Archive for dependency

Addiction in a Couple

In couple therapy where one has an acknowledged addiction, there is a real challenge for them to see that this situation can only be changed by both partners adapting their behaviours.
Addictions are based on distorted thinking and this is underpinned by the co-dependency that often accompanies these complicated couples.
Therapy can be a safe place to unpick the misconceptions that form the fragile shell that appears to protect, but actually blocks, a healthy way forward.
Therapists should be wary of allowing the addiction to be the sole focus when it is actually both of them who are keeping the couple stuck.
It’s sometimes hard for the seemingly supportive partner to acknowledge that their enabling behaviour actually exacerbates the situation. It’s difficult to understand that kindness can be a block, but by caring and sheltering the other they are co-operating with the addiction.
Intimacy for some couples can be based on the concept of one persons drive to rescue and the others apparent inability to escape their dependency.
Addicts suffer from low self-esteem and drama keeps them attached to their partner by the attention they receive. Many ‘carers’ are terrified of abandonment so by becoming pivotal to the situation, they keep the other close and connected. One thinks they show love by nurturing while the other is kept safe by being looked after.  The dynamic is seen through the window of one person’s distress and the other ones hope of rescuing the problem.
In therapy, clients can begin to unravel this by looking at the early systems from childhood that may reinforce repeated patterns in adulthood.  They can examine what processes may have led each of them to seek the role they adopt. And by understanding some of the unconscious systems that they follow they can, together with the therapist, begin to explore a way to change the situation.
Shame is very close to addiction, and couples can benefit hugely from the safe space offered in therapy where they can begin to feel able to discuss their vulnerabilities. Self-compassion is so important, as without knowing and tolerating our own faults, it can be hard to believe that it’s possible for an other to accept us.
There can never be true intimacy without vulnerability, but in the counselling room people can gently begin to reveal their fears and allow themselves the risk of being accepted and can then see that they can also love the other completely in spite of both their flaws.
By taking responsibility for their current situation, many people can free themselves from the fear of repeating negative patterns.
Breaking a serious addiction is the work of a lifetime and requires specialist help, but by giving up the toxic control and trusting that there is a better life, many people can, and do, triumph over their dependencies.

Christina Fraser

Fundamentals for Couple Closeness

Couples come to relationship counselling with a wide range of unresolved issues, and the therapist often has to listen closely to hear the themes behind the words.
In the clamour of unheard grievances, missed opportunities and feelings of neglect, the predominant cry is “we can no longer communicate”
Somehow the ease of sharing has become fractured as time goes on, and couples cease to work as a trusting unit and often become defended individuals.
One subject that can easily become overlooked is money.
How a couple organises their finances can become a rich seam for therapeutic discussion.
Money rather than sex has become the hard-to-tackle conversation for many clients.
Once this becomes an open topic, it can release a torrent of unresolved grievances, with accompanying feelings of dependency and responsibility, plus fears around a perceived lack of transparency.
Trust is the foundation of a couple and usually only discussed in the context of fidelity or loyalty, but trusting the other with feelings of a fair and joint partnership can feel just as important.

Is ‘work’ only rewarded financially?
Do you need or want to know what your partner earns?
Do you need or want joint or separate bank accounts?
Do you sit together regularly and spend time understanding your incomings and outgoings?
Do you take time to plan for your future goals?

Each couple can add their own personal needs to this list, and it is important to retain an open conversation as things will change monetarily in tandem with individual circumstances
Opening up this often tricky topic can begin a process of transparency and sharing that can enhance the trust that most couples so desperately desire.

Christina Fraser

Living with alcoholism in a family

It is impossible not to be affected in some way if you are living in a family with an alcohol dependent member. The negative effects will touch everyone around a problem drinker.

  •  Living with chaos and unpredictability are the main effects on families, but alcoholism can go unrecognised as relatives and friends make excuses to themselves and others, and bury their fears rather than facing them.
  •  Denial is usually the first defence of an alcoholic, and the distorted thinking around the problem makes it virtually impossible for family members to apply logical strategies to try and help the person concerned. Dependency becomes a shameful and secretive business, and the family may collude with this – hoping the problem will disappear until often only a crisis will force change.
  •  Research shows that for every alcoholic, there are between four and nine people directly impacted by their disease. Those ‘supporting’ a drinker can only look at their own part in all this, which can be enormously painful.  Beginning to look at their own behaviour may be tough, but until other family members start to draw back from their involvement, they can only become embroiled in the situation.
  •  The decision to stop drinking can only ever be made by the person concerned. But by withdrawing and starting to take care of themselves, those around the alcoholic can put the problem squarely back where it belongs. The option to look directly at the core of the situation, however, can only be taken by the one with the dependency.  It’s their decision only and must be driven by their motivation for change.
  •  We cannot change another, but we can change ourselves and how we respond to them. This, in turn, may affect the way they deal with themselves and their drinking.

Christina Fraser