… and I am Somebody male. in my thirties. recovering alcoholic. live in minneapolis. work in progress. gay. serenity please.

Is it worth it?

03.26.2006 · Posted in Recovery

How many relationships end up “happily ever after” or even on amicable terms? From my experience, it takes many attempts before something eventually works out.

Recently I’ve seen a few relationships go sour. The pain these folks are now in seems almost unbearable. Depression and feelings of little self-worth exude themselves while in their presence.

If so few relationships work out, why do people continually seek them out? The risk factor going into them seems so high, the potential for success so low.

In recovery, I’ve often seen newcomers (people young in their recovery journey) latch onto prospective partners. If even a nibble is bitten off the line, they reel ’em in and hold on for all life’s worth. It seems a little unfortunate on a few levels.

One, often times people who suffer from addiction will replace their drugs with a relationship. They become so immersed in it that they cannot see their lives without the other person. It’s the same co-dependent relationship they had with their drugs.

Secondly, most folks in early recovery who begin a relationship, relapse. It’s a statistic I’ve seen occur over and over again. Nobody thinks it will happen to them. They think they’re different. They might admit that there’s a “small chance it doesn’t work out” but I’d be fine if that happened because I’m sober now. The troubling thing is that most of these relationships don’t work out, and a relapse is never far behind.

Too often, too, a relationship in early recovery will go sour and while they may not officially break up, they may relapse together, at which point the drugs or alcohol become their number one friend and the partner becomes a means to an end.

Even after one has achieved some length of sobriety, seemingly has their live in order, their spiritual path heavily trodden on, and all seems well, relationships can cause great havoc in one’s life.

The only method I’ve seen people survive with relationships is to first love themselves, and then their partners. Aside from all of that other jazz – maintaining a healthy level of spirituality, making good decisions, doing esteemable things, and being of service whenever possible.

Relationships frighten me. I haven’t been seriously involved with anyone in a long time. I’m scared for the wreck that may be awaiting, and I’m fearful of becoming vulnerable.

However, it seems to me that the people who succeed in relationships tend to reap the rewards of putting their hearts on the line earlier. Is it worth it to try?

43 Responses to “Is it worth it?”

  1. Being in a relationship isn’t easy by any means. Many people tend to forget that and think it should be like the first week all the time. I think as a society we are obsessed with finding the ‘perfect’ person for us, and the reality is that that person might not exist. Finding someone that you can love and love you back is the most important thing, the rest are all small details which can be worked on. I completely understand why you’ve been afraid to become involved with anyone. It’s not an easy path, and you’re completely right when you say you have to love yourself first. Because only when you love and understand yourself can you give yourself to someone else. Great post Dan!

  2. Great post indeed! I absolutely agree that one needs to love themself before they can love another. Its essential that both parties are confident in their own abilities to be decent indivuduals before being part of a decent couple.

    I loved the last sentence of this post. When my partner and I started out we both put our hearts on the line very early on. Five years later we still feel the excitement as if we have just met.

  3. Well I think I just may know, or be, one of the people you are writing about. After 9/11 Quenn Elizabeth said in a speech that Grief is the price we pay for Love. I agree with that. It is worth it.
    Thank you for being a friend.

  4. Eric Mercado says:

    That was so moving… i feel as if you took the words right out of my mouth… but one thing though is that i definitely believe it is worth it.. Love is worth it no matter how much it hurts because it’s just so magical… the feeling… and i guess nothing makes me feel happier than being in-love…

  5. I agree with you Dan and have many of the same fears. I will add that what I see happen so often is that those of us in recovery have a great tendency to put the relationship over sobriety. Once sobriety is no longer the priority, relapse follows close behind.
    And it’s damn nice to see a post from you – again!!

  6. great post, dan. and even after 3+ years of sobriety, i think i have a lot more to learn about myself and others before entering into a worthwhile relationship. they terrify the shit out of me now. trust.

  7. great post, dan. and even after 3+ years of sobriety, i think i have a lot more to learn about myself and others before entering into a worthwhile relationship. they terrify the shit out of me now. trust.

  8. Dennis R says:

    I was sent this by a friend in recovery…Go to any length to stay sober often means putting a selfish need to be in a relationship aside for recovery. I ask people I sponsor to focus on recovery for a year and committ to THEMSELVES to stay out of emotional entanglements ( partnership relationship).

    I have been with my partner for over 18 years and for approaching 12 years I have been clean and sober and active in recovery the entire time..

    MY experince is it took 5 years of RECOVERY to be an equal partner to Richard and to love myself. He waited it out..God bless him.

    My sobriety is FIRST then my relationship and I will end my 19 year relationship if it EVER threatened my sobriety.

    BUT that all said having a partnership with Richard is beautiful and second only to the Miracle of sobriety.

    One day at a time.

    Dennis R.
    6-25-1994

  9. A shout to Jim for pointing me toward this post today.

    I just received via IM, the let us be friends talk. The nice thing is I think this guy will be a friend.

    I was trying to explain it to my best friend and his girlfriend this weekend. The encounters we have when we first come out of the closet are just that encounters. They are meant to be brief. They are not meant to expose us. As we develop in the strength of who we are, I think we become more available. We are more willing to share and thus we can begin to take the steps toward relationships.

    It is good to see the examples of “lasting” relationships and even friendships built out of passion. I so long for that.

    Finding them outside the bar setting is a difficult task. How do you do it?

  10. Not being an alcoholic myself, but being raised by two AA members I think that there is a correlation between alcolhism, unsucessful relationships, and low-self esteem.

    People must break the cycle of low-self esteem in order to be sucessfully dry and sucessful partners. Sadly as far as relationships are concerned, people do not consider this to be a priority.

    Like so many things, its a negative feedback cycle it seems.

  11. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable is a scary thing, whether you’re in recovery or not. Having made my way into some very unhealthy and mercifully short relationships when I first came out, I’ve been single for the past 5 years or so, focusing on my relationship with myself. Ultimately, all relationships spring from that one.

  12. Well said.
    Best relationships just happen.

  13. It is very well worth it. It is because we know pain and sorrow that joy is so sweet. Paraphrasing Khalil Gibran – If in fear we only seek Love’s peace and pleasure, it is better to get out of falling in love, then we will laugh, but not all of our laughter, and cry but not all of our tears… NOt living life fully.

    My sponsor say tells me that the perfect guy for me will be the one that the knobs on my head will fit the holes in his head. we will be a match.

    It is so worth it! Love is worth it.

  14. Like anything else in life, the greater the risk, the greater the reward. The biggest reason relationships don’t work out is because, as you have pointed out so well, people use them like a drug. They use them to fix a wounded psyche, to hide from insecurity, to get out of a bad situation at home, etc. etc.

    Self-awareness is hard to come by these days, but once you have a good handle on it, then follow Mark Twain’s advice:

    “Dance like nobody’s watching; love like you’ve never been hurt. Sing like nobody’s listening; live like it’s heaven on earth.”

    If you have the self-confidence to do that, that’s when you start finding other people who live the same way and that’s when the odds of relationships working out go up.

  15. GREAT post Dan. I’ve been thinking about this very subject a lot lately. Yet again, though, I’m reminded that things happen along your HP’s timeline not yours, so I figure when its my time again it’ll be my time. Until then, I’m continuing to make significant changes in my life – clearing the wreckage from the past, making amends, etc. – who said that the first year of sobriety was the hardest?!?! So far this has been the toughest – yet most rewarding. I’m definitely learning more about myself and what my true needs are. Not surprisingly, its all new to me. HA!

    In all seriousness though … I took a full year off from dating, etc. and I’m slowly easing into it again. Scary yes … but its part of the journey. As long as I keep my sobriety numero uno in my life things will happen when they’re supposed to … of course it’d be nice if it happened before I’m 60. 😉

  16. I think that people tend to forget how much work goes into a relationship. They want everything to be perfect, but in reality that will never happen and if you think it does………well…

    Having now entered our 12th year together I wonder how the time has flown by. One of my friends seems to think he wants what I have. He has come to realize by watching us that it’s OK to disagree about certain things. You can argue, but make sure you talk things out and never sleep in separate beds if angry, it just makes things worse.

    Also jealousy…….big waste of energy. If you trust your partner than why get jealous if he flirts or someone flirts with him. Flirting is all part of the game, its when it goes too far that people get hurt. My partner and I are big flirts and most of friends know it. But they also know that all it is….is flirting.

    Having different interests is also key. The bf plays Soccer, I play volleyball. I snowboard, he dislikes winter sports. We don’t have to be around each other every waking moment.

    When he or I travel for work or sports, we miss the hell out of each other, but we’re not on the phone every night chatting. I guess I might be a little jaded, because I think my relationship after 11+ years is strong, but it took a lot of effort to get here on both parts.

    Of course, if I found myself single suddenly, I think it would take me a while to get up the courage to date.

  17. I can’t think of something more that is scary to me, especially after my journy of putting my life together after a rough go at it with crystal. So I share you reservations about getting into own. Havic os the perfect way to describe the potential of relationships, and that is what keeps me away. But, I think as most of us do, think that wouldn’t it be nice.

    In a life after substance misuse to chances in a new life is enough to render anyone quite cautions of disturbing the treasured balance in our existence.

  18. Hi Dan,

    I came across your blog through Steve & Jim’s blog. I guess you must have seen and been through a lot to have written this post. My first love was a guy with the same name as you.

    You’re right that it may take many attempts and the ordeals we have to go through may make them all seem futile. And as so many readers have said before me, one needs to love himself before he can love others.

    Have you seen Brenton’s blog at aussielicious.blogspot.com? I learned something about life recently as I was reading his blog. I want to reproduce something that was written by Mike, a guy from San Francisco Brenton met in person for the first time.

    “Dear Sydney boys:
    I’d like to thank you for being too wrapped up with your own lives to get to know someone special. I’d like to share my gratitude for your unwillingness to find out that you’ve known a person who is both caring and thoughtful. For never picking up on his incredible sense of humor or getting to know his ability to make you laugh despite how you are feeling, I am in your debt.”

    “Because you have failed to catch one of the few men in this town that are more than just a pretty face… I now have a chance to be happy.”

    The thing is, I don’t think Mike or Brenton has ever given up. I feel that the both of them have got a great deal of spirit and passion, and they’ve learned to embrace life for its imperfections and come out strong from it, and this is what I’m learning to do now.

  19. short answer: NO. longer answer: No Fucking Way. It’s not worth it, it won’t be worth it, it will never be worth it. Stay solo baby… you can outsource the sex, and forge real ‘lifepartners’ – they’re called “friends”. And once all the men you ever dated are dating or would date are GONE… your true lifepartners will remain. stay sober and stay single…. danger, pain, anguish, and destruction await you in a relationship. Stick to your guns and stay solo…. pair bonding in homosapiens is unnatural…. the societal institution of marriage is dying out slowly anyway. stay ahead of the curve… you are in the enlightened minority.

  20. Relationships … hahahaha … yeah … watch em. I got really close to someone one … I mean … I shared everything only to find out they were majorly stabbing me in the back. Killed me inside … as a matter of fact … I just allowed someone back in my life to that degree … this all took place in 2000 so it took 6 years to truly get over the pain from the stabbing.

  21. Fred Turpin says:

    I’m a relationship therapist, and also happen to be a minister. So the first thing I want to suggest to you is that loving yourself is always relative. It’s a process that you’ll be working on all of your life. If you decide to wait to start a relationship until you really love yourself, then you’ll never start. Of course, I think you’ll sense if you really aren’t ready to begin or sustain a relationship. Don’t push the river. Learn to carry your own baggage.
    Some of the key things I’ve learned:
    1. Almost always, couples are on about the same rung on the ladder of mental health. If one partner is really crazy and the other partner looks really sane, look again.
    2. There are tons of issues related to mate selection. You pass by ten thousand prospects before you find someone, and that involves a lot more than physical attraction. There are deep unconscious forces at play, and we generally seek out partners that help us, in the long haul, rediscover and hopefully heal pain that goes way way back into childhood.
    3. Learn to fight constructively. Learn to forgive.
    4. Pick a partner who’s a team player. Agree to seek professional help when and if you need it. A relationship is like an investment. Don’t throw it away. Protect it and work on it.

    Good luck. You seem to me that you’ve got a lot going for you.

  22. Jesus. People have WAY too much to say about this. And I’m not gonna read it. Some of them probably said wise things, and I’m too stupid to comment too. I think society pushes people away from each other on so many levels that finding the ONE person who is really going to help you remain sane is a point of desperation for almost all of us. It’s what society allows us, especially males. The fact is that any two people can be close. I’m going after being as close to as many people as possible, no matter what walls society says are real. It’s closeness that’s real, not the obstacles to it. Go after it.

  23. Relationships can be heartwrenching, but they can also be amazing. I’m just learning that myself. I’ve decided to forge ahead with love and let myself be vulnerable. I’d rather enjoy happiness briefly (if it doesn’t work out) than live with the fear of what if this doesn’t work out.

  24. Excellent post! Neat blog.

  25. my partner and i just celebrated 12 yrs together… the last 3 he’s been sober… the last 3 have been the best so far and just getting better… too many people confuse mr.right with mr. right now… love the blog, been reading it a while now… david

  26. Excellent blog.

    Think it’s stil worthwhile to give it a try. I’ve been in my share of relationship wrecks – actually only one major one – but that hasn’t stopped me from searching for right relationship for me.

    Paul

  27. We are Steve and Warren, a monogamous gay male couple.

    We’d like to welcome each of you to our world-the daily story about us sharing our lives together-in friendship and love at our blog.

    Some guys dream it – other guys attempt it – but we live it!

    If God had wanted us otherwise, He would have created us otherwise.

    Relationships do work, but it takes:

    1.friendship
    2.love
    3.committment and
    4.100% faithfulness (anything less and the relatioship will falter)

    Relationships are very well worth the work. It is because we know that there can be pain and sorrow that we see joy as being so sweet and wonderful.

    We are fast approaching our 7th year together…and the positives far out weigh the negatives.

    We are 33 and 59 respectively…both professionals and busy in our jobs. But the love we have comes first and foremost – and the rest we put behind us.

    A relationship isn’t easy by any means, so we have found that we must be sensitive to each others needs – not only our own.

    If you give 110% of yourself to your partner 100% of the time – your relationship will be successful.

    Each day we remember that “first date we had” and that is what carries us forward … it’s remember the joy, the happiness and the love that was there from the beginning – and is still there today.

    If you loved your partner on the first day, you’ll love him eternally – you really will.

    Relationships are truly amazing – and I’m so glad that Steve and I met – we have turned each other’s lives upside down and something beautiful has come out it – us together in love.

  28. We are Steve and Warren, a monogamous gay male couple.

    We’d like to welcome each of you to our world-the daily story about us sharing our lives together-in friendship and love at our blog.

    Some guys dream it – other guys attempt it – but we live it!

    If God had wanted us otherwise, He would have created us otherwise.

    Relationships do work, but it takes:

    1.friendship
    2.love
    3.committment and
    4.100% faithfulness (anything less and the relatioship will falter)

    Relationships are very well worth the work. It is because we know that there can be pain and sorrow that we see joy as being so sweet and wonderful.

    We are fast approaching our 7th year together…and the positives far out weigh the negatives.

    We are 33 and 59 respectively…both professionals and busy in our jobs. But the love we have comes first and foremost – and the rest we put behind us.

    A relationship isn’t easy by any means, so we have found that we must be sensitive to each others needs – not only our own.

    If you give 110% of yourself to your partner 100% of the time – your relationship will be successful.

    Each day we remember that “first date we had” and that is what carries us forward … it’s remember the joy, the happiness and the love that was there from the beginning – and is still there today.

    If you loved your partner on the first day, you’ll love him eternally – you really will.

    Relationships are truly amazing – and I’m so glad that Steve and I met – we have turned each other’s lives upside down and something beautiful has come out it – us together in love.

  29. Hi,
    Nice to be back after eons. As always your articles make me think and compell me to express my opinion.
    Apart from the various reasons you mentioned, there are thousands other to make a relatioship fail or make it look so risky. As you watch many a failed relationship all around you, it is only natural to have a second thought before commiting yourself. But I definitely think it is worth a try. I would even say it is essential for us to keep trying. The achievements, the glories, the successes in life are all worthless without sharing it with someone you love and care about, someone who will be genuinely happy for you. Also the failures, the pains, the worries in life will all be compounded without a shoulder you can cry upon, someone who will genuinely feel the pain behind those tears.
    By nature human beings are never meant to be alone. A person who stayed away from relationship fearing the risks might later find that lonliness throws up a whole new set of problems which might even be worst than being heartbroken.
    Relatioships may not last forever but we must not lose hope and keep trying.You never know what might happen. I really hope you haven’t given up. Always wishing the best for you, see ya 🙂

  30. dan :: where are you? miss your posts; i’m just sayin’…

  31. That was a great post!!

  32. Intimate relationships cannot substitute for a life plan. But to have any meaning or viability at all, a life plan must include intimate relationships. -Harriet Lerner

  33. Intimate relationships cannot substitute for a life plan. But to have any meaning or viability at all, a life plan must include intimate relationships. -Harriet Lerner

  34. Is it worth it? What a loaded question. My response: Absolutely and without a doubt.

    Anyone who’s truly been in love would have to agree. Well, I would hope so.

    It’s like the old addage, “Why do I keep hitting myself with a hammer? Because it feels SO good when I stop!”

    I’m a hopeless romantic. I’ll be the first to admit that. But, as long as love isn’t abused like a drug, it can be incredibly healing and fulfilling.

    Oversimplified? Perhaps.

    But it helps me sleep at night.

  35. i’ve been wondering for a while now why we are born with this apparennt urge to find a partner. are we not allowed to be happy alone? apparently not, because everyone tries to set me up…oh well. i’m fine alone, and as for now, i have no problems w/ that.

    keep on truckin’ man

  36. i think i used to know you. you might have dated one of my roommates… jason or logan. i’m not sure. anyway, nice to see u again.

  37. I can not believe you are still whinning about relationships. Maybe you need to move. Try Portland, there are lots f hotties here.

  38. Hey Sparkles, where’ve you been? We miss you 🙂

  39. I believe it is worth it…for me it IS one of the ways I express love for myself – to understand and accept unconditional love.

  40. I’m not sure. One thing I have not seen in any of the comments is the fact that, as gay people, we have such a small amount of guys to pick from – and that’s not factoring in the men who are out, gay, have their shit together, are done with the sleeping around & manipulation stuff…that whittles us down to maybe 1.5% of the population. That’s not much.

    I haven’t dated anyone in 10 years because the majority of gay men I’ve met are still manipulating, lying and presenting an image that is not them at all – it’s of someone they wish they were, and in my 31 years of being alive I have yet to meet a gay man who is a real, honest, breathing example of kindness, flaws included, without judging me for my own fuck-ups. I sometimes wonder if gay men are too emotionally wounded to be able to give anything to another man…I’ve been out since I was 14 and have seen quite a few examples of what men will do to each other and the aftermath has been unthinkable…seeing one becoming HIV+ and the partner just takes off…addictions occur and I’ve seen guys almost encourage the other to do drugs just to see him become addicted. We’ve got a lot of twisted people in the gay community who have a lot of work to do on themselves yet. I’m not willing to go through 1996 a second time. That is what sent me over the edge…and I guess the fact that I haven’t met anyone since has to do with self-protection and staying away from the kinds of guys who want to drag you down with them. Unfortunately, there’s way too many within the gay community, and since we have basically nothing to pick from, where are the healthy guys (who we haven’t already met before?)…

  41. Having been in a couple of serious relationships that ended painful I can understand what you mean about being scared of them. I’ve had some of the best times of my life whilst in a relationship but at the same time I don’t think I have experienced pain so intense as that of a relationship ending.

    I am single at the moment and every time I meet some one I think “is this person going to worth the pain once the relationship ends?” and there is not simple answer. One should always be optimistic and embark on a relationship without thinking about the end but being a cynic/experienced it’s really difficult not to do that.

    Would I get in a relationship right now? absolutely but maybe that’s because I am a relationship kind of guy, I like the companionship. I can continue living and enjoying my life as a single person and being in a relationship wouldn’t mean that I am no longer an individual but if I had a choice I would prefer to be with someone as opposed to being single.

    I wonder if my attitude is that of a typical gay man. I mean the part about relationships coming to an end inevitably.

    GB

    P.S. Great blog. I hope you don’t mind if I link to you on mine.

  42. please update soon

  43. Not sure how I got to your site…but great post!