I’m a big fan of check-in conversations. It was my saving grace while I was struggling with trying to recover from the damage done to our marriage. Having a scheduled time allowed us a safe place to talk to each other in a calm, peaceful, environment and my husband didn’t have to worry about feeling attacked by questions the second he walked into the house. We used FANOS, created by Debbie Laaser from Faithful and True for the longest time, but as our needs changed, so did our check-in conversations. I've found things do that as our recoveries grow. We shift and evolve into new things. Devin still uses his FRC tools, while I've adapted my own approach. We used to have a steadfast boundary agreement for seemingly everything, now we discuss things. We've evolved over the years.
We use an acronym I created: GRACE since these talks were my saving grace during that difficult time.
G R A C E
Gratitude: I'm all about having an attitude of gratitude. Start off on a positive note and talk about the things that you are each grateful for that day or that week. It can be anything from something your partner did or if you’re not in that place at that moment than try to find something else you’re grateful for. Perhaps it’s because you’re having a check-in conversation or even that you have food on your plates and roof over your heads. Sometimes having an attitude of gratitude can set the tone for a really good conversation.
Requests: Are there any requests or desires you’d like your partner to be aware of? Now is a great time to share those requests with your partner. For instance, if you’d like them to call or text you if they're going to be late, or if you’d like to know if they have a sponsor, or maybe you’d like to request a period of abstinence from sex, or maybe you crave thirty minutes alone time a few days a week so you can spend time working on yourself, this is the perfect place to share those desires.
In turn, they can make requests of you. I feel it’s important to remember to be empathetic at this time. I understand how difficult that can be, especially if there has been a recent slip or if you’re still grappling with emotional struggles that come with disclosure. I admit I was not the best role model for this in the beginning and at times, I struggle to keep my ego in check and have to remind myself that Devin deserves my respect and his addiction does not define him. He has a voice just as much as I do. If I feel the request is leaning towards serving his addiction, well then, I have the right to use that voice and vocalize my concerns.
Acknowledge: This is a chance to acknowledge what you’ve just heard from your partner and make sure you understood their request. It’s okay if you struggle in this department. I discuss this in detail later in the book.
Care: How are you caring for yourselves? Are either of you in a twelve-step program or a face-to-face meeting? If so, now is a great time to talk about the things that resonated with you in your meetings and/or group. Perhaps you’ve decided to start journaling or doing artwork to help alleviate your anxiety, go ahead and take this opportunity to share this with your partner.
It’s also a great time to open up and discuss sobriety. If you’re in a twelve-step program or are trying to do a better job at not being hypervigilant or controlling, let your partner know your progress and they can let you know how they are doing in their recovery. It’s important to note that some partners want to know the nitty-gritty details of the addict’s recovery including the slips. I used to be that person. I felt I needed the what, where, when, etc. I eventually figured out that for me, it wasn’t beneficial for my recovery or for our growth as a couple. Now, I only need the bare minimums. That’s what works for me. Some people prefer not to know anything at all and have their partners tell their sponsors or accountability partner. It’s whatever works for you and your marriage. There is no right or wrong way; it’s your way.
Emotions: Now that you’ve discussed your requests and care, this is the perfect time to talk about your emotions. If need be, take a few of those calming breaths we just talked about. How do you both feel about what you discussed? Do your best to avoid being like me and answering with the standard, “I’m fine,” because life is just so much easier when we say that, isn’t it? Allow yourself to feel your emotions and then share them, gently, honestly, and calmly with your partner. Say what you mean, and mean what you say.
Try to finish on a positive note. Let your partner know how much you appreciate their time and their ability to be vulnerable with you, even if it's little stuff, it's something and that's much better than nothing.
Remember, this is a safe place for each of you. If we want to have a healthy and productive check-in, there should be no yelling, condemning, or criticism from either side.
Is there a letter up there that you a great at? Is there a letter up there that you could improve upon?