idea is that when you give respect, you will get respect.
# 2 There is Mutual Respect
Speaking of mutual respect, what is it exactly? Mutual respect happens between two people when they show regard for the feelings, wishes, rights, and traditions of eachother. It is important to allow others the space, privacy, and freedom to navigate life in the best way they know how (as long as it is not hurting anyone, of course). It is also important for them to do the same for you.
Respecting someone means placing value on an individual’s right to be who they are. You do not always have to agree with someone to enjoy a healthy relationship. However; you should recognize that others are entitled their own beliefs. You practice acceptance when you validate their who they are – NOT who you want them to be.
You always have the right to walk away from a relationship if it isn’t based on mutual respect. This is often the right thing to do. Disrespecting someone else or allowing them to disrespect you does not align with the characteristics of a healthy relationship.
# 3 There is Healthy Communication
Healthy communication is vital to the success of any relationship. Without it, dysfunction has a way of creeping in. Resentments build, mutual respect and trust are lost, and people either grow apart or they endure a miserable coexistence.
Communication is a difficult area for many people in recovery. This happens for many reasons. We may have grown up in a dysfunctional household and were never taught the value of healthy communication. We may have a difficult time expressing ourselves verbally. Or, the noise in our own head may make it difficult for us to listen.
Whatever the reason may be, we must learn how to recognize and practice healthy communication if we want to experience a healthy relationship.
Here are a few examples of healthy communication:
- Direct and honest expression of thoughts and feelings between both parties
- Active listening
- Demonstrating compassion and empathy
- A mutual exchange of ideas (allowing the other person to express their point of view)
- Seeking to understand rather than to be understood
- Using a conversational tone
- Using respectful language
- Appropriate use of body language
- Accepting wrongdoing
Examples of unhealthy communication include:
- Yelling, name-calling, or any other form of verbal abuse
- Blaming and pointing fingers
- Shaming or implementing guilt tactics
- The unwillingness to listen
- Rude or threatening gestures
- Inappropriate facial expressions
If you feel you struggle in the area of communication, talk to your sponsor, a therapist, or someone you trust about how you can improve.
Continue to Develop a Healthy Relationship With Yourself
Recovery is an ongoing process of self-discovery. As you cultivate a deeper sense of self-love, you will naturally want to engage in healthier relationships with others.
You deserve the absolute best this life has to offer. You live your best life as you continue to stay sober, work a 12-Step program in your life, and engage in healthy relationships with others. With time and practice, it will become easier and more comfortable for you to maintain boundaries, practice mutual respect with others, and utilize healthy communication.