As a therapist who works with African Americans seeking recovery and a healthy marriage, I often ask clients, "What is the healthiest marriage you have ever seen?" The question is usually followed by silence. Then I hear responses like: "My parents would get drunk and fight all the time. My dad left when I was two and my mother never remarried. Maybe a couple on TV. I've never seen a healthy marriage." If you have never seen one, how do you develop one?
A major milestone of addictions recovery is the ability to develop healthy relationships in recovery. Below is a description of the 5 Stages of A Marriage.
1. Romantic Love. This is the first phase of the relationship. Whenever the person walks in a room your heart skips a beat. You can hear violin music or old Motown love songs in the background when you talk to them (no one can hear this music except the two of you). You can talk to them on the phone for hours and it feels like you've only talked for minutes. To you, they're perfect! You can't see any of their faults (although your friends can see their faults). This phase of a relationship is similar to a cocaine of heroin high and lasts about two years. You would love for this phase of the relationship to return, because of the high. It won't return! After this, love is work and a choice!
2. Disillusionment. Much of the high of romantic love has worn off. You start to see the other as fully human. Their strengths and weaknesses. While you love them, you can now see more of their faults and habits you don't like. You start making comments like: "Those shoes don't put themselves in the closet, that coat won't hang itself up, that plate won't wash itself and that checkbook won't balance itself."
3. One Of Us Has Got To Change and Guess What? Its You! You spend years trying to change the other and eventually discover that the only person you can change is you. Many married couples at this point yearn for the romantic love period to return. They have affairs to try to recapture that feeling. Others divorce before the miracle occurs!
4. We Can Make It! You now realize you cannot change the other. You Apply the Serenity Prayer to your marriage asking God to, "Grant you the serenity to accept the things you cannot change (in your marriage), the courage to change the things that you can and the wisdom to know the difference. You start learning to compromise and negotiate better.
5. Soulmates. Ministers who perform marriage ceremonies say to newly married couples, "You are now soulmates." How ca you be soulmates and you barely know them. You are just coming off the high of romantic love. People usually put their best foot forward early in a relationship. You actually married their representative. There is a story of an 88 year old man who received prestigious award and during the acceptance speech he introduced His 86 years old wife to the audience. They had been married for over 60 years and he told the audience that his wife, "Is the most beautiful woman in the world."Audience members wondered how could he make that statement? His wife's wrinkles had wrinkles. There were women in the audience who looked like super models. The old man answered the questions they pondered with this final statement about his wife. "She is my soulmate!" He was no longer married to her body or physical form. He was married to her soul.
The opposite of addiction is not sobriety. The opposite of addiction is connection. It is my hope and wish that couples reading this article put the work into their marriage so that they can enjoy it in recovery. Wishing you a soulmate experience.