Marriage/Intimate Relationships

Romantic Turbulence

No matter how strong a couple’s relationship might be, there are always trying times. The couple may not agree an important issue, or maybe one has made a mistake that angers or hurts the other. When these instances occur, emotions are bound to run high, and each person will want to seek some type of consolation for the pain.

Since abstinence is a lifestyle choice that takes time and practice, a person in early recovery may still feel the compulsion to alleviate physical or emotional discomfort or stress with substance use. His ability to remain sober depends on how well he can implement the skills and strategies acquired while in treatment. Experiencing romantic hardships can lead to an unnecessarily high level of risk for relapse.

A New Kind of Dependency

There have been numerous studies conducted on the effects of romance on the brain. According to some of the most recent, the experience a person has in a romantic relationship activates the same parts of the brain that are targeted by substance use.

In fact, there’s not much psychological difference between drug addiction and sex or romance addiction. Because of the similarities, romantic relationships in early recovery put individuals at risk of substituting alcohol or drug use with the thrill of romance and feelings of intimacy. Although alcohol and drugs are much more physically dangerous than romance, this type of dependence greatly increases the risk of drug relapse, should things go wrong with the relationship.

Unnecessary Distractions

“Addiction recovery is an ongoing journey. Sustaining sobriety and remaining abstinent require a certain amount of continued effort. It’s difficult to give one’s recovery the necessary level of attention while also pursuing a romantic relationship in early recovery.”

After completing addiction treatment, an individual must actively pursue recovery. This may involve attending 12-Step group meetings, joining an alumni program through the alcohol or drug rehab facility and having weekly sessions with an addiction counselor or psychotherapist. There are many options available for continuing one’s recovery efforts.

The most important thing is to put in the time and keep learning new ways to safeguard your newly found sobriety.


Romantic relationships in early recovery place a person’s focus on the relationship rather than on recovery. This can put the individual at risk of slipping back into old habits and behaviors. But once a recovering addict has accumulated more sober time and feels confident in his or her new lifestyle of sobriety, there’s much less risk of neglecting one’s recovery needs. Although it may seem difficult in the beginning, sobriety will begin to feel second nature, at which time a person will have much more to offer to a potential romantic partner.

1. How would you describe your ideal marriage or intimate relationship?

2. In your ideal marriage or intimate relationship, how would you treat your partner?

3. Do you feel that you are contributing enough time and effort toward your marriage or intimate relationships? If  not, how would you like to improve?

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©2019 by Christopher Thompson.