Humans are wired to strive for intimate connections with others. Most people, at some point in their lives, will feel a desire to find a companion that they can experience life with. However, this can be concerning for individuals in the beginning stages of their recovery journey.
There is no question that dating in recovery can bring about numerous internal and interpersonal challenges. Dating is hard enough as it is, but the unique facets of recovery can make the search for finding a partner even more overwhelming.
For women in particular, dating in recovery can surface many emotional and psychological concerns. It is important that women understand the risks involved with dating in recovery. After understanding the risks, women must identify the ways they can keep their recovery the highest priority in their life.
Acknowledging the Risks of Dating in Recovery
The most obvious risk involved with dating in recovery is the potential for relapse. Some challenging circumstances may include:
- Finding a partner who regularly uses drugs and alcohol and is not ready to quit
- Getting in conflict with a partner, or breaking up, which could result in the use of substances as a way to cope
- Engaging in addictive behavior (aside from substance use), such as having an obsession or preoccupation with a new partner
- Being distracted from achieving your main goal of sobriety and associated self-exploration
- Experiences of rejection can surface old substance use triggers of loneliness, depression, and anxiety
If these circumstances do not necessarily result in relapse, they can still contribute to pitfalls during your recovery. Most 12-Step programs typically advise individuals to avoid dating until after they have reached at least one year of sobriety and recovery. However, it is important to be realistic about the innate human need for wanting to experience love.
Tips for Dating in Recovery
As you keep the risks of dating in recovery in mind, it is important to acknowledge some useful tips that can help you when you feel comfortable enough to date in recovery.
#1. Be Confident With Where You Are in Your Recovery
One of the most important tips to keep in mind when dating in recovery is, before you start dating, reflect on where you are in your recovery journey. If you are still experiencing substance use triggers and cravings daily to the point where your thoughts are unmanageable, take it as a sign to put more time and energy into your recovery rather than into dating.
You have to recognize that there is no weakness in devoting time to yourself and to your healing. If you aren’t confident in where you stand in your recovery as you start to date, you could easily fall victim to codependency and behave in ways that you may later regret. However, if you are confident in your ability to decline a drink when offered and continue to engage in self-discovery as you date others, you may be setting yourself up for a very positive dating experience.
#2. Know and Set Your Boundaries
As you put yourself out there, you may find that there are some people that are just not willing to give up their substance-using behaviors for dating. You can put yourself in their shoes, as it may have taken you months or years to consciously choose sobriety. On the other hand, you may not have any issue dating someone that still drinks or uses drugs. All that matters is that you know your boundaries and that you are able to voice them to whoever you are dating.
It may be helpful to acknowledge that everyone has different boundaries. Your boundaries may become even more unique when you are sober. Remember that these boundaries are put in place to keep your recovery a priority as you allow yourself to be vulnerable with who you are dating.
Some examples of boundaries that you may set with someone you are dating include:
- “If we are sexually active, I expect that we are closed off from having sexual intimacy with others outside of this relationship for our physical and emotional safety.”
- “If we are going to a party with friends, I expect that you will be sober with me at the event so that I can feel supported in my sobriety.”
- “If you decide to continue using substances as we date, I expect that you will never pressure me into using by offering me drugs or alcohol so that I can feel comfortable in our relationship.”
#3. Take It Slow
Too often, relationships are broken off because one partner wants to move at a quicker pace than the other partner. Women especially tend to encourage the use of romantic labels quicker than men so that they feel the energy they are putting into the relationship is validated. When dating in recovery, it is vital to take things slow.
Always be up-front with the person you are interested in. Consider trying to develop a friendship with that person before jumping into a serious relationship. Continue investing your time into your recovery and prevention resources, such as support groups and other hobbies, so that you have a strong foundation if the relationship does not work out. More than anything, keep in mind that all relationships are complicated.
For women, dating in recovery can surface unique challenges. It is important that, before dating, individuals recognize the risks involved with dating in recovery. This is especially important for those in the beginning stages of their recovery journey. After understanding the risks, women must reflect on where they stand in their own recovery journey. They must recognize where their confidence lies in their ability to stay sober, especially when dating comes into play. Women must know and set their boundaries and be willing to take things slow. Spero Recovery is a residential treatment facility that offers programs unique to both men and women. We recognize the challenges that may surface for women dating in recovery. We will provide you with effective treatment resources to sustain your long-term recovery while dating. To learn more, give us a call today at (303) 351-7888.