Rebuilding a Relationship with a Newly Sober Spouse | #MyCounselorSays

Alison Pitts, MA, LPCC

Question:

Millie asks, “How do I repair my relationship with my newly sober, yet not in treatment, significant other? They refuse to get any kind of counseling.”

Read more to find out what counselor Alison Pitts has to say about setting boundaries and rebuilding trust as you repair a relationship with a newly sober spouse.

About the Author

This article is based on scientific evidence and clinical experience, written by a licensed professional and fact-checked by experts.

Alison Pitts, MS, LPCC is a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor, specializing in Marriage Counseling, Premarital Counseling, and Anxiety & Depression in Women.  You can schedule an appointment with Alison for online counseling.

Video Transcript

(Transcript is generated by a software and may have discrepancies from the video.)

Cassie

Welcome to My Counselor Online. I’m Cassie and this is My Counselor Says. My Counselor Says is where you submit a question, either for yourself, or for a friend,  and one of our incredible therapists takes their time and answers your personal question. So let’s go find out what My Counselor Says.

Alison Pitts on the Sobriety Journey and Marriage

First, I just want to say, that really sounds like such a hard situation. I think we can all identify with being in a position where we care so fiercely about someone and we can see something that might be helpful for them or help their transition or process get better and they’re not doing it. So I completely understand how helpless and frustrating that can feel.

And first off, I want to say congratulations for sticking with someone through such a difficult journey. I know that journey towards sobriety is usually pretty rocky.

I just want to preface this discussion by saying, we really can’t force anyone to do anything that they don’t want to do. So unfortunately, if your partner’s saying they don’t want to seek out counseling, you can’t make them. Which, sometimes, we wish we could make people do things that we want them to but we can’t.

Setting Healthy Boundaries

What I would encourage you to do instead is think about how you can support them and also consider, how can I set really great boundaries in this relationship. Because usually if we’ve been in a relationship with someone who struggles with addiction, boundaries have been crossed and trust has been broken in that relationship.

So, it makes sense that seeking counseling and seeking help is something that you’re wanting to do, because trust has been broken. You’ve probably been hurt by this person, and are feeling at a loss of, I don’t know how to move forward now.

Start Rebuilding Trust with Small Things

What I would encourage you to do is start building trust with small things. I think sometimes we think trust is built in big grand gestures. But more often than not, trust is usually built in day to day small gestures of consistency and follow through, of somebody saying that they’re going to be home by 6:30, and they’re actually home by 6:30 instead of 8:30. It’s small things like that that help build trust back up.

Communicate with Your Spouse

And so having that conversation with your significant other and saying, you know what, These are the small things that I think I would like that would help me trust you better or help it feel easier for me to start to trust you again, at least in the small things, while we work towards building trust together in the big things.

If you ever have any questions about what does that even look like to set boundaries or practically speaking, how do I put this together with my significant other, any of our counselors and therapists will be happy to meet with either you as an individual or you guys as a couple. Maybe you can convince your partner that counseling would be helpful.

But these are just some thoughts to think about, of what’s OK for me, what’s not okay for me, and what are some small ways to communicate with my partner that trust can be built backup for me, so they can eventually learn to trust them in the long term, with the bigger things.

I hope that’s helpful.

Cassie

Thank you so much for submitting that question!  We certainly love to answer your questions. If you have a question for yourself or a friend, you  can submit it using our web page and then look for the answer in an upcoming edition of our weekly e-newsletter.

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