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How to build a healthy relationship in recovery

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Many people spend so much time looking for that “spark” or finding “the one” that they end up forgetting what they really need in a relationship. Romantic comedies have skewed our views of what a healthy relationship should be. They make us believe that if we are not whisked off our feet, showered with unconditional love, and constantly being intimate, we aren’t in a healthy relationship.

Add being a person in recovery to the mix. Building a healthy relationship can feel like an impossible endeavor. But no matter who you love, how you met or the history you have together, healthy relationships all have certain traits in common. Let’s explore those traits and how we can create and maintain a healthy relationship with our partners.

Make your recovery a priority

Remember, in every relationship you have, your recovery takes precedence. Avoid any relationships that can trigger you. Make sure to set boundaries with your partner to ensure you’re both making your recovery a priority.

Healthy relationships add value to your life and are essential for your recovery but you must establish a good understanding of self. It’s important to first think about your relationship with yourself before jumping into any other relationship – especially romantic ones.

Stabilizing yourself as a person in recovery, setting recovery as your priority, and understanding yourself before building any relationships can make all the difference.

Keep realistic expectations

Having expectations are important in building the foundation for a healthy relationship but holding unrealistic expectations is what can quickly make that foundation crack. This is especially true for people in recovery.

A big challenge in relationships when one or both partners are in recovery is the amount of pressure and the long list of expectations that we have to meet to be the perfect partner to meet their needs.

Here are three common unrealistic expectations we need to break:

“They should know what to do or how to react.”

“If we were truly in love, it shouldn’t take work.”

“If they loved me, they would accept me no matter what.”

Stop comparing your relationship to others and understand that every relationship is unique. Be honest about your needs and set the necessary boundaries so your partner knows how they can best support you in your recovery. Once you get to the root of your expectations you can create a healthy, happy relationship.


Learn the three C’s!

Communicate, Compromise, and Commitment 

Understanding how to communicate with your partner is key to a successful relationship. Be honest, be compassionate, and really take the time to understand each other’s needs. Sometimes we shut off because we just expect the other person should know what to do or what to say instead of communicating our needs.

When two people come together compromise is vital! If you’re not compromising, you’re building a one-sided relationship. Two people in a relationship bring together individual personalities, thoughts, behaviours, and experiences to the table. It’s important to find common ground and accepting each other's differences rather than trying to change one another. If both people feel understood and respected this prevents any resentment that could build over time.

Commitment to your partner means more than staying faithful, it means you’re present and willing to work to keep your relationship strong. When you’re both committed to putting in the effort each day you are building trust and intimacy.

Mastering communication, compromise, and commitment will take your relationships to the next level in recovery. When you take the time to be a compassionate partner in your relationships you’re setting the foundation for how you want to be treated. Making this time to foster real, deep connection crucial in your recovery and is what will make your relationships last.

Understand their love languages

The book The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman has taken the world by storm. Chapman goes into detail about the ways people express and receive love: words of affirmation, physical touch, gifts, quality time, acts of service.

Not everyone communicates love in the same way and they also receive love differently. Taking the time to talk to your partner and understand how they receive love can help make the connection between you that much deeper. On the website, you can also take the quiz to see how your love language differs from your partner and learn how to express love the way they may need rather than what you’re used to.

Love languages are a useful tool to improve how we communicate and express ourselves to each other.  They let you understand what the other person needs from another lens. Having this perspective is a great tool in building healthy relationships in recovery because you’re able to break through the barrier of your own assumptions of love and expression and get to the core of each other's needs. Though love languages aren’t the golden ticket to a healthy relationship in recovery, they are a great way to better understand how to communicate your love for your partner.

Nurture outside interests and relationships

No one person can meet all your needs and putting that much pressure on your partner can be straining for the relationship. To stimulate and enrich your romantic relationship, it’s important to sustain your own identity outside of the relationship, preserve connections with family and friends, your recovery community, while also dedicating time for your hobbies and interests.

As the saying goings, “You are who you hang with.” The people you chose to have relationships have an impact on your wellbeing, your recovery, and your mental health. Choosing wisely when it comes to the company you keep is essential for maintaining your recovery.

In recovery, having a support system in place not only helps you stay strong in your recovery but it also helps you to foster healthy long-lasting relationships. Make time to connect with your Avalon Sisters for support, via social media, our private Facebook groups, Zoom meetings and workshops.


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