Being in recovery from alcohol or other drugs does not guarantee that you and your husband, wife, partner, son or daughter will not face issues in your relationship.

Couples often come to us seeking help because everything else they have tried has not worked. It can be so easy to get stuck in negative cycles full of criticism, fear, and feelings of hopelessness. Solution Focused Family Recovery Coaching is a safe place to address, process and learn new ways of relating to each other.

When working with couples, we coach each partner by teaching new ways to communicate feelings, wants and needs within the relationship, while also addressing and exploring the underlying need for love, security, acceptance and attachment from each partner.

Conflict In A Relationship

In early recovery the many perpetual issues couples faced may seem more visible. The theorist John Gottman reminds When thinking about conflict in a relationship, it is important to ascertain whether a problem is solvable or perpetual. His research has shown that 69% of relationship conflict is about perpetual problems. All couples have them — these problems are grounded in the fundamental differences in your personalities that repeatedly create conflict, or fundamental differences in your lifestyle needs.

Gottman identifies three types of relational problems –

  1. Solvable problems can be about housecleaning, disciplining children, sex, and in-laws. Solvable problems for one couple can be about the exact same topics that could be perpetual problems for a different couple. A solvable problem within a relationship is about something situational. The conflict is simply about that topic, and there may not be a deeper meaning behind each partner’s position. A solution can be found and maintained.
  2. Perpetual problems are problems that center on either fundamental differences in your personalities, or fundamental differences in your lifestyle needs. All couples have perpetual problems. These issues can seemingly be about the exact same topics as what for another couple might be solvable; however, unlike a solvable problem, these are the problems that a couple will return to over and over and over again.
  3. Gridlocked perpetual problems are perpetual problems that have been mishandled and have essentially calcified into something “uncomfortable.” When a couple tries to discuss a gridlocked issue, it can feel like they are “spinning their wheels” and getting nowhere. The nature of gridlock is that hidden agendas underlie the issue.

In his  research, they concluded that instead of solving perpetual problems, what seems to be important is whether or not a couple can establish a conversation about them. If they cannot establish such conversation, the conflict becomes gridlocked, and gridlocked conflict eventually leads to emotional disengagement. This often happens when one person in the relationship is in active addiction and so in recovery couples have to re meet, learn how to talk to one another  and begin a new conversation.

Relationships, Addiction, and Recovery

In early recovery some of the solvable and  perpetual problems may be exacerbated. Remember these problems were there before and may reflect fundamental differences in your personality and lifestyle plus anxiousness about your love one coming home Differences in wanting time together versus time apart- As the partner or parent of someone in early recovery its important to understand that your loved ones job is his/her recovery. They  may well be required to go to 90 meetings in 90 days, intensive outpatient, counseling and the like. You too may find you are busy with day to day responsibilities and are trying out Alanon. Taking about your own individual and joint recovery as hell a setting healthy boundary will allow you to rewrite your relationship .

Here are 4 Issues which are Common in Early Recovery

  1. Differences in how to raise and discipline children . If you are just getting home from treatment, the children have been praised and disciplined by the other partner. One of you may be more lenient then the other Starting over means having joint discussions , hitting pause and saying,” Dad and I, Mom and I ,or Mom and Mom, Dad and Dad will talk things over and get back to you with Our decision.  No More Triangulating
  2. Or if you have been fighting about how to help your son or daughter that’s getting home from treatment and have some fundamental differences on how to help someone launch. Working with a professional on what will be acceptable behavior is imperative. Remember your goal is to support in health and wellness.
  3. Differences in handling Finances-While you were in treatment a loved one may have taken over finances. Sharing and delegating the checkbook becomes an issue
  4. Differences in emotionality- Sharing feelings in new ways is always part of recovery. Before recovery, I for example only knew mad, sad, angry. After recovery I learned how to share using “I” terms how I felt and there was a cornucopia of feelings that opened up to.

It is easy to see how Gridlocked perpetual problems can occur with families who are ravaged by substance abuse, mental health and chronic pain. After years of acting in one-way things have become frozen and may have entered a no talk no feel zone. Underlying issues boil to the service.

The Gottman Method is one way to begin to tackle the gridlock problems,  painful exchanges or icy silence, and the Four Horsemen (criticism, contempt, stonewalling, and defensiveness). which the developed before recovery and defensiveness).  What matters most is opening a dialogue a conversation that communicates acceptance of your husband , wife , partner with respect, humor, affection and to actively engage in recovery that allows all to grow. In early recovery everyone is rearranging roles and ways to communicate and fill.

Bryon Katie in Loving What is Asking ourselves as individuals, as couples as partners and as parents the following questions about how we are responding

Question 1: Is it true? … This question can change your life. Be still and ask yourself if the thought you wrote down is true.

Question 2: Can you absolutely know it’s true? … This is another opportunity to open your mind and to go deeper into the unknown, to find the answers that live beneath what we think we know.

Question 3: How do you react—what happens—when you believe that thought? … With this question, you begin to notice internal cause and effect. You can see that when you believe the thought, there is a disturbance that can range from mild discomfort to fear or panic. What do you feel? How do you treat the person (or the situation) you’ve written about, how do you treat yourself, when you believe that thought? Make a list and be specific.

Question 4: Who would you be without the thought? … Imagine yourself in the presence of that person (or in that situation), without believing the thought. How would your life be different if you didn’t have the ability to even think the stressful thought? How would you feel? Which do you prefer—life with or without the thought? Which feels kinder, more peaceful?

  • Turn the thought around Remember , “A thought is harmless unless we believe it. It’s not our thoughts, but our attachment to our thoughts, that causes suffering. Attaching to a thought means believing that it’s true, without inquiring. A belief is a thought that we’ve been attaching to, often for years.”
  • The “turnaround” gives you an opportunity to experience the opposite of what you believe. Once you have found one or more turnarounds to your original statement, you are invited to find at least three specific, genuine examples of how each turnaround is true in your life
  • “As long as you think that the cause of your problem is “out there”—as long as you think that anyone or anything is responsible for your suffering—the situation is hopeless. It means that you are forever in the role of victim, that you’re suffering in paradise.”


  • Louise Stanger Ed.D, LCSW, CDWF, CIP

    Writer, Speaker, Clinician, Interventionist

    Dr. Louise Stanger founded All About Interventions because she is passionate about helping families whose loved ones experience substance abuse, mental health, process addictions and chronic pain. She is committed to showing up for her clients and facilitating lasting change so families are free from sleepless, worrisome nights. Additionally, she speaks about these topics all around the country, trains staff at many treatment centers, and develops original family programs. In 2018, Louise became the recipient of the Peggy Albrecht Friendly House Excellence in Service Award. She most recently received the Interventionist of the Year Award from DB Resources in London and McLean Hospital - an affiliate of Harvard University, in 2019. To learn more, watch this video: and visit her website at