In 12 step recovery circles there is an accepted protocol to how members support each other – especially when they are trying to help a newcomer to the program.
Members of the recovery community do not tell others in their group what is best for each other, they do not preach, and they do not pretend to know for certain what is best for one another. It is common to hear a sponsor say “I did not do that good job running my own life (as you can tell), I am surely not qualified to run yours!”
John and Elaine Leadem are licensed clinical social workers whose combined investment in the field of addiction treatment spans more than sixty years. Their commitment to helping recovering families has provided the core inspiration for the development of a "A Decision to Be IN Love"© which has helped many couples move from the traditional parallel model of recovery to strong united core support group. They are both certified Sex Addiction Therapist and have co-developed a model for treating couples during the crisis stage of recovery.
Editor: Muhammad Talha
The unwritten rule is: share your experience, strength, and hope; nothing else.
If one recovering member has no experience on the matter, he or she simply admits “I have no experience with that” and together they can find another recovery member who does. In this way everyone feels safe to share whatever they need to share without worrying about another member trying to fix them or telling them what to do.
We really like this model when we work with couples. Treat your partner like you would a newcomer to the program. Your partner needs your experience, strength, and hope – not your advice. When you are trying to help your partner through challenging feelings or experiences, share with your partner about a similar time when you have felt that way, or when you faced a similar challenge. Identify.
Remember, communication in a romance is about the feelings, not the facts. When have you felt the same feelings that your partner is currently struggling with? If you cannot identify at all with what your partner is feeling then it is not the right time to be stepping in.
We have found however that if you think with your feelings rather than thinking with your brain, you will undoubtedly remember a time when you too have felt this way. So our suggestion is that if you are not able to identify, spend some more time thinking about your feeling identification to the challenge at hand. This will ultimately unite you rather then move you apart.
If you have appropriately identified with your partner’s challenge, you can now – after receiving his or her clear permission – offer your partner some of what you have found helpful in your own experience, or what you have found not helpful if that was the case. The truth you speak will be one borne out of your personal experience and strength and is not as likely to sound like you are preaching or judging. After all, you have been there yourself!
If this model is not working in your relationship to increase intimacy and understanding you may want to consider outside help such as couple’s counseling.
Please click HERE to share with us your experience – either learning to identify with your partner on a feeling level, or on the futility of trying to “fix” your partner. You can share with us some of your experiences learning what does or does not work for you. We and our readers look forward to responding to your questions and comments.