Fixing a Broken Relationship


Melissa Killeen

[This is another in a series of posts about my interactions with recovery coaching clients. I want to share what happens during a recovery coaching engagement, the discussions that take place, what usually comes up for the client and how, as a recovery coach, I respond.]

Everyone working through recovery has lost, or severed a close tie or relationship. Some of these ties are critical, perhaps a mother or father, maybe a close friend, neighbor or colleague. My coaching client, having realized 90 days of clean time, says his relationship with his live-in girlfriend has been severely impacted by his latest relapse. He knows the relationship has changed. He feels she is distant and that she does not trust him. He wants the “old” relationship back.

Although my client attends 12-step meetings regularly, and has a sponsor, he is only now working on step one. The task of beginning to “repair” his relationship very much involves steps eight and nine but, of course, he has some distance to travel before reaching that point in his program. [Step 8: Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all. Step 9: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others]. Yet, as a coach, I cannot let the learning opportunity slip away. So I embrace his concerns and create a homework assignment. I ask him to pull out pen and paper, and then write down four topics:

1. You are my love
2. This is my action plan
3. I can embrace humility
4. Spirituality

I ask him to write approximately ten sentences on each of these topics. I go so far as to offer suggestions for each:

1. Profess his love for his girlfriend, embrace his inner Romeo. Tell her what he loves about her, applaud her positive traits, and affirm that he cannot live without her love. Go overboard, write fifteen sentences.

2. Create a plan of action, as we always hear recovery is a program of action. I invite him to embrace this credo by listing three things he is going to “do” for his love. One might be the writing of this letter, another, providing her something for which she’s wished or asked for. So during the next week he has to pay close attention to her smallest comment, her wishes, desires and requests, all the while taking notes, and taking action. It follows that the last thing might be the presentation of the letter he’s written and talking with her about it. Ask if she has any suggestions. I remind him that the definition of suggestion is subtle command!

3. If he truly wants to mend the relationship he will need to lay down his pride and ego. He’s got to do whatever it takes. I invite him to list what he has done wrong and apologize for it. This topic, as well as the others, need not focus only on the ramifications of his addiction. This step surely involves talking about the behavior that’s deeply impacted both of them. His behavior. And if he senses some stubbornness on her part, I suggest “embracing his hidden humility and seeing what it opens up for him.”

4. Finally, spirituality. This homework assignment will not work, unless my client asks for his Higher Power’s involvement. Every time he thinks about this homework assignment he has to ask his HP for help. If he finds this task difficult or near impossible, a prayer will help break through the barriers to accomplishing this task.

I will let you know the results in my next post.

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2 Responses to Fixing a Broken Relationship

  1. RevKev says:

    Sounds good Melissa! When spouses have support and there is full disclosure from the mate, anecdotal research suggests that a very high percentage of couples stay together, not only surviving but thriving! I do something similar, I have the client remember the first date and write an essay on that. (Helps to remember the moment, the moment they fell in love!) Then writing on gifting and short-comings. (Humility) I also have the client keep an anger log to see if he is fueling the fire. I know that the spouse is angry. He explains it to her and it helps her with her resentments. Then specific action plan, HP relationship, and Spirituality. So far, so good, but sometimes they do grow apart, sadly.

    • Melissa Killeen says:

      Rev Kevin;
      What an excellent tool an anger log. I will try that one out!

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