Hey there, It’s Michelle Lisa Anderson, creator of LoveOverAddiction.com. That is an online community just for women who love someone suffering from addiction. And as you know, we talk about all different types of addiction, so don’t be fooled by the title of the podcast. We definitely cover more than alcoholism.
And today we are going to jump right in because I have been doing some pretty long podcasts for the last couple episodes. So I promise to keep this short and sweet because I know you are super busy. But this is a really important topic, and I see a lot of discussion about these topics in our secret Facebook group which is something you get access to once you join one of our programs. So make sure you check that out at LoveOverAddiction.com.
We are going to talk about the four basic needs of a relationship. And I think that we get really confused and feel very guilty when our expectations are not met from our partner, particularly when we love a good man or a good woman who’s suffering from this disease. And so we start to think, “Is what I’m asking for too much? Are my expectations too high? Is what I’m craving something normal, or should I not be asking so much from my partner?”
Addiction thrives on the fact that it can mess with our minds.
And so I want to go over with you and be super clear on the four basic needs that we all have as humans in a relationship with another human. Now, I also am going to talk about expectations. I love this community because I tend to attract a crowd of women who are incredibly strong, incredibly compassionate and kind, and also enjoy hearing the truth. And not everybody does.
Some people want to be lied to. Some people don’t want to hear the truth. But you and I are women who thrive on that because we want to feel better. We are the type of women who want action. We just want to be told what to do, how to make this better, and then put it into place. That’s the community of 20,000 who are around us. The type of women who just want to stay stuck in their suffering, those are the type of women who log on to our program or log on to the website and leave in the next minute or two. It doesn’t mean that they don’t come back when they’re ready for the truth, but you are ready to hear this truth. So I know that I can be honest and upfront about this.
Now, the four basic needs of a relationship involve love, attention, affection, and help from your partner.
But are you sure you are expecting those four basic needs from somebody who can consistently meet your needs in a healthy way? If you’re expecting love and attention and affection and help, that is okay. You should not feel guilty for expecting that from the person you want to share the rest of your life with. Also, if you are the mother of a son or daughter who is suffering from addiction, you should expect those four basic needs in your relationship.
Are you expecting them to love you like you deserve to be loved though? Are you expecting them to show up consistently—to be truthful at all times and every occasion? Because love is trust. Do you expect them to be kind because love is not rude? Love protects you.
Love is your safe spot. It’s your landing point. It’s the place that you feel called back to again and again after a hard day.
Expecting love in your relationship is a good and necessary thing. Are you expecting your loved one to provide you with attention when you ask for it? Are there times in your life that you want to share with your partner, but they are absent? Do you have memories of one when you wish it would be memories of two? Are you expecting them to give you more attention than their addiction?
What about affection? Do you desire for your partner to respect your heart and your feelings enough so you can trust them with your body? Are you expecting to feel safe with them when you’re intimate and vulnerable? Do you expect them to truly see you when you’re making love?
And do you expect them to see you when you need help and jump in? Do you want your loved one to anticipate your needs and be thoughtful enough to meet them? Are you still anticipating consistent help with the chores on weekends or the kids during the week?
Love, attention, affection, and help are four basic needs for anybody in a committed, loving relationship.
Here’s the truth: each one is necessary—and here’s the keyword—from both partners. If your needs are not being met, it’s okay to feel upset. It’s okay to feel disappointed, and it’s ok to sit in your car parked in your driveway and cry over the disappointment that you feel on a regular basis because those needs are not being met. It’s okay for you to stay in your pajamas in bed for the day because you just can’t find the strength to get up. And it’s okay for you to take a pause and mourn the expectations that your loved one is not meeting—to mourn the idea that as long as addiction is constantly in your relationship, chances are, those four basic needs are not going to be met for you on a regular basis. That’s the truth. It is almost impossible for your loved one to manage their active addiction and meet your expectations.
I’ve never seen it happen.
So, if you have that partner, congratulations, you would be the first person I’ve met. But chances are, if your loved one is suffering from a drug addiction, a porn addiction, a sex addiction, or an alcohol addiction, their mind is mostly focused on how to conquer or deal with their addiction. It’s preoccupying most of their thoughts. So they’re not thinking about your needs and how to meet them or exceed them. They’re probably not thinking of all the ways that they can help you with children or around the house.
Chances are, you’re feeling used when you’re intimate with your loved one because you recognize that your heart, your mind, and your spirit is not being respected enough. They’re probably not able to give you all of the attention that you deserve because they are too busy trying to give addiction less and less attention or more and more attention depending on where they are in their recovery.
So what do you do? Now I’ve just told you basically this is the truth. This is your reality. You love somebody who’s sick.
But we believe in this community you are not helpless.
That’s the great news: you don’t have to stay feeling stuck and say, “Michelle, okay, you’ve told me the truth. What am I supposed to do with these feelings, then? How am I supposed to get my needs met?”
The truth is that your loved one is not going to be the one to meet them. Does that make sense to you? You need to turn to other things to get those four basic needs met. You can decide to leave and come to the point where you’re like, “Michelle, I am going to leave this because I feel in my heart that I deserve and I need, and I crave something different and better. I deserve those four basic needs to be met by my partner.” Or you can decide to stay, and you say, “I’m not ready to leave. This partner is worth the pain and the suffering, and I’m willing to readjust my expectations and my life in order to remain in this relationship and still stay happy.”
Either one of those choices is fine. But you’re going to have to lower your expectations of the person that you love. The one you love cannot meet your needs right now. Addiction is robbing you of all of their attention. So you need to get your needs met on your own. You can provide yourself with the kind of love that you’re looking for and needing from your partner. You need to provide yourself with this.
So, remove the responsibility from the person whom you love to meet your needs.
Now, I know that’s not easy to do, and I know that’s disappointing and heartbreaking and can lead to resentment, but here’s where your action comes in: those feelings of anger and disappointment and resentment will disappear if you start taking care of yourself. I promise they will because the strength that you will find from managing and controlling your own feelings is necessary to survive in a relationship with somebody with addiction.
Now, how do you do that? Let’s get practical because I love being practical. Let’s say you expect them to help. You’re struggling with the kids, and you expect them to help around the house. You either need to get a nanny or babysitter to come in for three or four hours a week so you can leave, or they can just come in and help pack lunches or do laundry or pick up around the house.
And if you cannot afford that, I want you to look at that statement. Can you really NOT afford that? Have you looked at your bills lately? Have you looked through the last credit card statement and seen how much money is going toward their addiction?
How much money is your loved one spending per month on drugs or alcohol or pornography sites or DUIs or courts or rehab? I want you to look. If you can’t answer that question right now, make it a goal today. Get online, pull up your credit card statement, grab a calculator, and do the math. A lot of times, we say, “Oh, we can’t afford this,” and then you take a look at your finances and you realize, “Yeah, we can if we stop using the money for their bad habits.”
I get that all the time with the programs. Our programs are not cheap. I will be the first one to say it. They take a commitment financially, and they take a commitment emotionally. The reason I make it that way is because I’ve given this program away for free, and people didn’t use it.
You need to have skin in the game.
You need to make the financial investment so that you actually do the work. That’s my theory, and it works.
So when people tell me they can’t afford it, I often go, “Okay, so how come you can’t afford your therapy, your program, your help and your recovery, but the one you love can afford to spend double that per month on their bad habits? It’s a matter of priority where you are spending your money. So go through the math and find out if you really, genuinely can’t afford to hire somebody who is $15-20 an hour for four hours a week. And if you can’t, if you’re like, “No, Michelle, really, we’re broke,” then I would tell you to ask a family member.
Ask for help. I know that’s tough because we want to pretend that we have it all together.
But the truth is, when you love somebody suffering from this addiction, you are far from having it all together.
I’m far from having it all together, and I got out of that relationship. And I’m still just barely making it by on a daily basis. It’s a victory if I blow dry my hair. That’s a big deal in my world. It’s okay to ask for help. You can also go to a local church. A lot of times, they have Mom’s Morning Out programs for free. They’ll watch your children, and you get a morning off. Find the necessary resources to get the help and space that you need.
Love: how do you meet the basic need of love if your partner isn’t making you feel adored and loved? You’ve heard me say this before. A few of you are members of the Love Over Addiction program, or you’ve listened to the podcasts.
Do something kind for yourself every single day.
This is one of the most basic and fundamental tools, and so many people don’t do it.
Every night I reward myself for working hard for my family, for you, and for myself by taking a bubble bath. And I soak in it as long as I need to. I usually grab my favorite book. I have some scented Epsom bath salts that I get from the grocery store, and I have some bubble bath that helps me sleep. That is my reward. I turn down the lights, and I close the door. Mommy is in a timeout. And everybody is so well trained not to bother me during that time. That’s when I fill my cup up.
So, I am doing something kind for myself every day. Also, I got in the habit of cooking. I love cooking, and I wasn’t doing it. I was too busy in 2017, and I said yes to too much. And I know you guys are going to call me a hypocrite, because you’re going to say, “Michelle, you had like four podcasts on doing that,” and I will say, admittedly, yes, I did not take my own advice.
And I’m so sorry. It was out of love, but I said, “Okay, I’m going to auto-correct for 2018. This is a new year; this is a new beginning. How do I want to structure my days?
What gives me joy?
And for me, it’s cooking. It’s reading a really good cookbook.
I love The Barefoot Contessa. I don’t know if any of you guys follow her, but oh my goodness. Nothing I make out of her cookbook tastes bad. And it’s so simple. They are the easiest recipes that are in plain English that don’t have 15 steps. So when my kids come home for the day, I shut down my work, I put my phone away, and I am there cooking this amazing meal for them. And I tend to do it between five and six nights a week. We sit around the table, and we laugh, and we talk about our day. And that fills me up to no end. It is the joy that I look forward to.
So that is doing something kind for me: my bubble baths and my cooking. If you’re not into that, that’s okay. So is it reading a book? Is it making space to exercise, painting, or doing your nails? I have no idea. Whatever it is for you, make a list and do it. Is it going for a walk? I’m out of ideas, but you get it, right?
So do something nice for yourself every day.
By doing that you, are loving yourself.
You’re saying, “Self, you are important enough to me. I love you enough to nurture this beautiful, cathartic side of you—this important, spiritual place that gives you rest and gives you joy.” That’s what you’re saying to yourself. You are loving on yourself.
Next is attention. Okay, so what do you do if the one you love doesn’t give you attention? I know this is very common in the world of addiction: they come home late, they don’t come home when they say they’re going to come home, or they take off when they want a drink, and go away on weekends and come back, right?
Attention is very, very difficult. You’re fighting for it with the addiction. It’s between you (or your children) and addiction to get your loved one’s attention. That’s tragic and sad, so how do you get attention if you’re not getting it from the one you’ve decided to spend your life with or from your son or daughter?
This is huge, so please, please listen to this: you need friends. I know that so many of you right now who are listening are feeling lonely. And you’re feeling lonely because you’re not getting out of the house enough and having fun. You’re feeling lonely, and I’m going to get a little in your face here because honey, I am with you on this. I did this exact thing for over 10 years.
You’re feeling lonely because you’re giving too much attention to the person whom you love instead of the people who are loving around you.
Did you hear me? You are giving too much energy and too much focus. You’re giving yourself, and everything good that you have to offer, away to somebody who is not in a space to appreciate it. So take some of it back, and give it to the people who are in your life who are waiting for you just to go out.
I want you to make friends and invest in them. Get out of your pain and your struggles enough to text somebody and say, “How are your doing? What’s going on with you? Do you want to go for a walk this week? Would you like to meet for dinner? Do you want to go to a museum? Do you want to go exercise?”
Friendships take work. They take as much, if not more, attention that you are giving your significant other. Does that make sense? And I think a lot of women miss this, so that’s why we end up feeling lonely. We don’t think of friendships as jobs. We think our best friend is just going to show up on our front doorstep and say, “Hey, do you want to be best friends?” I thought that for so long.
I remember crying when I was in boarding school. And I remember crying because I felt so lonely. I just wanted a best friend. And I felt like I had a bunch of acquaintances but not really that sister, you know, that one who is like your ride-or-die sister who would be there in an instant.
And I remember learning at a very young age that best friends take investment and time. They don’t happen overnight.
They take going through experiences together and laughter and pain and vulnerability.
And you don’t get to that place with another woman unless you are willing to make them a priority in your life.
There are too many of us who struggle for too long with loneliness because we are afraid to leave the house and not be there to control the ones we love. And if they’re the ones who have left the house, to go off drinking or using drugs or cheating, we don’t want to be gone when they come back. We want to be able to see what kind of situation they are in. We want to see if they want to apologize. And we want to see if they’ve hit rock bottom. We care too much about the idea of the shape they are in when they are around us. Let it go.
And the way you let it go is you start making plans and arrangements with people outside of your relationship with your loved one. That’s how you find attention. You get out of the house, and you have fun. Join a group. Join a class if you don’t find friends.
I remember being in year five of my relationship with my ex-husband who was addicted to drugs and alcohol. I’d lost all of my friends, and I was so lonely because I didn’t want to let anyone in on the secret that I was struggling with this. I had lots of people whom I went to work, and I had neighbors, but nobody really knew. There was nobody I really trusted on a deep level. And I was like, “Okay, well, how do I find a friend? Where do I go for this?” You join a class. You join a group.
Put yourself out there.
It’s super scary, particularly if you’re an introvert like me. But it’s worth it. And not every woman that you put yourself out there with is going to be a perfect fit, right? There are some women who you meet and you’re like, “Mmmm, I’m just not feeling it.” Cool. Don’t force that. Not every woman is made to be friends with you. It doesn’t mean that they are bad or you are. It just means there wasn’t that connection. So try another friend. Keep trying.
And I promise the more you try, and the more you put yourself out there, and the more consistent you are with that friend, the more that it’s going to pay off. And pretty soon, in three to six months, you’re going to find yourself with three or four really amazing friends. You’re going to be so grateful that you did. So that’s how you get the attention that you’re looking for.
I said at the beginning of the podcast it was going to be short. And it’s not short. It’s not short at all. I’m so sorry. I will try with the next one to make it short.
Lastly, you crave affection, right? You want to be lovingly touched, and you want to hold hands with somebody.
You need affection.
Humans need that. So first of all, if you don’t have younger kids who love to hug you—I personally force my teenagers to hug me. They roll their eyes. Even my 11-year-old son, Graham, thinks it’s totally uncool. This morning he tried to walk away from me to get in the car to go to school, and I grabbed his hand and pulled him in for a giant hug. I could tell he was not interested, but I do not care.
If you don’t have kids that you can get that attention from, go get a massage. Go get a facial. Get your nails done. Also, yoga. I don’t know what it is, but hot yoga in particular really seems to give you that connection to your body that you’re looking for. So try hot yoga if you can. I know you’re going to back to: “Michelle, massages and facial cost money.” I’ve never been to one, but I have friends who do those chain massage places that are in outlet malls. A lot of times they run sales. Check out Groupon and see if there’s a Groupon for a massage or facial. Sometimes that can be the most calming, rewarding gift you’ve given yourself.
So, those are your four basic needs from a relationship. And I’ve just taught you how to meet every single one of those needs, whether they decide to get sober or not.
The key takeaway here is to lower your expectations.
And the quicker that you do this, the quicker your recovery will come from loving somebody with addiction. Forget getting your needs met by the person you love for now. If they get better and they get sober long-term (one year or more), great. Then, you can re-adjust your expectations. But if they are actively suffering from addiction, you need to look elsewhere.
As soon as you start implementing these tools and tips, I promise you will start to feel better. You will start to feel like the woman I know that you are. You are the kindest, most loving, smart, and wise woman out there.
If you’re listening to me now and you’ve been taking notes, and you’re sitting there in your head or driving in your car or exercising, and you’re going, “Okay, I’m committing to this, or I’m committing to that,” can I tell you how far ahead you are from most? You’re sitting there thinking, “Oh, I just need to start my recovery.” But if you’re listening to this, and you’re thinking of ways that you can do this, you’re already in recovery, and you’re already running the race.
Your finish line is ahead of you, and you have the courage and the strength to reach that finish line.
And there is a finish line. I promise you. I am your greatest and biggest and loudest most obnoxious fan on the sidelines with my poster and my balloons and my crazy outfit cheering you on.
You can do this. You’re not alone. You have all of your sisters. Particularly, if you join one of our programs you’ve got hundreds, if not thousands, of women joining on those sidelines telling you do not give up. Do not turn around and go backward. Keep walking forwards and taking the steps that you need. Get out of the house. Meet your own needs. Make space for yourself. That’s your race. Keep walking or running one step in front of another. You’ve got this; you can do this.
I hope you’ve found this helpful. And I apologize for the fact that it’s way too long. I promise that I don’t write these things. I just get talking, and then I go off on a tangent.
And don’t forget: subscribe to this podcast. It’s free, and it will get automatically downloaded to your phone or device. You’ll never have to worry about missing an episode which I think is helpful because I forget about podcasts all the time, so I have to subscribe to them. I love you guys and check us out, if you are new, at LoveOverAddiction.com.