Recovery from any type of addiction is a process, not a milestone that is obtained and checked off of a list. In my new book “The Marriage and Relationship Junkie,” I provide a picture of the opportunities and possibilities for relationship and marriage addicts in recovery. There is a path to healthy love and positive, meaningful relationships. It will take time, learning to be comfortable and accepting of being single, but these relationships can and will occur. People will need to work on themselves, often seeking help from therapists and counselors to explore issues with trauma, dysfunction and emotional and physical abuse that often stems from childhood experiences.
Staying single during the recovery phase
During this process, staying single will be important. Simply entering into another relationship without making the mental and emotional changes needs will be continuing on with the pattern. Not only is it very likely the relationship and marriage addict will choose another toxic partner, but they themselves are not ready to be able to set healthy boundaries, to receive as well as to give and to create the healthy relationship they deserve.
In my book, I have provided a list of positive statements ranging from acknowledging faults while recognizing the worthiness through to statements about feeling comfortable and unafraid about being alone. I recommend someone recovering from a relationship and marriage addiction should be able to circle or check most or all of the statements. When this is no longer a challenge, and being alone and comfortable with oneself is now the new normal, moving into healthy relationships is the next step.
Establishing what a healthy relationship means
Working with a therapist or a counselor or relationship coach, exploring what a healthy, giving and loving partner would be is important. This includes a partner who respects boundaries, who provides love and attention without conditions and who respects and loves you for who you are. This is very different from fantasizing and creating the “perfect” partner. Being realistic but also having the ability to recognize unhealthy behaviors, patterns or thinking in the new relationship will be important.
Reconnecting with the world
One of the best exercise in creating a healthy, positive relationship is to connect with your own network and rebuild or create new positive friendship relationships. These individuals will not only provide support and encouragement, but they will also provide an opportunity to explore positive relationships outside of dating. Being open, talking about issues and vulnerabilities, and also being a supportive, caring friend for others is something most relationship and marriage addicts have not had in their life for a long time. This level of connection is also great for building self-esteem and confidence, with also provides a great sense of being OK with taking things slow.
Finally, it will be important for the relationship and marriage addict to have the confidence to walk away in a relationship if it is not healthy. Accepting that some relationships may not work out, that people can remain friends and that there will be other relationships at some time in the future is all a reality for a recovering love addict and one that is extremely positive moving forward.