Personal relationships with significant others, family members and loved ones can be some of the most triggering and challenging experiences that individuals in recovery from codependency and addiction encounter. In my own experience with codependency, developing healthy boundaries, practicing self-care and learning how to genuinely careGIVE instead of careTAKE has been so important in my journey of recovery from co-dependency. These concepts are not only important to individuals with codependency – developing healthy relationships is integral to recovery from any addiction including alcoholism, disordered eating, substance abuse, gambling and sex addiction to name a few. When a relationship is suffering, we often don’t realize what our needs and expectations actually are – of ourselves, of the other person, and of the relationship. We tend to draw our attention to only what we aren’t getting, focusing our lens on the character defects of the “other” which can be extremely upsetting and bring on many feelings of shame, defeat and pain.

Another concept that has become part of my codependency ‘recovery regime’ is learning to understand and acknowledge my loved ones ‘Love Languages’. This practice created by Gary Chapman, termed The 5 Love Languages, has transformed my life, and the way I show up in my relationships.

According to Dr. Gary Chapman, an internationally-respected marriage and family life expert, love is a form of communication. His work teaches people to speak and understand emotional love when it is expressed through one of five languages:words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, or physical touch. Here is a quick rundown of what they all mean:

  • Words of Affirmation: Expressing affection through spoken affection, praise, or appreciation.
  • Acts of Service: Actions, rather than words, are used to show and receive love.
  • Receiving Gifts: Gifting is symbolic of love and affection.
  • Quality Time: Expressing affection with undivided, undistracted attention.
  • Physical Touch: With this love language, the speaker feels affection through physical touch.

Chances are, you can relate to a few of these. Maybe you relate to all of them. But most of us have one or two that are much more important to us than the others, and it’s different for everyone. When you know what your partner values most, it’s a pretty big eye opener. For example, In the past I had been giving my significant other small gifts to show that I care. I put a lot of thought into those gifts, and I loved surprising him. I became frustrated when he didn’t seem to care (as much as I would have liked) or return the gesture. I then began focusing so much on what I wasn’t getting –  Without a deeper understanding of my own and and my partners love language even though the love was present, we both, at times, felt unloved and unappreciated.

By understanding each love language, our primary love language, as well as the primary love languages of others, we are better equipped to express and feel love more effectively.

For me it is not about denying my needs in a relationship – but about becoming CURIOUS and OPEN to other forms of love and admiration, as well as identifying and sharing my favourite ways to give and receive love. You can take the quiz on Dr. Chapman’s website  http://www.5lovelanguages.com/ to determine your primary love language – spread the love with your friends and family as well; you may discover ways to become closer to those you care about. (I know it has helped me eliminate problem, remove communication blocks s and create intimacy in my relationship.)

By being proactive in our recovery from codependency or addiction, and by tending to relationships, we can improve ourselves and those relationships that we desire to grow. When we open our eyes to love in this way, we may see that it is in fact all around us.

xo, Lisa