Q: Do we attend only as a couple, or do we attend separately?
A: RCA meetings are for both members of a couple. We think of our coupleship as a distinct entity with a separate life of its own that needs nurturing and development. The RCA symbol of the three-legged stool represents each partner’s individual recoveries and the recovery of the relationship. We believe that couple recovery stands like the stool when all three parts are working together.
There are times when both members cannot come to a meeting together, and we believe it is possible for the individual partner occasionally to attend RCA recovery meetings. However, the program works only if both members are willing to work it. The Fourth Tradition states the principle that each group is autonomous and may identify its own guidelines as to whether the meeting is closed (couples only) or open to singles. The online International Meeting Directory is regularly updated with RCA group information.
Q: What happens at a meeting?
A: There are suggested guidelines for RCA recovery meetings which may be adapted for each group’s purpose. In general, each meeting opens with The Serenity Prayer, using the plural form “we” and “us.” This is followed by the Welcome, the Preamble, How It Works, and the Twelve Steps.
The format of each meeting may include a speaker couple, Step study, meditations, Blue Book reflections, or other such materials designed to foster couple recovery. The meeting is then open for sharing experience, strength, and hope. After one member of a couple shares, the other member may choose to share next or to pass.
We have recognized that following the suggested meeting safety guidelines and avoiding crosstalk are important. Crosstalk means giving advice, trying to fix, commenting directly to a person about what has been shared, or engaging in side conversations during the meeting. A safe environment allows us the freedom to experience and share our pain, and to admit to one another the vulnerable, secret aspects of ourselves.
The meeting generally closes with Twelve-Step-related announcements, the Seventh Tradition, The Promises, and a closing group prayer.
Q: What do couples speak about at an RCA meeting?
A: Speaker couple at RCA meetings have been invited to share their relationship experience, strength and hope. Couple speakers are encouraged to recount their own unique varieties of destructive and addicted relationships. Members may tell their couple story and how the nature of their individual problems and addictions affected the relationship.
We strive to focus on our coupleship issues and coupleship recovery, rather than individual issues or our partner’s problems.
Other approaches to sharing may include: how you as a couple recognized your dysfunctions together; how you got into couple recovery; how you started to work the RCA Steps; how you found a sponsor couple; and how building intimacy is possible with the help of the Fellowship, the Steps, and your Higher Power.
Sharing hope is a wonderful speaker couple topic. How has your life improved since joining RCA? What difficulties do you continue to encounter? Howe are The Promises coming true in your coupleship? How are you developing couple friends and making time for your relationship in today’s busy lifestyle?
Meeting speakers often find that they end up sharing wonders and worries about mutual partnership problems which they may not have previously acknowledged together. Speaking at a meeting is a wonderful gift in your recovery.
Q: What happens if we meet another couple we know at an RCA meeting? What do we say or do? What will they think of us if we talk about our real issues?
A: Anonymity is our spiritual foundation. It provides a safe place to recover. The slogan “Who you see here, what you hear here, when you leave here, let it stay here” provides a healing atmosphere. If you meet someone you know, it’s important to practice mutual respect of boundaries. It is most important that we have care and concern for ourselves and for all our coupleships.
Worrying about what others think about us as a couple is called coupleshame. Coupleshame is common to many of us. Keep in mind that each couple attending an RCA meeting is there for the same purpose. Coupleships find healing and validation through a safe environment in RCA.
Q: What can we talk about at an RCA recovery meeting?
A: Our focus is sharing about who we are as a couple, and how individual issues and addictions impact our relationship. We listen and speak respectfully to our partners and others. It is important to avoid self-righteous statements and taking our partner’s inventory. We take ownership of our own story and of our reactions to our partner. We also take credit for our progress and work in recovery.
Many of us have been crippled by shame or fear, and we find speaking among others a difficult task. It is important that each of us speak as soon as we feel that we are able. RCA members accept each other as they are, unconditionally. We each grow at our own pace.
Q: How can listening help us?
A: Many RCA members who regularly attend meetings have actually found that listening to their partner without interruption or without preparing a rebuttal or defense is extremely valuable. Listening increases understanding of our partner’s point of view. Hearing other couples and listening to our partner build awareness and insight plus respect for others’ differences. This acceptance and our willingness to discuss our problems help us to avoid confusion about our own coupleship issues. The last thing needed in couple recovery is shared denial!
Some of the things we listen for are identification of similar behaviors and feelings. How did this person or that couple respond to their situation? What changes happened for the speaker couple that we would like to happen for us? What feelings do we experience when we listen to particular stories? What action might we take based on new information we have gained at this meeting? Many of us believe that our “Higher Power” frequently communicates to us through other couples’ stories, insights, feelings and problems. Our coupleship is worthy of recovery brought by listening well!
Q: How can we, as a beginning couple, share our experience, strength and hope?
A: We learn from one another. Each of us is important. No one couple has all the answers. We listen to learn, and we learn to listen! When we share honestly and openly in front of our partners and other recovering couples, we grow together and learn intimacy and healthy ways of communication. There are many opportunities for growth through Twelve-Step service, giving back what hs been given to us. Writing our story or an idea for the RCA newsletter, “Hand in Hand”; serving on one of the many World Service Board Committees; participating in local recovery service; and attending the International Convention -- all are some of the many opportunities for service.