Anytime you commit to change, there are going to be ripple effects and generally there is no way of knowing what the outcome will be. My current guest, Debbi had been married for thirteen years and during that time became an alcoholic. When she hit her rock bottom she got the help she needed to get sober and the dynamics between her and her husband changed. Here’s Debbi:
My husband was very supportive of the fact that I was getting sober, but what ended up happening was about a month to six weeks into my sobriety, possibly 2 months all the sudden, I started realizing what a mess I was in as far as the marriage, and I started standing up for myself.
Since I was an alcoholic, he took control over my life, and I didn’t care because I was just drinking over it all. I didn’t want that control anymore, so the way I refer to it is our marriage was kind of like a three-legged stool. There was him, there was me, and there was the alcohol. Once the alcohol was removed, the stool toppled over because the relationship, even as unhealthy as it was, was still the relationship we had.
When I took a drastic change of getting sober and speaking up for myself, it started a lot of friction between the two of us. I was clearly on the path of wanting to get sober and change my life, and what he wanted was a doormat, because that’s what he’d had.
He wanted his doormat, he wanted the doormat sober to basically take care of everything in the household and everything else.
That was the downfall of our marriage.
We ended up going into marriage counseling at the end of the third month of my sobriety. We sat in the marriage counselor’s office and he said, “You’ve decided you don’t want this marriage anymore, haven’t you?”
And I said, “Yeah, I have.” I looked at my ex and said, “I don’t want to be married anymore.”
So we decided that we would use one lawyer and do a quick divorce because we didn’t have issues with custody. We had this trophy house that we had bought together, this 3,400 sq. foot house that we barely lived in because we worked full-time, and it was at the top of the market, so we were able to sell the house within eight weeks. I bought a townhouse.
Then I found myself with seven months sober, now a single, divorced mother. I have no family in the area, and I had a job where I traveled a little bit, not a lot. My ex decided he needed a geographic change again and decided he was going to move two states away to start up a new life for himself, and that’s kind of how the start of my divorce period started.
Changes as dramatic and drastic as getting sober are challenging to navigate both for the person making the change and for those connected to him or her. Getting professional help such as couples counselling, to navigate those changes is smart. The “don’t want to be married anymore” conversation however is a very different conversation than the “what could we do differently to keep our relationship together” one.
The latter is about committing to working in earnest on your relationship whereas the latter is about accepting that the relationship is over. Both conversations require an brutally honest assessment of your own position and a willingness to share that with your partner and that’s where having a competent professional to guide you can be helpful.
If you did marriage or couples counselling how helpful was it? Did it help you communicate better? Did it help you identify the true issues? Did it help you figure out what you needed to do?
Debbi Dickinson is a personal coach who writes at Stepping Into Joy inspiring professional women the importance of self-care and balance. Debbi also creates audio and video programs and hosts telesummits focused on topics professional women deal with today.