Establishing a healthy relationship with others is essential to long-lasting sobriety. However, this can be hard when you or others in your recovery community have been traumatized. Many of us have experienced hardship, abuse, and abandonment. As a result, some may need to take extra precautions before establishing new relationships. So, how do you start healthy relationships after years of entering unhealthy relationships? This article looks at some practical steps one can take.
Defining Healthy Relationships
Before finding healthy relationships, it helps to understand what a healthy relationship means. Some characteristics that define a healthy relationship are respect, authenticity, and trustworthiness. Essentially, regarding traits of a healthy relationship entail:
- A healthy relationship builds up your self-esteem. You feel better about yourself after spending time with that person.
- A healthy relationship enhances your personal growth. It gives you a sense of purpose and meaning in life.
- A healthy relationship allows you to express yourself honestly without fear of judgment or rejection.
- A healthy relationship is mutually beneficial for everyone involved. Everyone feels like they are getting something out of it, and everyone is giving something back as well (albeit not necessarily equally).
Six Steps to Building Healthy Relationships
The most important relationship you’ll ever have is the relationship with yourself.
The most crucial step to building healthy relationships is to become a person who makes you happy. Thus, working on ourselves and becoming better people help us feel joy and happiness from within. Beyond that, we can take greater steps to build healthy relationships:
Identify the primary issues behind your previous unhealthy relationships: Addiction can cause people to engage in dysfunctional interactions with others. Usually, this manifests itself in relationships with other substance abusers, people who enable an addiction, or family members and friends with toxic influences. This can make it difficult to adjust to relationships in sobriety. Even in recovery, some individuals with a SUD may continue to engage in the manipulative, abusive, or codependent behaviors they adopted while using drugs or alcohol.
Yet, with some reflection, making amends, and even professional mental health services, one can begin to shed the negative roles assumed during their active addiction and learn how to be a safe person in a relationship. Continue doing the work, and see genuine remorse, empathy, and other positive qualities grow within yourself.
Communication Skills: Communication skills involve tools used to share information with others. They include your body language, tone of voice, and the words that you choose. These skills are essential for all relationships since they allow us to be understood, express our needs, and build connections. Here are some tips for improving your communication skills:
- Avoid name-calling and other forms of verbal abuse.
- Be willing to listen.
- Focus on understanding rather than being understood.
- Examine what you are trying to say.
- Be clear and specific, not vague.
- Keep your message neutral or positive instead of accusatory.
- Ask questions if you’re unsure about another’s intentions or message.
- Use I-messages, not you-messages.
- Avoid making assumptions about what the other person is thinking or feeling.
Learn to trust: Learning to trust others is challenging for anyone. If you’ve been hurt in the past or made a mistake, it may be challenging to trust again. Remember that your history may make it difficult to trust others, but not everyone will intentionally hurt you. Some people are trustworthy, and they won’t deliberately damage you. Give them a chance by acknowledging their efforts and thanking them for their good deeds!
Decide what you want and need in a relationship: Think about what’s most important to you in a friendship, and then find people who fit your needs. For instance, if humor is an important trait, find people who make you laugh. If spirituality is a significant value, find people who share your beliefs or respect them. Then, when looking for a partner, consider finding someone who enjoys doing the same types of things.
Learn to Say “No” and Set Healthy Boundaries: A boundary is a limit or rule you establish to protect yourself from harm or unhealthy situations. Unfortunately, it’s common for people who struggle with addiction to have difficulties setting boundaries. Either they don’t know how or because they suffer from codependency, which causes them to neglect their own needs while caring for others. Too often, people in recovery feel pressure to say yes to things so as not to disappoint other people, but the long-term damage of saying yes can outweigh the short-term gain. Even if you feel the need to make amends or make up for past mistakes with others, you don’t need to put these situations over your sobriety.
To learn how to say no to create healthy relationships with others, think about why you said yes in the past. Was it because you felt pressured by others? Did you want to please people? Were you afraid that saying no would hurt other people’s feelings? Learning to say no isn’t hard if you understand why you said yes.
Offer yourself and others grace: Building good relationships takes time. Be patient and gentle with yourself as you navigate each new friendship or relationship. Remember that this process takes time, but it also takes effort. You have to put in the work if you want to experience the rewards of a healthy relationship. Even when you give 100 percent effort, hiccups can still occur. Hence, we recommend finding the lessons or silver linings in those situations. Most don’t learn it all in one day. And even the best students hit a snag. But with patience and grace, you can still reap some benefits from the journey.
Establishing healthy relationships is a great goal that many people want to achieve, particularly those who experienced rocky relationships. If you’re hoping to resume healthy interactions after years of isolation, apply these tips to achieve your goals. As a result, you will navigate your new relationships with more confidence. But if you feel that you still suffer from deeper issues when it comes to your self-esteem, anxiety, or other problems, don’t be afraid to seek professional help. You deserve a better life, and working with the right team of professionals can help you get there! At Restoration Recovery Center, we cultivate a nurturing environment to help participants build a better outlook of social interactions and relationships. So if you want to start making healthy relationships and recover from SUD, we can help. Our team of clinicians will provide evidence-based therapies, holistic services, and more. Call us today at (888) 290-0925 to learn more about our treatment program.