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Communicating with a recovering spouse

Communicating with a recovering spouse
OK I've heard that AA addresses how a spouse thinks and feels. First off, is this true? Second, what does AA say about it?

Bryan and I got into a slight tiff last night. The good news is he didn't call me names, throw anything, or get all abusive. It was just a normal little misunderstanding. The bad news is we don't know how to communicate and I think he doesn't quite get my side of things.

I know he thinks that since he's sober, that all the bad stuff will just go away but it's just not that easy. I still have issues I'm working through.

I guess I got to give an example.

He asked where all the money went when he was in rehab.
I told him it went towards bills.
He sounded like he didn't believe me.
I got defensive.
He asked why I was getting so defensive.
I told him that I was defensive because I'm not used to being attacked when we disagree and I felt like he was questioning my integrity.
He said that it doesn't help when I bring up things that have nothing to do with the current situation, and that I was "deflecting". (At least he retained some of what he learned in rehab. )
I told him that I wasn't deflecting, I was explaining why I got defensive.
He said that if I was so defensive, maybe I'm guilty of something, like spending money on stuff we don't need and not paying bills.
The argument ended when I showed him what bills I paid and what I spent. He apologized and that was the end of it.

OK, the point is, he doesn't seem to be on the same page as me.
I got defensive because of the way things have been in the past. I'm trying not to do that but it's kind of a habit. He thinks I get defensive when I've done something wrong. Also, he doesn't seem to understand that the past didn't just disappear when he sobered up. There was a lot of damage and abuse. Yes, I am trying to get past it and no, I'm not holding grudges. I just need time and patience to work this out.

I know we need marriage counseling but right now we simply don't have time. We work in different counties. He has his nightly AA and outpatient stuff. I'm working long hours this month.

Is this something he should be getting in his AA meetings?

Any useful (or not useful) advice?
Re: Communicating with a recovering spouse
I think there is something you both are not getting- marriage counseling 

I am headed back to bed now.  Feel like crap-
anyway if you can get past the phrasing to what he is really saying-
usually it helps to repeat it back to the person you are talking to.

i.e.: so where did all the money go while I was gone?
repeat: would you like to know where I spent the money?

Try that- try the repeating so you let the other person know you heard them. That also takes the heat out of a conversation I think when you change your tone to a neutral one.
Re: Communicating with a recovering spouse
Oh, Katelin, this is exactly what I'm afraid of happening with my husband. Luckily, I have five more months to work on my own communication problems and get through my own issues before we even attempt to live together again (2 more months in rehab and then a half-way house for 3 months). Something in your post struck me. It's exactly what I'm learning in Al-Anon and CODA and boy, what a good practice scenario:


He sounded like he didn't believe me.

You said you then got defensive. You reacted to what you perceived as his reaction. Why?

From what I'm learning, and I have no real experience with this yet (except that I did the same thing the first time my husband quit 3 years ago, and well, here we are) so take this with a grain of salt, unless he had said "I don't believe you. I think the money went somewhere else," that should have been the end of the conversation. You were making assumptions, trying to read his intentions, and responding to what you thought were his intentions.

I understand the old habits, really, I do. But, for our marriages to work after all of the hurt, we have to be willing to soften our stance, too. Not let our guard down, mind you, but willing to "suck it up" so to speak. Stop reacting to our husbands, stop letting ourselves be provoked by real or perceived attacks on us.

If it's something that you feel like you might dwell on (I have a big problem with that), then maybe just ask. So, maybe it could have gone like this:

"Your response makes me think you might not believe me about the money. Am I misinterpreting you? Bear with me; I'm trying to learn how to read the non-verbal cues of the new and improved you."

Yeah, that's kind of cheesy, but something to that effect. What I mean is, instead of trying to read his reactions, applying what you know of the the old Bryan to the new Bryan, why not take the opportunity to learn about the new Bryan?

Anyway, I wrote this more for my benefit than yours. I don't have much chance to practice the new skills I'm learning, and I can see this very scenario happening with my husband.

Re: Communicating with a recovering spouse
Thanks for posting this.

I have said to my addict on numerous occasions that we have trouble communicating. That's why part of the deal 4 me would have to be counseling for us after he's working a recovery program.

We're both too defensive. Don't think we could work this stuff out by ourselves... but that's putting the cart before the horse in my situation.

As you work through this, if you have any good tips to post Katelin please do.. I could always stand to learn in the communication area
Re: Communicating with a recovering spouse
you are so right, as always. I knew that from communications class so thanks for reminding me. Enjoy your nap.
wonderful advice. I think the defensiveness is just a quick reaction because in the past this could have turned into a week-long fight and he wouldn't have listened to me at all, ever, no matter what bills and payments I showed him. It's like reprogramming my brain or something and it's tough to do. (By the way, I got defensive because of his tone. It SOUNDED accusing. Doesn't mean it WAS, though.)

I'll keep at this. Maybe I need to go back and take that communications class again. And counseling is definitely a must.
Re: Communicating with a recovering spouse
This is a great thread. We have a similar situation going at my house right now. We are seriously lacking in the communication area. When we got clean and sober together last year, we got along great! We spent all of our time together, etc. What we didn't do, however, was address the underlying issues that were still there in our brand-new clean and sober brains. A lot of things got swept under the rug. Well guess what? Now they're coming out. Things we should have dealt with and put behind us a long time ago.
So thank you all for your posts. It's helping me to begin to understand some things.
Loraura Re: Communicating with a recovering spouse
OK, the point is, he doesn't seem to be on the same page as me.

Of course not! He's just barely clean and sober, much less functioning on the level that you are in regards to communication and grasping the concept of the reality of your economical situation!

I think you handled it will by explaining what you spent and where.

He will need those kind of simple explanations as he starts adjusting to reality.

What step is he on?

Re: Communicating with a recovering spouse
I just found this online.

Maybe it helps some of you, it helped me.

Speakers often are not clear themselves about what they mean, which almost assures that what they say will be unclear as well. Even when people know what they mean, they often do not say it as clearly as they should. They may hide their true feelings or ideas intentionally or unintentionally. Either way, people often get confused about other people's messages.

Listeners also are sources of communication problems. People often fail to listen carefully. They may assume they know what the other person is saying or will say (because they have heard it before, or they assume that one person is "just like" another person from the same group). Also, when people are in conflict, they often concentrate more on what they are going to say in response to their opponent's statement, rather than listening to their opponents' words with full attention. The result, again, is misunderstandings, and often unnecessary escalation of a conflict.

In order for the parties to communicate effectively, they need to understand (though not necessarily agree with) the perspectives of other parties to a conflict.

Motives can be misinterpreted as easily as statements can be misunderstood.

Often disputants do not have reliable methods for communicating with opposing parties. This may be because they do not want to communicate, or it may be because they are afraid to contact their opponents or have no way to do so. Sometimes the parties will break-off communication as a form of protest after a particularly disagreeable incident. However, the lack of communication can significantly increase the risk of future incidents.
RedHurt Re: Communicating with a recovering spouse
I know exactly what you mean, me ex addict and I don't even try to live in the same house anymore, he is living in a different city. When he comes to visit the kids, we can go about 3 or 4 days without arguing. I know that I am defensive because he did a lot of things to hurt me and the kids. Hurting the kids is not as easy to get over as hurting just me. He is always on the defensive because he still isn't really trying to do right, he has been out of re-hab since Feb. Still not working so he isn't paying any child support, doesn't call the kids, basically he is still on his pity party and I don't deal with it well.
Even though we try very hard when we are together for the kids sake it is one of the most difficult things I've ever done. Other than watch him dwindle away on meth.
I would really like to see more posts like this. I guess it lets you know that you are not all alone. And he is the same way, he thinks just because he is trying to stay clean that the past shouldn't bother me.
Re: Communicating with a recovering spouse
I don't think he understands how much his actions hurt me and impacted our relationship. If he would acknowledge his actions, and maybe even apologize, I'd have a lot easier time getting over it. Maybe not, maybe I'll never get over it and it's hopeless.

I think that's what annoys me most about your husband. I read how he always treated you. It wasn't good at all. I read how you wanted him to get help, not be punished. It seems like you are always doing nice things for him probably. "Being a good woman." He got real lucky that he didn't get in major trouble but instead of being thankful he went on suicide watch ( I don't know the details but to me that just kind of represents who he is even if it wasn't serious.) It's like he is a spoiled baby. He wants it all. He wants to take and not give. IF he gives he wants everyone to suffer for it so they appreciate what he gave up. But he doesn't appreciate nothing and that isn't a Meth thing. That's deep, that's from a kid. I don't see where he appreciates his sobriety, how lucky he is to not have gotten in more trouble, how lucky he is that he didn't lose you. He doesn't appreciate nothing.
Yeah you are defensive but that's the only way you can communicate with someone like him because he is the same way. It's an endless battle. Not sure if you always were like that or not but that isn't going to go away because he'll never be appreciative. That's all I have for right now.

Re: Communicating with a recovering spouse
I think a lot of what guestwho said was right on.

It's not as important right now for him to 'understand' where you are coming from as it is for you to work on you and heal you. You say you are working a lot of hours this month. Recovery takes commitment, on everyone's part. I found out a long time ago that if I waited till I 'found' the time for the important things, that time would never come. I had to MAKE time.

Damn right we learn to be defensive when we live with an addict. Being defensive came naturally for me, and I didn't even realize it.

I think marriage counseling is important, but I also think some individual therapy or Naranon or Alanon meetings or whatever resources are available out there are most important for you right now.

He's not going to get well overnight, and neither are you.

As a recovering addict, I can tell you it's painful to begin to see just how much we have damaged and hurt the people we love. He's early in recovery, don't expect him to completely understand, nor completely grasp what pain you have suffered.

You are an adult, take responsibility for your pain, and start working through it.

These are my opinions, and my opinions only
Re: Communicating with a recovering spouse
You know, I'm not sure how long you've been here or been reading my posts. But you seem to have a better grasp of the situation at my house than I realized.

The suicide watch was because he told the intake counselor, "Yeah of course I think about it every day. I'd never actually do it because of my son, but whenever anything bad happens, it's the first thought to go through my mind." He used to threaten suicide all the time, anytime I told him I wanted a divorce. It kept me there for a lot longer than I should have stayed. Once, he was mad at me so I decided to take the baby and spend the day at my sister's. Bry called me when I was halfway there and told me if I didn't go back home immediately, he was going to kill himself. I could hear him loading the gun in the background. I went home. I couldn't face the responsibility of it, and I couldn't face the idea of finding him dead. That was all back when he was on meth though.

Yesterday when I saw you had posted to me the first time, I was scared to read it. I almost didn't. But once I did, it hit me kind of hard. And when I read your last post this morning, it's kind of odd, but it made me feel better, maybe knowing it's not all in my head. Validated or something.

I was also thinking about WHY I got so defensive the other night. Here's why: I took over the bills when he started doing meth. I had a hell of a time finding work because I was pregnant and I worried and stressed all the time cuz bills were overdue. He wasn't big on helping me. I ended up filing bankruptcy.
So fast forward to now. He's been a lot better about the money, giving me money when I'm broke, but I still don't feel he's doing his share. I'm the one who actually pays the bills so he's not too involved with it. My share of the bills is more than his share. I don't think he gets it, you know, how much it costs to live, etc.
When he went to rehab, I was on one income for a month and it was rough. I spent almost every penny on bills and I think I did a damn good job.
The point of all that is: when he asked where the money had gone, I felt like who the hell is he to even question it? I'd told him already what I'd paid and he just kept asking.

Oh and by the way, no I wasn't always so defensive. I was the most happy, laid-back person in the world. Maybe someday I can get back to that headspace.

Thanks again for taking the time to reply. It means a lot to me.
Re: Communicating with a recovering spouse
He used to threaten suicide all the time, anytime I told him I wanted a divorce. It kept me there for a lot longer than I should have stayed
called me when I was halfway there and told me if I didn't go back home immediately, he was going to kill himself. I could hear him loading the gun in the background
The suicide thing with him - it works. It lets him keep that short leash on you most of the time.
Re: Communicating with a recovering spouse
Mary- oh yeah it worked for a long time. He told me I'd have to explain to our son why his suicide was my fault, blah, blah, blah. I was so dumb.

I don't fall for it anymore. The last time he did it, I started dialing 911 and told him I was calling to get him help. Told him I couldn't help if he was serious.

He changed the subject and he never threatened it again.

This thing he said to the counselor, I think it's the truth. I think he does think of it a lot and I think he really wouldn't do it. But *shrugs* not much I can do if he decides he wants to. And I'm not going to let his threats stop me anymore.
Re: Communicating with a recovering spouse
Good deal. That's true, if he sees that those idle threats don't phase you anymore, he quits. Just like dealing with kids, if you ignore their bad behavior, it usually goes away, because it doesn't get the attention.

See also:

Problems with Spouses

Practical tips for surviving a spouse's addiction

Did your Meth user change you?

How do you talk to your Meth Addict?

How to support an addict without sounding sorry?

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