We seek harmony in our relationship with our partner. When that harmony is disrupted because a loved one is troubled, we struggle with what to do, or not do. We must look inside ourselves to determine how to be of service to our partner without bringing our own baggage to the problem. By asking our Higher Power, a sponsor, or our therapist for guidance, we can treat our partner with the same consideration that we would give a friend or stranger in distress. It can be difficult to address the emotional needs we see in our partner because it is easy to feel threatened and retreat when a loved one appears to be out of control. The powerlessness we feel is understandable if, in fact, we are being asked to fix what is wrong, when we do not have the power. We do not need to fix a "broken" partner even if we believe we are responsible for the breakage. The power to heal brokenness resides certainly in a power greater than me. But we can develop power as a couple if our union is first a spiritual one and we understand that we are not alone.
Addiction was once known as a "lonely man's disease" and so it is, but not so for recovery. The process of recovery is intended to be a "we" experience and not an "I" experience. Solitary recovery efforts are often short-lived and frequently just as lonely as the isolation of active addiction. Sometimes it is difficult to be patient and withhold our fear-based judgment when our partner is in pain and does not appear to be doing what we think they should or could. Additionally, we might feel frustrated when our partner seems to seek the support of others rather than turn to us. This is the time to examine our own methods. Are we part of the solution, or are we making the problem worse by speaking to our partner in a jaded, resentful way?
The first step toward being of service to your partner is to make efforts to avoid becoming a part of the problem yourself. When you get angry or intolerant of your partner for the way he or she is handling their problem then you are deciding that they are the problem. If you approach your partner in this manner it should not take long before he or she begins to think that you, in fact, are the problem. Your efforts to "fix" the problem are likely to be perceived as self-serving. By offering your love, support, and your personal experience, strength, and hope you become involved in the solution without looking like an annoying "handyman." The "fix" is largely an internal job that your partner will need to assume the responsibility for no matter how much help he or she accepts. Ask your Higher Power for help in seeing past your own fears and desire to protect yourself from your partner so that you may be helpful to your partner in their time of need.
Emotional pain or stress cannot be avoided and would appear to be a fundamentally human experience. We know this; we have gone through it and understand that without a healthy process for coping with it, there can be no growth. Yet, when we see pain in our partner, our impulse is to fix it by telling them what to do. It should be no surprise when your advice is rejected, for this journey cannot be imposed on another, even or especially in the name of love.
Once you have a full understanding that "pain is the touchstone of all spiritual progress," you recognize that life and recovery will be painful at times. Change from a partnership ravaged by addiction to one of recovery might at times be a harrowing process, and we may fear that all the pain we are experiencing will destroy our relationship with our partner. We must remember that it is not the pain that affects our relationship, but the way we respond to it. If we ask our Higher Power to help us see the pain as an opportunity to grow personally and reinforce our relational bond, we will be able to withstand the difficult challenges in recovery and be of service to one another. Ask your Higher Power or support group for help in managing the pain you encounter when someone you love is hurting.