By Darren Haber, MFT
One of the many things that addiction takes away is the ability to communicate honestly and directly. It’s not the easiest thing in the world to begin with.
But intermarital communication can be even more of a minefield because of the hurt and anger and plain chaos wrought by addiction. Also, in most cases each partner grew up in a family where basic truths — the elephants in the room — were not okay to talk about, or where addiction’s tyranny meant that hurts and fears were ignored or ridiculed.
In other words, if you are now in a relationship with an actively addicted partner, or close to someone who is, try not to judge too harshly. Judgment just keeps the relational wheels locked in place. It’s not that those of us in such a situation are cowardly or weak, it’s just that we are most likely following an unconscious order (instilled in us from the beginning) to protect the status quo, even when that status quo brings misery and loneliness.
I thought I’d offer a suggestion for people who feel stuck or trapped in an alcoholic marriage, who may want to communicate how they’re feeling, even though doing so might be scary or uncomfortable. Unfortunately, if you’re interested in change — even baby steps — some discomfort is inevitable. Of course, one could argue you’re already uncomfortable, so why not be uncomfortable and at least speak the truth? Usually in taking a new action step, however small, there’s discomfort, then a shaky “was that okay for me to do?” feeling, followed by — over time, with repetition — a reconnection or repair to one’s own self-esteem and integrity.
The two rules of thumb here are: keep it simple and tell the truth. It’s so simple and pared down that it takes practice. (There’s no shame in practicing with a close friend, or in front of the mirror. This isn’t crazy; in fact, doing this takes great courage and is probably going against your early developmental “software.”)