Healthy relationships after addiction, divorce, and bad relationships

What does a healthy relationship look like?

I have asked this question of friends, my therapist, and my boyfriend.

Most importantly, I have been asking it a lot of myself lately. Is this healthy? Is my response to this or that rational, emotional, or healthy? There is no checklist. I’ve Googled it and researched it at the library. Apparently it varies by person and relationship.

I find this all very irritating. I am nearly through with my divorce and onto the next relationship. I am ass-deep into therapy and journals and I just want to have a healthy relationship for crying out loud.

But it’s not that simple. I have deeply ingrained patterns that date back to my childhood and apparently I am supposed to sit with my feelings and take note of how I’m reacting and none of this is solving anything quickly enough.

I have come to the realization that I’ve never, ever actually been in a healthy relationship. I’ve been in a handful of long-term relationships, but none were healthy.Ā  All left me feeling bereft, clingy, unloved or too loved or suffocated or ignored.

P never told me he loved me, though I wanted him to. He was an angry, bitter man.

K did love me, she was a lovely person, although I never loved her back. She was perhaps too stable and most definitely not exciting enough for me.

Zach loved me deeply and I loved him. But now we’re fighting over kids and money and lies and clearly that was not meant to be.

So how do I make sure this one is a healthy relationship?

Here is what my therapist says: go slow, notice your feelings, go slow, pay attention.

Here is what I’m doing: spending most of my sparse free time with boyfriend, Kyle, having amazing sex, and feeling like breaking up with him the minute things get uncomfortable. Not taking care of myself or getting enough sleep.

I’m not comfortable with someone else’s feelings of discomfort or disappointment.

Maybe I’d be better off alone. I’m definitely not healed from my divorce yet; it’s not even final.

In the meantime, I’m left to ponder, what is a healthy relationship?

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12 thoughts on “Healthy relationships after addiction, divorce, and bad relationships

  1. I know what you mean, I just recently finalized my divorce with my alcoholic ex-wife. And I too struggle with always second guessing what is considered “healthy” and “normal”. I am currently seeing someone new as well, and also fight the urge to end it all over the slightest complication. Sometimes I wonder if I ever was “ok” to start with. Or if I was just gradually warped into some bizarre lesser for of who I was thanks to my ex. Who knows, only time will tell I suppose. Hell, Al-anon doesn’t even want to talk to me, so maybe there is something to that, lol. ^_^

    • Oh yes, it’s painful to see one’s own craziness in light of past relationships. My therapist is thrilled that I get to practice my new skills and insights on a regular basis. Good luck to you, my friend.

  2. So, life after divorce is still shitty, even when you find someone to fill the loneliness void?

    Sweet.

    I’m half-kidding. (I’m happy for you, even if you’re a little confused and scared about the entire thing. šŸ™‚ )

    • Lol, It can be at times. The void is definitely less with her around, but I think it will always be there, as a reminder of how quickly things can change in the blink of an eye. I guess that realization, is what scares me the most with the current relationship. I still love and miss my ex dearly, we were happy, and for years I always put myself before her. Even during the last 3 years, while I tried to help her overcome her addiction. But you cant really help someone when they don’t want to be helped. Every day was always a bad day for her, there was always something wrong, some reason to buy another case of beer. I loved her, and she loved alcohol. And when she decided to have an affair with my best friend…I decided I had had enough. I read some of your blog Matt, you seem like a very funny guy. And I agree with you, from personal experience, love is a choice. Perhaps you could tell me more of your story and give me a few pointers on being a dad, I too have a daughter of my own šŸ™‚
      My email is lunarsuzaku@gmail.com

      • Thank you for this note.

        And thanks for visiting my writing. Really appreciate that.

        And to complete the Gratitude Trifecta, thank you for reaching out with your email. šŸ™‚

        I’ll fire you a note offline.

  3. I was glad to see your new post. As I inch closer to divorce myself, I find that my mind has been wandering to thoughts of what a new, healthy relationship might feel like. I know I need to spend more time alone, and I will, but sometimes just the daydream of a future that might involve a safe, loving relationship is what keeps me motivated to slog through another lonely day of single parenthood šŸ™‚ Like you, I also find myself thinking back to old relationships (and the beginning of this one)…and wondering….Though I may not know what a healthy relationship looks like, I suppose I’m starting to know a few things about what it’s definitely not. (it’s not feeling like I have to keep parts of it hidden or excused, not worrying all the time, not feeling like I have to control the other person, or focusing on thinking about what they think, what they feel, etc.). I think you are moving forward in a very healthy way. It strikes me that in our recovery one must have that balance between thinking/learning (getting feedback from others/therapist and contemplating for yourself) and just doing it.

    I wish you much happiness (and restfulness šŸ™‚ in the new year.

  4. As someone who ended up in bad relationship after bad relationship, I know I have no room to talk. But, I think the answer is knowing who you are and what you will allow. You cannot control the rest of the world and who is or is not dependent. You can only control you and what you will allow. Do not feel bad when you want to break up with your boyfriend. You are just working through all this and that is good. If he is meant to be with you, he will stay no matter what you do or say. I think you just need to do what feels right, even if it does not please everyone else. Focus on you and the rest will get better, It has for me. Things have gotten much better. I keep meaning to write about it more.

    Take care and stay strong,
    Sara

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