When I began my recovery journey almost 25 years ago I was amazed at how many marriages ended in recovery. It seemed crazy to me that people were able to stick it out for decades of dysfunction during active addiction only to become casualties of the recovery process. Initially, this didn’t make sense to me.
Some cases were easier to understand than others. For example:
* Both people were in active addiction and only one decided to get clean
* The addict got clean and discovered he was never really in love but just needed a caretaker.
* The non-addicted partner was never in love but was a caretaker who no longer had a victim to care for.
In these cases, divorce was most likely the best solution for everyone concerned. The ones that baffled me were those where it was obvious that both people were in love but just couldn’t figure out how to share their lives together in a new, healthy, BETTER way.
It was like one of those nightmares where you’re helplessly falling through space. I started seeing the gap between our lives getting wider as I grew in my recovery and I didn’t have a clue what to do about it. The elation I’d get from my meetings was quickly squashed when I walked in the door and saw the sadness on the face of the woman I adored so much.
Like any good marriage, ours had been built on communication and as we talked it out we both realized a key element that was missing.
We didn’t know how to have fun anymore.
As we searched our memory banks we realized that the majority of fun times we shared included alcohol. Hell, even our first kiss as husband and wife was prompted by the clinking of a spoon on a champagne glass.
It dawned on me that I hadn’t heard much about this in the recovery rooms or in my men’s group. Cliches like “be patient” and “keep coming back” didn’t seem appropriate for a marriage that needed help now.
Kristin and I decided to make an adventure out of it. We both love competing together so gamifying things made it fun and interesting for us. I remember that things began to get better very quickly once we stopped thinking and started playing. We discovered that the pursuit of finding fun things to do together became the fun itself.
Here are a few cool things to try for reinventing your new clean, sober, and FUN marriage.
Hold a memorial service.
Sit down with your partner and create a eulogy together. Acknowledge the good times where you laughed together and the struggles that made you stronger. Take time to really feel the emotions then give them gratitude and say goodbye.
Renew your vows.
Make some new ones based on your present life. They don’t have to be anything super deep or articulate. Just acknowledge the pledge of a brand new love where everything from this point forward is fresh. You can take it a step further by inviting your partner to hold you accountable if you slide back into an old pattern. Make the accountability gentle and loving like a kiss on the left ear or something. This will avoid conflict and maybe even spark some afternoon delight.
Go on a honeymoon for at least a weekend.
Make sure you’re off the grid and able to focus on each other exclusively. We found that seclusion in nature worked best. This way we avoided triggers from the past and connecting with nature has a mysterious healing effect to it. Try your best to avoid conversations about the past, your children, or anything at home. Make a game out of it where whoever breaks the rules has to give the partner a massage or even something a little nastier.
Dig deeper into your fun.
Look beyond the activities you defined as fun and identify the feelings it gave you. Close your eyes and sense where you feel it in your body. Then surf places like meetup.com for brand new things that spark that feeling in you. Be willing to try things regardless of what limiting thoughts are popping up. We did things like ballroom dancing, golf, ice skating, and snorkeling just to name a few. Some things turned out to suck (I’m not into scavenger hunting) and some things we discovered we love way more than anything we’ve ever done. Throwing all the judgments out the window and learning to say yes to a feeling in your body has amazing results.
Set aside 2 hours a week to lie on the hood of your car, under the stars and DREAM together. Remember when you first started dating and how fun it was to dream about your future together? Most couples stop doing that after a few years. Instead, we stress about having enough money to enjoy a future that we don’t even dream about. It sounds crazy when you actually take a moment to think about it. Dream…share those dreams, write them down in a dream journal…then do whatever you want with them. I like to review them every few months and revise them.
Spend one night a week out with the guys.
The best thing you can do for your woman is establishing intimate relationships with other men. Find a group of conscious men on a similar journey as you. Get dirty, get physical, share your deepest fears, laugh, cry, SCREAM like a wild man. Then go home and take your woman like she wants to be taken.
Recovery from addiction is a gift that only a chosen few will ever receive. It’s so much more than cleaning up an old mess that no longer works. It’s a rare opportunity to really take a look at why you were put on this planet and to fulfill that purpose. There are so many others who will go to their graves never having this chance, regardless of whether they were addicts or not.
Everything you’ve done to this point is based on a story or blueprint you created about how life should be. Now you’re being given a chance to rewrite that story. It’s a lifelong journey with instant rewards. Embrace this gift, find a mentor or coach to guide you and design the life you were always meant to live.
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