What Goes on Behind Closed Doors in a Securely Recovering Relationship?

Date Posted: November 03, 2014
What Goes on Behind Closed Doors in a Securely Recovering Relationship?

Remember when couple therapy consisted of "I statements" and partners repeating back exactly what their partner said as an exercise in "active listening"? While this may still be happening in many therapists' offices, trust me, it's not what secure couples are doing when they are in the privacy of their own homes, not under the supervision of a therapist's watchful eye.

As far as I'm concerned, trying to make partners speak to each other in unnatural ways — for example, with their heads cocked to one side and trying to look interested, or parroting back the words they hear — only sets couples up to fail at tolerating the spontaneous and natural ways people who are super close actually relate to one another. While I'm all for emotional sensitivity and partners being attuned to each other, I'm equally against pandering and infantilizing your partner.

At the risk of being misunderstood, I think it's time we talked about what partners need to learn to be able to grow and mature and actualize. If you are in a securely recovering relationship — meaning that you and your partner are not secretly looking for an exit strategy or betraying each other when no one is looking — these are some things I think you should be able to handle:


I see lots of couples who have a great sense of humor and feel very comfortable and confident in their own skin. I observe their ability to have a good laugh at the other's expense, and to be laughed at in return. When it is done without hostility, making fun of your partner can be fun. If your relationship can't tolerate that, then you have some work to do. It's not helpful to treat your partner like a porcelain doll. That actually disempowers your partner and weakens his or her ego strength.

Demanding Sex

Couples who love each other know there will be times during the relationship when one person is hankering for sex and the other isn't. Unless someone is sick or is recovering from a physical impairment, partners should be allowed to demand sex from each other. I see a couple who have a rule that if one partner requests sex, the other must come through within 48 hours, whether in the mood or not. I haven't seen too many couples experience cheating when a rule like that is in place. (If you or your partner is in recovery from sex or love addiction, this rule may need to be excluded depending on your program.)

Separate Adventures

Most securely recovering couples would rather go away on vacation together than be apart, but sometimes they aren't able to agree on what would be most fun for both of them. Securely recovering couples are happy to see one partner go off for a boy's golf weekend or a girl's spa weekend with their friends. No one has a nervous breakdown or hires a private investigator to follow the other while he or she is away.

Separate Beds

There are times when partners in a securely recovering relationship are in the mood to sleep alone and not with their partner. (I love our back house!) When this happens, even if the other partner feels a little lonesome, it does not lead to a fight, and there's a big hug and kiss available in the morning upon awakening. I see lots of couples in which one partner has a snoring issue and (they probably won't tell you this) they are perfectly happy sleeping in separate beds half the time just to get a good night's sleep.


I used to joke that the man I would end up marrying would feel perfectly comfortable being ignored a lot. (Luckily, I did!) Sometimes partners don't want to have to listen to each other. In a securely recovering relationship, partners are not at each other's beck and call emotionally, and don't have to keep proving their love for each other by hanging on every word their partner utters. Do I really want to hear about every dream my partner wakes up from? Or every annoying detail from the workday? Can't we just relax and take it easy and sometimes NOT TALK?

I think the world would be a nicer place if partners tried a little harder in their recovering relationship to grant each other independence and allow uncensored self-expression, without that causing threat, and while still having some selfish demands woven into the mix.

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