Rediscovering A Communication Tool

wish this was my shed!

Recently, the hubby and I cleaned out our shed.

It had become a catchall for things we didn’t know what to do with, but didn’t want to get rid of, you know, just in case we needed it again.

Through the passage of time, some of the things that were placed in there were forgotten.

They became rusted, warped, and no longer usable.

The neglect was evident. We had to choose what was salvageable, what we’d use again, and what should just be donated or tossed into the trash.

Our recoveries are similar to those long forgotten items in the shed.

We have program tools tucked away for a later date, techniques worn from constant use, and things that didn’t work and were discarded.

One of the tools we rediscovered in our recovery together was FANOS. Some of you may remember me talking about FANOS a couple of years ago.

It’s a check-in conversation that works like this:

F is for Feelings

Each person shares their feelings for the day.

If they felt triggered by anger or disappointment, they can talk it through.

It’s also a chance to share successes and happiness.

A is for Affirmations

This is an opportunity to let your partner know you support them and let them know you love and have faith in them.

Something like, “I promise to have open and honest communication with you.” Or, “I affirm to continue to work on my recovery.”

N is for Needs

If you need your partner to do something, now is the perfect time to ask.

Maybe it’s a request to have patience with you or take time to listen to your concerns.

It’s also an opportunity to let your partner know what you need to do for yourself.

It could be quiet time to write or do step work.

O is for Ownership

This is a chance to apologize for your actions.

“I’m sorry I snapped at you earlier.” Or, “I need to let you know I forgot to do that favor you asked of me.”

S is for Sobriety and Self-Care

If the addict is struggling with their recovery and had a slip, this is a great way to tell their partner.

There’s no yelling in FANOS, only love and support.

It’s also the perfect time to share what you’ve been doing in your recovery to maintain sobriety.

Perhaps you talked to your sponsor, or worked on your steps, now’s your chance to let your partner know.

It will help them feel reassured in your recovery.

Credit for FANOS goes to 

Faithful and True Ministries

***

It’d been quite some time since we used the communication tool.

We’d fallen into a comfortable, albeit stagnant, place in our marriage.

We didn’t think we needed it anymore and it slowly fell away.

But, when you’re married to a recovering addict, and you’re one too, you have to work on your recovery every day or things can become wonky. You tend to turn inwards instead of turning to your partner.

FANOS is one of several recovery tools we took out of the program shed, cleaned up, and adapted to use as a new tool that would fit our needs called GRACE  (with a grateful nod to Mrs. Laaser): 

And, things have been smooth ever since. We're back to communicating the way we used to.

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’re each grateful for that day or that week. It can be something your partner did or said. Or if you’re not in that place at that moment, try to find something else you’re grateful for. Perhaps it’s because you’re having a check-in conversation or you have food on your plates and a roof over your heads. Maybe you’re grateful because you’re healthy, or the sky is so blue today. Maybe you’re grateful the car started or saw a duck crossing the road. Anything you can find, no matter how minute, that you can appreciate. 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 accountability partner, or maybe you’d like to request a period of abstinence from sex, or maybe you crave thirty minutes of 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 struggled to keep my ego in check and had 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 being careful not to use that snark that creeps in from time to time.

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. This is an opportunity to build your communication skills with each other. Echo things back to make sure you're on the same page.

Care: How are you caring for yourselves? Is either of you in a twelve-step program or a face-to-face meeting? Maybe a support group or meeting with a trusted religious leader? 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 their loved one’s recovery including the setbacks. 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 my healing. It didn’t promote our growth as a couple either. 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 relationship. There is no right or wrong way; it’s your way. It’s what your emotions can handle.

Emotions:  Now that you’ve discussed your requests and care, this is the perfect time to talk about your emotions.  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.

What’s your favorite way to connect with your partner? Is it time to clean out your communication shed or garage? What about your real storage place, does that need to be organized?

"L" is for Listening: A-Z Challenge

L is for Listening

illustrated by Rob Z Tobor
“Speak without offending, listen without defending.”  ~ author unknown

Awhile back I saw that quote and thought,  I totally listen.  I patted myself on the back. I don’t offend people.  I’m perfect, for sure.

Umm, not so much.

Soon after I found that quote (and congratulated myself for being so awesome) I was in the midst of an argument with my hubby.  We started calmly but it became heated quickly.

Rather than step away from each other, we continued the debate.  It wasn’t long before I planned what I would say next instead of listening to Devin.  I was more interested in getting my point across than understanding what he said.

Not surprisingly, with neither one of us listening to the other, hurtful things were said.  Thankfully, Devin realized we weren’t saying anything productive. He ended the argument and suggested we talk later.

It was at that point I remembered the quote. 

A little too late.

Then, I educated myself on healthy communication. Some things I learned to help me listen are:

  •       Avoid distractions.  Turn off the television and close the laptop.
  •       Stay in the present.  Don’t dwell on past arguments or how they pissed you off that morning.  Now is not the time to discuss it 
  •       Stick to one subject at a time.  Otherwise you’ll derail the conversation.
  •       Wait your turn.  Don’t interrupt the other person because you feel what you have to say is more important.
  •       Don’t make it all about you. I avoid going tit for tat when my hubby brings up stuff that he’s guilty of too.
  •       Ask questions.  It’s okay to admit you don’t understand why the person is upset. 
  •       Don’t hit below the belt.  There are some words you can’t take back with an apology.  Like Thumper said, “If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
  •       If it gets heated, take a break.  It’s better than yelling.


Do you have any tips about listening to share?

~~~@

This post is part of the A-Z Challenge.  Wanna see more?




Taking Things For Granted



“I got a text from Julie at work.  Did you want to read it?” Devin asked.

“No, I appreciate you letting me know you got it though,” I answered.

He looked up from his phone and asked, “Are you sure?”

“Yeah.  Unless she said something you think I should see, I’m fine.  I trust you,” I replied.

He grinned and asked, “Yeah, about what, forty percent of the time?”

“Not at all.  It’s more like ninety-seven percent,” I answered.

“Really?” He asked, surprised.

“Really.  It used to be zero percent, then forty, fifty, than seventy-five.  Now, I trust you almost completely.”

“That’s good to know.  I remember when you asked me how you could stay with a man you didn’t trust at all,” he said.

“I remember that too.  We had several conversations like that after disclosure day,” I said.  I gave him a hug then said, “But, that was over three years ago.  A lot has happened since then.” 

It seems like a lifetime ago when I didn’t believe a word that fell out of Devin’s mouth.  I second-guessed everything he said.  It didn’t matter what it was.  It could be anything from, “the store didn’t have what you needed” or “I was stuck in traffic,” I didn’t have enough faith in him at the time to believe him.  I had just been betrayed beyond anything I could imagine.  He didn’t deserve to be trusted back then.

Slowly, I realized I had to stop focusing on the problem of his sex addiction, and start focusing on the solution.  That meant spending time looking at myself while he tended to his own recovery. 

As he worked his program, I noticed a change in him.  When I realized it was because he wasn’t relying on me to fix him, but rather, he was fixing himself, I took note.  I discovered I could allow myself to start trusting him.  His actions were worth my leap of faith. 

The more my trust in him grew, the better I felt about our future together.  My mistake was not letting him know how much hope I had in him.  I figured he must have known.  I was no longer asking him questions about what he was doing to maintain his recovery.  I could see it for myself.  I didn’t have to ask where he was or what he was doing because he kept me informed.  I thought that because I stopped asking all those questions, he knew I had more faith in him. 
Instead, he felt my trust in him was still low because we never talked about it anymore.  He took it for granted I’d never believe in him again as much as I took it for granted he knew he was trusted.

It was a good lesson for me to learn.  Talk about everything.  Especially when you think the person knows how you feel.  They can’t read your thoughts.  You have to share them.

Have you ever taken anything for granted?

An Innocent Question




It began as an innocent question, “Who is Wendy?” I asked. Then became a long conversation last night:

“I wish you hadn’t asked.” Devin answered.

He explained he had a minor car accident a few days earlier.  He wasn’t going to tell me because he wasn’t at fault, no police were involved and it was in his brand new car.  He was embarrassed and didn’t want to hear me “go on about it.”  I just happened to see the name Wendy jotted down on a piece of paper.

“Devin, you’re supposed to be open and honest with me.  Not telling me about an accident, no matter how small, is not being open.”  I said.

“You can’t use that as an example of me being open and honest.  That’s just one small example.”  He responded.

“I’ve been telling you for weeks that you’ve been ‘off’, that something just isn’t feeling right with you.”  I informed him.

“I know and I’ve been telling you, I’m fine.  I’m sober.  I don’t know what you’re feeling but I’m fine.  You’re going to have to give me more to go on.”  He said.

“I have, Devin, numerous times.”  I said.  I could feel myself getting impatient and reminded myself to detach with love.  I took a deep calming breath before I continued, “I cherished the times when you told me what you learned from SAA meetings and your group.  Now when you come home, you tell me if it’s crowded or the chairs were uncomfortable.  You stopped sharing substance about your recovery.  We haven’t done FANOS in weeks.  I miss our date nights and spending time together.  We're just not connecting.  I’ve detached with love from you.”

Devin sat and said nothing for a long time.  Eventually he said, “You’re right.  I need to reconnect with you.  I don’t know why I stopped.  You have to remember it’s been over forty years of me not communicating properly and I don’t know how to do this right but I’m willing to learn.  I’m still confused about you detaching with love from me.”

I wish I could say when I explained to him it again it went smoothly.  It didn’t.  He felt rejection although I had been detaching from him for weeks and he didn’t know it.  I explained I was detached from his addiction and his behavior, not from him as a person but he still felt rejected because sex was off the table. 

Once I explained when we connected emotionally again, sex would be back on the table, the bed, the floor….he was much happier.