Ask an Expert: How Do I Mend My Relationship in Sobriety?

By Gayna Havens PhD 03/29/16

How can you rebuild trust in a sober relationship after you've betrayed it?

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Ask an Expert: How Do I Mend my Relationship in Sobriety?
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Hello, my name is Christine. I'm a gay woman who has been in a six-year-plus relationship. My life came to a halt when my partner found out I was cheating on her. I have been living with many addictions: drugs, drinking, pills, and the one that has devastated our relationship—sex addiction, something I have come to grips with. I have been sober of all my addictions. Living with my now ex-girlfriend has been difficult to say the least. She has been sober for over a year now. Is there hope for reconciliation? Our financial situation has made it hard to live together. She is having a very hard time and can't move forward at all. I'm a Christian now. My life has changed so much. Still, she says I never loved her and the entire relationship was all lies. I love her. She says no. She tries to find out why and wants answers. I want to work on us. It's a long road ahead of us, not sure where we are headed. I look to the Lord and pray. She's also not sure where we are headed. I leave it in God's hands. Do you have some help and insight for us? Sincerely, hopeful seeker.

Gayna Havens, PhD: Relationships of all sorts are so important in our lives, and we feel tremendous distress when they’re troubled. When infidelity is involved, there is a loss of trust in the relationship that must be rebuilt over time if the couple is truly going to make a repair. And it is common for the person who learns about their partner’s infidelity to feel very destabilized and to wonder what was real or an illusion in the relationship. It’s possible for a couple to repair, or even build a more satisfying relationship, yet it does take time and determination from both people.    

It’s very easy to get caught in a repetitive cycle of having the same discussion or argument over and over. It’s extremely frustrating for both people involved. You each have something very important to communicate, but that information is not actually making it across to the other person. It can be helpful to have an unbiased third person involved. This might be, for example, a psychologist or your spiritual leader. Someone who can help the two of you shift the pattern of how you’re communicating so there’s a better chance of understanding the other person and feeling understood by them. 

Living with an ex-partner is certainly a challenge! We all lash out at times when we are distressed, hurt or angry. It’s not an ideal way to react, yet it is human. Being as clear as possible about boundaries and expectations can help. And don’t forget to have compassion for both of you that you’re in a difficult situation and won’t always navigate it perfectly.

One of the best things you can both do is to continue your personal development in the areas of your life that are meaningful to you. And it sounds like having a strong recovery is one of those areas. The better you feel about yourself and the life you’re creating as an individual, the more you will have to bring to a loving relationship, and the richer that relationship can be.

Gayna Havens, Ph.D. trained at the Ackerman Institute for the Family, and was a faculty member of the Center for Substance Abuse and Family at the Ackerman Institute for many years. Dr. Havens is currently in private practice in New York City. Email her at [email protected]. Full Bio.

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