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My Boyfriend Relapsed: How to Support Him After a Relapse: 6 Things to Say and 3 to Avoid

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When my boyfriend relapsed, it can be an emotionally challenging time for both of you. But remember, you’re not alone in this journey. Many couples face relapses, and with the right support and understanding, you can help your boyfriend navigate the road to recovery. This blog post will provide you with valuable insights on understanding the relapse process, providing emotional support, setting healthy boundaries, supporting your boyfriend’s recovery journey, and taking care of yourself. Let’s begin this journey together and emerge stronger.

Key Takeaways

  • Recognize the complexity of substance use disorders and anticipate potential triggers.
  • Provide meaningful support by practicing active listening, encouraging treatment, setting boundaries, and participating in support groups.
  • Use compassionate language to create a safe environment for your partner’s recovery process while avoiding judgment or blame.

Understanding Your Boyfriend’s Relapse

Relapse, which is the return to substance use following a period of recovery, frequently happens to many individuals battling addiction, a condition that affects people in different ways and often presents significant challenges to overcome. Recognizing the complexity of substance use disorders is key to understanding why so many people relapse after rehab, as each individual encounters unique challenges in their quest for sobriety. Relapses should not be viewed as a form of failure but as an opportunity to reassess and modify the current treatment program.

Relapse can occur due to various factors such as emotional triggers and external influences like stress and social settings. Gaining insight into the relapse process equips you to anticipate potential triggers and stressors, thereby fostering a more empathetic and supportive stance during your partner’s relapse. Remember, communication is key in a relationship with a spouse who has a history of addiction.

Emotional Triggers

Emotional triggers, such as:

  • stress
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • trauma
  • loneliness

Can play a significant role in relapse. Grasping these triggers is key to offering meaningful support and investigating appropriate treatment options for your partner. Being aware of these triggers can help you recognize the early stages of emotional or mental relapse in your spouse, allowing you to take the necessary steps to support them during this challenging time.

Suspecting that your spouse may be struggling with the early stages of emotional or mental relapse requires an honest and constructive conversation. Confrontation should be avoided as it will not yield positive results. Express your concern, acknowledge their feelings, and indicate that you are willing to help them through this challenging phase. This compassionate approach can go a long way in providing the support your boyfriend needs during his recovery journey.

My Boyfriend Relapsed: How to Support Him After a Relapse: 6 Things to Say and 3 to Avoid

External Factors

External factors such as stress, environment, and social situations involving family members are often cited as the primary causes of relapse. Locations and activities associated with past substance use, triggers in the environment, and exposure to substances or addictive behaviors can all contribute to a relapse. Gaining an understanding of these factors equips you to better support your partner throughout his recovery journey.

To assist your boyfriend in avoiding these external factors, consider discussing ways to abstain from certain individuals, locations, or activities that may be linked to substance abuse. Encourage your partner to seek professional help and utilize various treatment approaches to achieve a successful recovery. By working together, you can help your boyfriend overcome these external factors and work towards lifelong sobriety.

How to Provide Emotional Support

A person holding the hand of another person who seems upset, providing emotional support after my boyfriend relapsed

Offering emotional support to your boyfriend throughout his recovery journey is vital, fostering feelings of being understood and valued. Approaching emotional support with a loving attitude can help your partner discover the fundamental aspect of their healing. In order to provide effective emotional support, reading articles like “What is Relapse?,” practicing active listening, and urging your boyfriend to seek treatment is vital. Active listening is a communication technique that requires the listener to:

  • Pay close attention
  • Comprehend
  • Respond
  • Recall what is being said

This can be especially helpful when participating in a support group or discussing your boyfriend’s feelings and experiences related to the relapse. By actively listening and being present during these conversations, you can demonstrate your willingness to support your boyfriend during his recovery journey.

Active Listening

Developing the skill of active listening is paramount when providing support to your boyfriend during his relapse. Demonstrating your presence by actively listening without prejudice, acknowledging his feelings, and providing emotional support can help create a safe and understanding environment for open communication.

Bear in mind, that focusing on your boyfriend’s needs and emotions during this period is of utmost importance. Refrain from making judgments, assigning blame, or offering unsolicited advice. Instead, express your empathy and compassion, and let your boyfriend know that you are available to:

  • Listen
  • Support him
  • Be there for him
  • Provide a shoulder to lean on
  • Offer comfort and understanding during this challenging time.

Encouraging Treatment

Urging your boyfriend to seek treatment from an institution like Lantana Recovery or modify his existing treatment plan following a relapse is pivotal to his recovery process. Treatment can assist in:

  • Managing symptoms
  • Minimizing the likelihood of relapse
  • Enhancing his overall quality of life
  • Ultimately working towards lifelong sobriety.

Discuss the significance of treatment and the advantages of seeking assistance, as well as explore various treatment options with your boyfriend to help him adjust his current treatment plan. Offer to accompany him to appointments, provide emotional support, and assist in locating resources and support networks, such as joining a support group together.

Setting Boundaries for a Healthy Relationship

A couple discussing how to set boundaries for a healthy relationship

The establishment and upkeep of healthy boundaries in a relationship where one partner has relapsed is vital for the well-being of both individuals. Setting boundaries can result in:

  • Improved self-respect
  • Improved self-esteem
  • More effective communication
  • Strengthened understanding and respect in relationships

While it is essential to provide emotional support, it should be made clear that your partner is responsible for their own recovery.

Holding oneself accountable is a key component of recovery and the journey toward lifelong sobriety. By setting and enforcing boundaries, you can maintain a healthy relationship while dealing with your spouse’s addiction. This will help create a secure and safe environment for both of you, ensuring that both partners’ needs and expectations are respected.

Establishing Boundaries

While setting boundaries in a relationship, clearly stating your needs and expectations, as well as respecting and considering your partner’s needs and expectations, is crucial. This can include establishing communication limits, setting expectations for behavior, and being explicit about the consequences of not adhering to these boundaries. Establishing boundaries has numerous advantages, such as:

  • Increased empathy
  • Heightened assertiveness
  • Satisfying your needs
  • Preserving personal identity
  • Improved connections with family members

By setting clear and healthy boundaries, you can protect both partners in the relationship and create a supportive environment for your boyfriend’s recovery journey.

Enforcing Boundaries

Upholding boundaries may pose a challenge, however, maintaining consistency and resolve in doing so is of the utmost importance. Should your partner fail to adhere to your boundaries, it is essential to take action and articulate your expectations in a clear manner, and consider joining a support group for additional guidance.

The ramifications of not enforcing boundaries can include feelings of resentment, mistrust, and insecurity, which can further complicate the situation during a partner’s relapse. By being consistent in upholding boundaries and ensuring that they are respected, you can create a safe and supportive environment for your boyfriend’s recovery journey.

Supporting Your Boyfriend’s Recovery Journey

A man and a woman talking about how to support a partner's recovery journey

Supporting your boyfriend’s recovery journey involves more than just offering emotional support and reading about the 5 rules of recovery. It also means actively participating in his recovery process, such as attending support groups together, helping him avoid triggers, and promoting healthy lifestyle changes. By taking these actions, you can not only assist your boyfriend in achieving lifelong sobriety but also strengthen your relationship.

Remember, addiction affects people differently, and your partner’s relapse should not be viewed as a failure. Instead, use it as an opportunity to reassess and modify the current treatment program, explore various addiction treatment options, and work together towards a successful recovery.

Participating in Support Groups

Attending support groups together can facilitate couples to gain insight into each other’s experiences and emotions, and cultivate a more solid connection of trust and support among family members. Support groups offer a secure atmosphere to:

  • Communicate experiences
  • Diminish sensations of seclusion
  • Provide the chance to gain from others’ encounters
  • Combine expert assistance with member assistance

As seen in The Role of Family in AUD Recovery by McCrady & Flanagan, other researchers have created and rigorously tested various treatments involving couples or families for Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). By participating in support groups and family therapy together, you can strengthen your relationship and support your boyfriend’s recovery journey.

Promoting Healthy Lifestyle Changes

Encouraging your boyfriend to adopt healthy lifestyle changes can have a significant impact on his recovery process. Suggest engaging in regular physical activities such as walking, swimming, or attending fitness classes, which can complement your partner’s treatment program and improve his overall well-being.

In addition to physical activity, encourage your boyfriend to practice mindfulness through meditation, yoga, journaling, or deep breathing exercises. Cultivating meaningful relationships by dedicating time to socializing with loved ones, participating in a support network, and engaging in volunteer activities in the local area can also contribute to his recovery journey.

Taking Care of Yourself

A woman taking care of herself

Even as you support your boyfriend through his relapse and recovery, it’s vital not to overlook your own well-being. Self-care is essential to mitigate stress, improve mental and physical health, and ensure a balanced and positive state of well-being. By prioritizing your own needs, you will be in a better position to support your boyfriend during his recovery journey.

It’s vital to seek professional help or peer support for yourself to understand your emotions, cultivate effective coping strategies, and adjust your mindset. This can be achieved by:

  • Consulting your primary care physician
  • Conducting an online search for a therapist
  • Seeking referrals from acquaintances
  • Joining support groups or online forums
  • Reaching out to friends and family for peer support

These resources can provide the necessary support and guidance during difficult times.

Seeking Professional Help

Professional help from healthcare providers at Lantana comes with several benefits, including:

  • Access to expertise and knowledge
  • An unbiased perspective
  • Emotional support
  • Practical tools and techniques
  • Accountability
  • Encouragement
  • Confidentiality

By finding professional help, you can gain valuable insights into your own emotions and develop effective coping strategies to deal with the challenges of supporting a partner who has relapsed.

Finding professional help can be accomplished by consulting your primary care physician, conducting an online search for a therapist, and seeking referrals from acquaintances. Additionally, engaging in support groups or online forums can provide you with peer support and resources to help you navigate this challenging time.

Practicing Self-Care

Prioritizing self-care is crucial to safeguard your own well-being while you support your boyfriend through his relapse. This can be achieved by setting aside time for personal hobbies, interests, and relaxation. Engage in activities that bring you pleasure and help reduce stress. Additional self-care practices include:

  • Obtaining sufficient rest
  • Consuming nutritious foods
  • Engaging in regular physical activity
  • Participating in activities that help to reduce stress

By prioritizing your own self-care, you can ensure that you are in the best possible position to support your boyfriend during his recovery journey.

Things to Say and Avoid Saying to Your Boyfriend After a Relapse

A couple talking about supportive statements to say after a relapse

Your choice of words when addressing your boyfriend’s relapse can profoundly influence his emotional well-being and the course of his recovery. It is essential to offer compassion, comprehend the situation, and provide support without passing judgment or attributing blame. By focusing on supportive and non-judgmental communication, you can assist your boyfriend on his recovery journey and strengthen your relationship.

Paying attention to the language used during discussions about relapse could prevent unintentional harm or obstacles to your boyfriend’s recovery journey. In the following sections, we will provide examples of supportive statements that can be beneficial when discussing a relapse with your boyfriend, as well as phrases that should be avoided.

Supportive Statements

Supportive statements can be a powerful tool when discussing a relapse with your boyfriend. Examples of supportive statements include: “I’m here for you,” “I empathize with your situation” and “I’m available to listen if you need someone to talk to, or we can join a support group together”. These statements convey your understanding, empathy, and willingness to support your boyfriend during this challenging time.

By focusing on supportive statements, you can create a safe and non-judgmental environment for your boyfriend to share his feelings and experiences related to the relapse. This can help him feel understood and valued, ultimately promoting a stronger relationship and a more effective recovery process.

Phrases to Avoid

When discussing a relapse with your boyfriend, it is essential to avoid using language that may be damaging or counterproductive. Phrases such as: “you’re weak,” “you’re a failure,” “you should be ashamed,” and “you’re not trying hard enough” can further impede your boyfriend’s ability to discuss his relapse and may cause him to feel worse about himself.

Instead, focus on using supportive language and expressing your empathy and understanding for your boyfriend’s situation. By avoiding phrases that may be harmful, you can create a safe and supportive environment for your boyfriend to discuss his relapse and work towards a successful recovery.

My Boyfriend Relapsed: How To Support Him After A Relapse: 6 Things To Say And 3 To Avoid


“Continued excessive alcohol consumption can lead to the development of dependence that is associated with a withdrawal syndrome when alcohol consumption is ceased or substantially reduced” (Alcohol Dependence, Withdrawal, and Relapse, Becker, 2008.) Supporting your boyfriend during a relapse can be an emotionally challenging time for both of you, but with understanding, empathy, and the right approach, you can help him navigate the road to recovery. By understanding the relapse process, providing emotional support, setting healthy boundaries, actively participating in his recovery journey, and taking care of yourself, you can strengthen your relationship and assist your boyfriend in achieving lifelong sobriety. Remember, you’re not alone in this journey, and together, you can emerge stronger.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does my boyfriend keep relapsing?

It appears that my boyfriend has not been able to sustain his recovery from his mental health issues, which may be causing him to relapse. Long-term support and coping strategies are necessary for a successful recovery.

What is the red flag for relapse?

Emotional relapse, such as moodiness, anxiety, and anger, is a major red flag for relapse in recovery. Taking prompt action to address these emotions can help prevent further deterioration.

How often do men relapse?

Men are more likely to relapse than women, with up to 32% relapsing after six months. This suggests that men may need more support and resources to help them stay sober.

What do I do when he relapses?

Be supportive and encourage your partner to attend support groups. Educate yourself on addiction and do not enable it. Speak and respond with love, but know when to walk away if necessary.

What are some examples of emotional triggers that can contribute to a relapse?

Emotional triggers such as stress, anxiety, depression, trauma, and loneliness can contribute to a relapse. These triggers can be difficult to manage, but there are strategies that can help. For example, mindfulness, cognitive behavioral therapy, and support groups can all be beneficial.


Warren Phillips

Warren is a Licensed Master Social Worker, who specializes in substance abuse and mental health treatment. Clinically, Warren has developed a therapeutic skillset that utilizes a strengths-based perspective, Twelve Step philosophies, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Motivational Interviewing.

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Located on the historic peninsula of Charleston, South Carolina, Lantana Recovery takes a modern approach to Substance Use Disorder treatment, offering intensive clinical care while also immersing our clients in local Charleston culture.