The relationships you have in your life can either help or hinder your progress during your life-long recovery. Some relationships carry more weight than others, like those with a romantic partner or close family and friends. Although your relationships with co-workers, acquaintances, and strangers will not have as much influence, they are still important. There are other relationships, however, that you may want to end once you are sober. They may no longer serve a purpose or contribute to a healthy recovery. Sober Life hopes that the decisions you make regarding your relationships will help set you up for success.
Practice Active Listening
One critical skill to have if you are looking to improve your healthy relationships is active listening. Think about a conversation you’ve had recently that went beyond small talk into something a bit more serious. Try to picture the details of the situation. What could you glean from the person’s facial expressions, gestures, or posture? What did you notice about the words they used and their tone of voice? What approach did you take to make them feel seen and heard? If you’re having trouble recalling these details or even much of the conversation at all, you can probably improve your active listening skills.
Far too often, one person is trying to have a conversation with another person, but they are not really paying attention. Whether they are buried in their phone or staring off into space, they aren’t present for the conversation. In other cases, they might be nodding along but are too focused on what they will say next that they don’t pick up on what you are saying. These things are examples of what not to do if you want to use active listening to improve healthy relationships.
Instead, active listening is the practice of being fully present in the conversation or lack thereof. When you are actively listening, there are no distractions, and your mind isn’t wandering. The other person doesn’t have to question whether or not you were paying attention. They feel seen and heard by you — this is important. Other things that help promote active listening and give the other person signs that you are engaged are:
- maintaining eye contact with the person you’re speaking with.
- uncrossing your arms, and leaning toward the person.
- allowing them adequate time to finish their thoughts without jumping in to interject.
Once it’s clear that they are done talking, you can also briefly re-phrase what the other person said and ask a follow-up question if necessary. Picking up on both verbal and nonverbal cues can help you be more engaged and take you from hearing to listening.
Finding a Balance
There’s no healthy way to avoid all possible negativity in a relationship. Being able to navigate through some healthy disagreement is essential, but you just want to make sure that the scale is not tipped too far to the negative side. Ideally, you want to find a healthy balance between positive and negative interactions. This healthy balance varies from relationship to relationship, but it usually involves having a few positive interactions for every negative one. If this sounds daunting, try not to let it overwhelm you. Positive interactions don’t have to be grand gestures. While going above and beyond on occasion is nice, it cannot be sustained long-term. Positive interactions show that you are listening attentively. You’re remembering to do something without being asked, or demonstrating appreciation for something they did that was important to you. Ensuring you have a healthy balance in all of your relationships is vital to ensuring that appreciation is shown, and no one is being accidentally taken for granted.
Spending Quality Time Together
Quality time is an important aspect of close, healthy relationships. Unfortunately, many relationships are lacking in this area. Like positive interactions, quality time together does not mean splurging on a weekend vacation or spending the whole together. Instead, quality time is more about the value of the time spent together than the quantity of time spent together. Some ways to improve quality time within your relationships are to create distraction-free moments and making sure the time is uninterrupted. Put down the phones, turn off the television, close the book. Quality time looks different for every relationship. Sometimes quality time can be having coffee and chatting with someone. Other times it can be participating in a shared hobby. Find something that works for your relationships and ensure that you regularly have quality time.
Have Open Communication
Communication is an extremely effective way to improve your healthy relationships. Never make assumptions that the other person in the relationship knows what’s on your mind. You cannot expect that your partner or friend is a mind-reader — they aren’t. Open communication is a requirement in healthy relationships. If something is bothering you, don’t be afraid to bring it up with the other person. Not every hard conversation or disagreement needs to turn into an argument. It’s also important to remember that miscommunication is expected if you are texting. Try to have difficult conversations in person so that facial expressions and tone of voice are not lost. Lastly, remember to be open-minded. Part of healthy communication is being flexible and willing to understand different sides of a situation. Just like you would want your partner or friend to try to understand why your feelings are hurt, do the same for them.
Sober Life knows the importance of having connections to help you through the difficult times in your recovery. We are here to help you improve the healthy relationships that matter to you and let go of the unhealthy relationships that no longer serve your goals of staying sober. We also know that your existing relationships can be negatively impacted by substance abuse and the consequences that come with it. This is why Sober Life offers family therapy to help work on these critical relationships that have been impacted by your substance abuse. Call us today at (619) 542-9542. We can’t wait to speak with you, learn more about how we can help foster healthy connections in your recovery, and formulate a plan that works for you! Sober Life is here to help. Call now!