For couples in treatment, healing an individual with a substance use disorder while restoring the relationship are two connected missions. The main skill to accomplish the second mission will be learning how to communicate in healthy ways. This is an area where couples therapy specializes in guiding two people through the conflict that’s come from substance use. Today, let’s talk about an approach to creating healthy communication skills for couples.
Couples counseling is introduced during substance use treatment as a way to help both people learn the skills needed to repair the relationship. Guided by a therapist, each person gets to practice expressing verbal and non-verbal communication, stating their needs, and sharing in a safe space without being interrupted. Couples may begin to see how their different communication styles may have created some conflict between them. The person in treatment may also see how their spouse’s inability to be honest about the substance use may have enabled it to occur more often.
Couples counseling helps couples develop healthy communication skills.
Couples counseling provides an opportunity for learning and practicing the skills that are crucial for repairing the damage in relationships. Part of the work involves recognizing the behaviors that enable a partner to continue to use drugs and alcohol, even when it’s creating harm for both people. Keep in mind, some people in relationships never learned healthy communication skills, and the conflict from it can have a rippling effect in their lives. These skills involve a verbal element of what is spoken aloud. They also include non-verbals, which are ways we communicate with facial expressions and body language.
Different Communication Styles
A difference in how a couple communicates can be an underlying issue in a relationship. These styles can include a tendency to be passive, aggressive, passive-aggressive, and assertive. Becoming aware of how your communication styles mix (or don’t mix well) can be helpful for a couple especially when substance abuse treatment in involved. A person who is always assertive when speaking may grow frustrated by a partner who’s usually passive in their responses or when initiating a conversation. Your individual communication style may have come from how they were modeled for you by parents earlier in life. If the learned styles are a part of the communication conflict, learning to practice a more productive style while in couples therapy can be very helpful. Each person learns self-responsibility for the way they communicate and to show respect for their loved one’s style.
Honesty in a Safe Environment
Feeling like you can’t speak openly and directly about a loved one’s drinking isn’t a healthy situation. Avoiding a genuine response may end up enabling a partner to use alcohol or drugs more often. The goal in couples counseling is to speak honestly and openly in a safe space allows a loved one to begin to see how their substance use has affected your life in negative ways. It takes practice, too. Couples who have struggled with being honest with themselves and each other need guidance and support in restoring truthfulness to their relationship. This step can be valuable for a person in substance abuse treatment who will need the support of family and friends to stay sober.
Break unhealthy communication patterns.
Breaking the old patterns opens the door to productive communication of any topic and any level of importance. Even being able to safely discuss trivial items is helpful when the time comes to handle serious issues. When living with someone who’s in treatment, one of the patterns may be placing blame on the other person for every issue in the relationship. Another may be interrupting them when they’re talking or abruptly ending a conversation when it’s not going your way. These patterns can be self-serving and destructive. They tend to focus on wanting to be heard rather than making the conversation a collaboration between two people.
Learn love languages.
Love languages are ways we communicate our feelings through a type of behavior. The language list includes words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch. Obviously, they differ greatly and not understanding your partner’s love language can create confusion and conflict. You may be a person who prefers quality time and only receives gifts from your spouse. Couples counseling can be a place to introduce these preferences and help a spouse understand what you want. At the same time, you should be learning how to “speak” their love language.
Develop healthy communication for a better future together.
Learning how to communicate with an addict is an important investment in a long-term relationship. Healthy communication skills for couples can keep them going through tough times. Substance abuse treatment is one of those tough times, and it doesn’t end with the completion of a program. Developing these skills now can allow them to strengthen by the time your spouse begins to transition to other methods of self-care to keep their sober life moving forward. It’s also a time to begin to discuss individual and couple goals for the future.
Origins Counseling in Dallas, Texas, made available by a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance use, mental health issues, and beyond. Our primary mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration. We offer renowned clinical care for addiction and have the compassion and professional expertise to guide you toward lasting sobriety. For information on our programs, call us today: 561.841.1264.