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Dating While in Recovery: Here’s how

Navigating the dating scene is hard enough. For those of us in recovery, we have a few added stresses, like trying to figure out when to tell someone we’re in recovery, or if it’s even the right time to date.

When it comes to when it’s time to tell someone you’re in recovery, we ran a poll on our Facebook. Here’s what we found:

  • 35% of voters said they’d tell the person they’re in recovery on the first date
  • 38% said after a few dates
  • 13% would wait a few months
  • 13% would wait until after the ring

There isn’t a right or wrong answer here – only a “what’s right for you” answer.

As for when the right time to start dating is, if you’re in a 12 Step program, it’s often suggested you wait a year before diving into a relationship.

But every person and circumstance are different. When you’re ready to get back out there, here are a few helpful tips to keep in mind.

Ideals List

A great rule of thumb comes out of Step 4 where we make an “Ideals List” of the attributes we’re looking for in a romantic partner. Attributes might include honesty, integrity, selflessness, willingness to grow along spiritual lines, etc. It is suggested that we’re ready for a relationship when we feel strongly we are able to “bring” these attributes into a relationship. When we go into a relationship prepared with an idea of what we can give versus focusing solely on what we might receive, we have a higher likelihood of finding someone compatible with our new way of life and as a result, a higher likelihood the new relationship will be successful and (hopefully) avoid some of the common pitfalls that present during relationships in early recovery.

Be honest

Honesty is often the foundation of a healthy relationship, and you should treat your sobriety the same way. It’s a part of who you are; feel proud of the hard work and grit you’ve put into achieving a life of recovery.

It’s easy to make up an excuse as to why you’re not drinking, but the fact is, that won’t get rid of the temptation that comes along with being in a bar, restaurant, or even a party at someone’s house.

If you’re honest about your sobriety, you can avoid tempting or risky situations. As you read above, you decide when the right time to have that conversation is.

Have each other and others

There’s such a thing as too much of a good thing, and relationships can fall into that. It’s important you both have friends outside of each other so you both can spend time with others separately. For you, that will likely be your support group and others you’ve met in your recovery journey. It’s important these outside friends aren’t impacted by your relationship; they should be in your recovery reserve.

Added bonus: It’ll make the time you do spend with your significant other even more meaningful.

Set boundaries

The best relationships have boundaries; it helps keep everyone happy and content. There are some things you may just not be ready for yet or will never be comfortable with. If these things are important to your recovery, consider them boundaries and treat them as top priorities.

All relationships have boundaries. Yours may look a little different because you’re in recovery, but a boundary is a boundary and need to be respected.

Recovery should still come first

Your first sober year should be spent not just working the program, but also learning more about and working on yourself. If you’re early in recovery, you’re probably still trying to figure out how to deal with everyday stressors that may cause urges or cravings.

No matter what, your recovery has to come first. With a new relationship can come a new set of priorities, and suddenly your recovery routine is being disrupted. Your routine is critical in keeping you sober. If your recovery doesn’t come first, your risk losing it all – including this new relationship.

Take your time

Like all relationships, diving in headfirst is rarely ever a good idea. Take it nice and slow, as you’re still navigating the foreign waters of a life in recovery and the unfamiliarity of dating someone new. Don’t make any big decisions – like moving in together or having children – right away.

Keep your supporters close

We all need people on our side to make us feel strong during tough times. No matter where you are in your recovery, you will always want to keep your supporters close. Check out RCA’s Alumni Association if you aren’t already a member. It’s a great place to support others and yourself while in recovery. People from all walks of life have joined our Alumni Association with the common connection of wanting to stay sober, give back, and live a happy, meaningful life.

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