Maintaining relationships during recovery : expanding inconsistent nurturing as control theory




Kearns, Kyle

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Inconsistent nurturing as control theory has illuminated how those who wish to support their romantic partners' substance use disorder (SUD) recovery may use different communicative strategies to do so. However, loved ones have an interest in maintaining their relationship with the recovering individual, a goal that may compete at times with efforts to help them avoid relapse. Thus, research is needed to establish the connection between influence behaviors and relationship quality, as well as that between relationship quality and relapse. The present study gathered data from 149 romantic partners of individuals in recovery from problematic substance use. Data was collected again two weeks (n = 108) and four weeks (n = 85) after the initial survey. Results indicate that punishing one's partner for substance use-related behavior led to lower relationship quality, while reinforcing the substance use or reinforcing alternative behavior (such as attending treatment or sober activities) was related to increased relationship quality. Further, higher relationship quality was associated with lower rates of relapse later in the study. Finally, participants who indicated they had reached a point of frustration in their relationships had lower relationship quality and may experience the effects of reinforcing alternatives slightly differently. Implications for both theory and practice are discussed.


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