Empathy, understanding, emotional intelligence, these are all things that come into play when relating to anyone on any level if you’re aiming to do it consciously.
When there’s not a conscious awareness in the exchange, well, things can go downhill from there.
You should know by now that I aim to do what I can to spread my knowledge and experience gained from my relationship with my partner with addiction in order to help others like me. But there’s an element to it that took awhile to understand more fully.
Because you see, sometimes people aren’t ready to hear certain things.
And I mean, I get it. There were times that were far too frequent where other people would tell me what I should or shouldn’t do in my relationship or how I should or shouldn’t treat my partner. And while I understand now that it was done from what they saw was my best interest, at the time, it wasn’t necessarily perceived that way.
And this same idea comes into play with certain ways of sharing. Of course I don’t tell anyone that they should leave or stay in their relationship, and I really don’t tell anyone that they should do anything specific (besides I suppose loving themselves first and making sure they practice self care). But regardless, some of the things I talk about could be perceived in the same way depending on where you are at on your journey.
Now this is just an example, but take the topic of forgiveness. If you are still painfully aware of the hurt you experienced from your partner’s addiction and use, and have a hard time moving on, reading a post about forgiveness could do one of two things: it could either help to guide you towards emotional relief, or it could make you stick your heels in the ground even more and reject the idea completely.
And this doesn’t even just apply to the world of addiction and relationships either. If you have a hard time on any given topic, it can be difficult and uncomfortable to hear things you might not want to as it challenges the beliefs you already have.
When I talk about meeting people where they are (or aren’t), it simply comes from the idea that no matter where you are, I don’t want to necessarily relate to you on that level. What I do want to do is relate to you on a level that will actually help.
Just think about it: if someone is sad about any given topic, and you come by and say “Hey, I know how you feel, here’s a similar thing I went through”, it could help to show that you understand how they feel. But if from there you just keep coming up with sad experiences, which then causes you to think of more sad things and makes you remember how deeply sad you felt during these memories, before long you’ll also get stuck in the feeling of being sad, when you weren’t even thinking of these memories to begin with!
And this idea works with all the different emotions in all kinds of different situations. Whether it’s thoughts and beliefs about your addicted partner, or just about life in general.
It’s just like the idea of watching your thoughts when you’re in a bad mood or wanting to move forward in life: if you keep thinking of negative thoughts, more will soon come along on the heels of the previous ones, and keep you stuck in a cycle of thinking that nothing will ever change or get better.
So instead of doing that, I want to move away from that style of relating. While I will still give examples on how I understand what it’s like because of this or that story that I have, I won’t stop there. Instead, I’ll try my best to show you what I learned from it, because that’s the important part of the whole experience.
Yes, we have gone through these hard times. But what do we have to show for it? Could we sit and stew in the missed time and stress of life? Sure. But what we could do instead is look for the good things that came out of it.
Regardless of your perspective, the situations happened. No amount of thinking one way or another will change that. So why not think back on them and try to find the good?
And I’m not talking about painting it with a fake idea that it was perfect, and you don’t even have to be glad it happened. I’m just talking about not letting it keep you down anymore and instead, see what parts of it made you stronger, gave you clarity, and kick-started your will to get healthier. This way, it starts the cycle in the other direction, where one positive thought leads to another, until that’s all you see and the past doesn’t hurt you as much (if at all) anymore.
Along with relating to each other, this idea relates to our partners, too. So many times we have been off-balance with each other, where we couldn’t relate to the other person because of the difference in where we were at.
There were times that he left to rehab and returned a much healthier and stronger person, only to be met with me who was not there at all. I was still wallowing in the hurt of his recent use that I couldn’t even appreciate where he was in his recovery, which then caused me to lash out and start problems with him.
And on the flip side, there were times where I had glimpses of feeling better and more clear, and I would try to help him, but it wasn’t met with the same energy and determination as he wasn’t doing well and couldn’t see how anything I suggested helped. This would usually end with us both being frustrated because I would try to force what he just wasn’t ready for.
So how do we start getting things back on track and in a better direction? Well, in both types of situations, I’ve discovered that it’s important to, as always, put yourself first.
No, but really. When you put yourself first and start focusing on your recovery first, you will get to a place of calm and clarity where you will know what is right to do. Sometimes you’ll want to help someone but you’ll feel they aren’t ready, and you’ll be ok with continuing on your journey until they are and they seek you out. You won’t try to force anything that someone isn’t ready for, and you won’t meet them where they are and start up the cycle of negativity again. And sometimes you’ll connect with someone who is looking for guidance, and you’ll know how to relate with them in a way that is healthy for both of you.
You see, it pretty much all comes down to this: sometimes we have parts of ourselves that we aren’t ready to come to terms with, and that’s ok. We are all working at our own pace, and shedding light on the parts of ourselves that we’ve kept hidden for some time.
But what we should try to not do is keep ourselves stuck in a cycle of repeating and keeping alive the thoughts and beliefs that hurt both ourselves and others, especially the ones we love.
We are all on our own individual path to recovery and healing, no matter what the cause, and it's up to us to ensure that we are doing the best we can to take care of ourselves and be the healthy, strong, and positive people that we know we can be.