Addiction recovery professionals and those who have lived the experience first-hand can both attest to the potential complications of dating in recovery. A feeling of loneliness and seclusion, especially at the beginning of recovery, can compel people to fill that emptiness with romance, dating, and committed companionship. However, many advise abstaining from new romantic relationships for this same reason: loneliness and vulnerability make it hard to be thoughtful about new relationships, and someone new to sobriety could quickly fall into codependency and relapse.
That said, it is not impossible to date while committing to sobriety. Couples therapy and other types of relationship counseling may help to improve communication. Having healthy boundaries, compassionate understanding of each other’s needs, and a firm grip on the reality of dating while sober can support a healthy relationship in the present and for the future.
If you are in recovery, consider these dating tips that will help you remain committed to your sobriety goals:
- Self-care is important. Oftentimes when in relationships, we are unable to see when we are wearing ourselves too thin. In our excitement about being with the other person and our fear of losing them, we may neglect our self-care needs, like spending time alone to relax, talking regularly with our sponsor or going to meetings, or eating nutritious meals. Caring for ourselves and our sobriety will only strengthen the relationship.
- Take it slow. Especially for those new to recovery, a new relationship should be taken slowly. Take the time to get to know each other before making serious commitments. Consider couples counseling or behavioral couples therapy to support a healthy relationship.
- Sobriety should always come first. Being aware of personal triggers and those of your partner is exceptionally important. Set healthy boundaries around social gatherings where alcohol may be present, and communicate clearly with your partner about your triggers. If your partner is careless about your recovery goals, it may be time to end the relationship. Someone who loves you will want you to be healthy.
- You cannot fix your partner’s problems. If you are in addiction recovery and/or dating someone who is in addiction recovery, remember that you cannot fix your partner’s problems or expect them to fix yours. Love is powerful, but personal responsibility is still crucial. Be loving, compassionate, and encouraging, but also know how to set boundaries and communicate honestly.
- Educate yourself and your loved ones. It’s easy to find stories about dating in recovery, from horror stories to miraculous moments of connection. If you are in a relationship with someone moving through the recovery process, learn about addiction and recovery: the mental and physical needs, the types of triggers, resources for loved ones, and what to do if your partner starts to slip. Try starting with exploring the suggested resources on the SAMHSA National Helpline website.
Dating while in recovery can be stressful, but it can have its benefits as well. Companionship and stability can be especially healing for those who have experienced the trauma of addiction. It can be therapeutic to have a trusted partner, friend, or significant other who listens to your experience and positively supports your sobriety goals. Having a romantic connection is just the icing on the cake!