Many times the struggles we are experiencing in a romantic relationship, for example, have their roots in past life experiences that evolved into some pretty ineffective ways of coping with discomfort. Those coping strategies (or defects of character) will usually follow us into the new life we are trying to build in our recoveries. They do not just disappear because we have decided to turn things around or have surrendered our respective drugs of choice. Those defects can do a great deal to undermine the integrity of a romance.
From time to time many of us are asked to share our stories with others. It may be in an attempt to help someone out, or perhaps we are sitting in a therapist’s office. Many 12-step recovery members are asked to “tell their story” at speaker meetings, or we are encouraged to disclose some of their story at discussion meetings.
For so many of us, the level of our sharing – whether it is with a therapist or at a 12-step meeting – is little more than a relating of facts. These are important facts to share, for sure, but they have little to say about the emotional impact that our story has had on us or on those we love. Those unspoken parts of our stories are the “back-story” we are referring to. We miss out on much of the truth when we skip the back-story however.
While many of us struggle to give our complete back-stories in many situations, the most difficult seems to be with our romantic partners.
Most of us report feeling more uncomfortable telling our story at a meeting or in a session attended by our romantic partner. This is because we fear our partners will remember the painful emotional costs associated with the stories we are relating. They know and remember the back-story that we may be omitting! The thought of complete and honest sharing in a discussion attended by a partner can be intimidating.
There are also parts of our back-story that our partners have no knowledge of. We have never told it to them! We can tell our stories to complete strangers, but we fear rejection from those who love us. We complain that our communication with our partner is weak, but we often neglect to share even the simple facts of our story or the current emotional challenges we face.
As 12-step newcomers, many of us found a level of acceptance that we never thought was possible. In time we learned that we would know ourselves better when we invested ourselves in the lives of others. Now let us apply this same social model to our romance:
Have you invested yourself in the life of your partner? Does your partner know the facts about your disease’s progression or you about theirs? Does your relationship have the benefit of regular sharing about what each of you are learning about yourself?
Talk with your partner about the past and current life experiences that have shaped your personality. Be a student of your partner’s past.
This article was written by John & Elaine Leadem, senior supervisors of the Leadem Counseling & Consulting offices in Toms River, NJ and East Brunswick, NJ. The content of this article is based on their book: “One in the Spirit: Meditation Course for Recovering Couples”
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Last reviewed: 5 Nov 2013