6 Tips for Dating a Person in Recovery
Every relationship is different and recovery looks different for each person.
However, there are some basic guidelines to keep in mind if you are dating someone in recovery or are considering starting to date someone in recovery.
1. Don’t start dating someone who started recovery yesterday.
Everyone knows it’s risky to date someone a week after they get out of a serious relationship. In some ways, addiction is like a destructive, abusive relationship. If the last time your significant other took a hit or a drink was only a week ago, it’s difficult to tell if he/she will remain sober in the future.
A good rule of thumb is not to date someone if they haven’t been sober for at least a year.
Recovery is hard. Relationships are hard. Give the person time to heal and work through their own issues before tackling relationship issues.
2. Set ground rules.
Not all people in recovery are the same. Maybe your friend in recovery can go to a bar and not be tempted, but going to a bar is a trigger for your boyfriend. Have honest conversations about what the person in recovery is able to do, and what you are able to give. Set clear expectations. Have plans for what you’ll do if your partner is late coming home, or if a trigger situation arises, etc.
This is probably not a one-time conversation. This issue will most likely need to be revisited over time, since recovery looks different depending on how long someone has been sober and their confidence in their coping skills.
3. If you’ve been hurt by your partner’s addiction in the past, don’t assume the worst.
Like every relationship, trust is key. If anything, when addiction is involved, trust is more vital. This can be hard if you were in a relationship with someone during their lowest points of addiction. If you have seen them at the worst, or have years of experiences where they let you down, it can be difficult to trust them again.
Perhaps you remember all the times they said they were at a friend’s house, but they were really getting high. Now when they say they’re going to a friend’s house, you’re suspicious. Make good ground rules and have open conversations about your difficulties believing your partner. The more transparent both of you can be, the quicker the trust will be rebuilt.
4. Try to understand your partner’s need for sobriety.
If you met your partner after he/she got sober, maybe you haven’t seen how destructive addiction was in your loved ones’ life. Maybe your partner tells you he gets really angry when he’s drunk, but you have a hard time believing him because you’ve always only seen the sweet, calm side of him. Maybe you think he’s exaggerating the effects of his addition. Maybe you think he can have a drink or two.
You have to take him at his word. Listen to his stories, listen to his friends’ stories, and trust that he knows his own life better than you do.
If you understand your partner’s need for sobriety, you’ll understand that certain things are off limits. Don’t pressure your partner to have just one drink, or go to a bar, or see old friends associated with addiction. You may never fully understand the boundaries that your loved one has put in place, but trust that your loved one has set these limits for good reason.
5. Don’t let your partner use recovery as a scapegoat.
Recovery is not a valid excuse for not acting like a mature adult in a relationship. For example, if your partner is physically abusive, but then apologizes and says it’s because recovery has been stressful—that is not okay, ever. Or, if your partner is consistently emotionally distant and not communicative and blames recovery, that’s a sign that your relationship is unhealthy.
6. Cultivate healthy friendships.
This is a good rule of thumb for anyone relationship, not just if you’re dating someone in recovery. Keep good people around you—people who are wise, loving, who are good judges of character, who will tell you hard truths, who care more about your well-being than they care about being liked.
None of us are a perfect judge of character. In the same way people in recovery can’t do recovery alone, you shouldn’t try to support and love someone in recovery alone. If you are dating someone in recovery, you need support.
Victory Addiction Recovery Center provides licensed staff who give support to individuals in recovery and their loved ones. If you are in a relationship with someone who struggles with addiction, we can help.
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