Romantic Relationships in Alcohol Use Disorder Recovery: A Qualitative Content Analysis

Thomas G. Kimball, Nicole D. Hune, Sterling T. Shumway, William Gerber, Spencer D. Bradshaw, Porter Macey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Alcohol use disorder (AUD) thrives in isolation. Recovery requires healthy and supportive relationships in order to heal and grow. Many individuals in alcohol recovery find it challenging to establish and maintain meaningful romantic relationships, yet little research has examined this concept. With a particular focus on relationship insecurity and relationship safety, this study explored persons’ experiences of romantic relationships in AUD recovery. Twenty-three participant interviews were analyzed. A conventional content analysis was first used to inductively uncover categories and then a summative content analysis was utilized to examine textual frequencies. Categories, themes and coded frequencies informed the overall analyses. Three main categories emerged with themes explaining participants’ relationship experiences (Identifying Unsafe Relationships: negative and positive impact of conflict; Addressing Relationship Insecurity: anxiety and avoidance; and Establishing Relationship Safety: trust and recovery). Although there were several limitations, this study offers new insight on romantic relationships in AUD recovery. We emphasize the importance of establishing safety and addressing maladaptive attachment behaviors in order to better navigate toward healthy and supportive romantic relationships in recovery.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)116-130
Number of pages15
JournalAlcoholism Treatment Quarterly
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2022


  • Alcohol use disorders
  • attachment
  • qualitative content analysis
  • recovery
  • romantic relationships


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