We will look to some of our strong recovery tools for answers to having a strong, successful love relationship.
Many very wise people have told us “If you can’t love yourself, you can’t love anyone else.” It is important to love yourself in order to have a successful recovery. When you start here and apply a few principles, you can make your relationship with yourself, your recovery, and with others work.
If you’re a people-pleaser, allow yourself to be abused by others, or become a victim, it is always at the cost of loving yourself. Unfortunately, this leads to becoming a victim in your recovery.
Five Trusted Tips for Success
Success, I believe, begins with filling your home/self with love. How does this all come together? Let’s take a look at five ways to get there:
Tip #1 Self-Love
Do you wake up every morning happy, proud, content, and excited to be you? If not, that challenge is the first order of business.
Look at the negative voices that get in the way. What are they saying? Are they old news? Do they have evidence? We have a process to rid you of these voices called accountability. It involves apologizing to yourself – or anyone you have “offended/wronged” – and then sincerely working to never repeat that behavior again. These cannot be empty word apologies, but rather sincere apologies requiring action. Once you have accomplished this for every negative voice, you must develop a rigorous plan to decline its presence.
One client who woke up every morning to negative chatter would shake its hand, give it 5 minutes, and then tell the chatter it was done for the day. Another client would wake up early and dance for an hour to stop the negative chatter. She would start her day at peace after dancing.
When you are in a love relationship, all the negative chatter about you or your partner is no longer allowed. All that “keeping score” is usually inaccurate with you thinking you came out on top. Stop it!
Tip #2 Patience
Slow down! Where are you going so fast? As in recovery, love takes time. Let’s take this journey one step at a time. I highly recommend getting an animal once you can take care of someone other than yourself. A dog, in particular, teaches us unconditional love.
Most of us are sensitive to rejection, so we have to learn not to personalize our partner’s behavior. If you issue an invitation and your partner declines, it is simply that: “I cannot do as you ask.” You may add “and you hate me and never want to see me again,” but remember, you added that little piece.
Also, remember that sex clouds most people’s thinking once it is introduced. As Steve Harvey so aptly said, “Companies don’t give benefits to an employee for 90 days, why would you?” Take the time to see if your new love interest is a best friend, a communicator, can laugh, treats you with respect, honors your world, and likes a few of the same things you like before moving forward into a physical relationship. Patience wins here.
Tip #3 Authenticity
If you can’t tell the maintenance man the faucet still leaks, how on earth are you going to be able to tell your partner you were offended when he/she did blah, blah, blah. If you are unable to say “no” when you mean it, you are at risk in recovery and love.
You first have to know what is important to you before letting your partner know what you need from him/her. It is your job (no mind reading allowed) to make requests of your partner and then to be with the person who best meets your needs. If you are just accommodating and people-pleasing, you are at risk of living in resentment. Resentment is “you owe me.” You get to resentment because you forgot to make requests. You get to resentment because you think others should act a certain way because you would act that way. Wrong.
How does your partner know the road map to taking care of you if you don’t know or can’t ask? And expectations…well, we all know they get us into trouble.
Tip #4 Communication
Couples who can’t communicate are like ships passing in the night. Communication involves how we handle things logistically, how we support each other verbally with our separate and combined worlds, how we support each other emotionally, and how we resolve conflict with dignity and respect for openers.
Being able to communicate in recovery teaches us the importance of all these distinctions in our love relationships. Do not miss the learning here! Communication in all these domains is paramount for a successful recovery and love relationship. Being able to resolve conflict with dignity and respect is a cornerstone for all communication and all significant relationships.
Tip #5 Spirituality
I personally believe recovery and love relationships have greater success if they have a spiritual component. When you believe in something greater than yourself, or the two of you, I believe your life and your relationship will be enriched. Spirituality, for me, can be a divine being, nature, science, making a difference, service, faith, animals, etc. When the person/couple cares about something bigger, then the suffering decreases.
When you take the time to master these five distinctions in recovery, I believe you have the foundation to take on a love relationship.
This article was originally published on Recovery.org