Early Sobriety Dating — Should You Date While In recovery?
So many aspects of our lives are affected by addiction. The negative impact that substance use can have on our personal relationships is heartbreaking and can push us further into dependency. From our relationships with our kids, to parents, to friends, no close relationship will go untouched by our addiction, and this can be especially evident in our romantic relationships. For a lot of people in recovery, the impact of addiction on romantic partners is a major contributor to their decision to get clean.
Addiction can leave us feeling alone and afraid of deep emotions and intimacy. The pain and hurt caused by addiction and the impact it can have on your ability to trust, love, and connect with a partner can be a serious challenge in recovery. Those without a long-term partner may find it especially difficult to navigate forming new connections while also getting and staying sober.
Forming romantic connections is an important part of many people’s lives, and you shouldn’t have to give this up permanently just because you may have a difficult or fraught past due to your dependency. But you may be wondering, is it a good idea to start dating while in recovery? How long should you wait? And how will sobriety affect these relationships?
How Dating Too Early Can Hurt Your Recovery
Dating can be complicated. Even people who have never struggled with substance abuse face many challenges while dating and forming new relationships. The extra struggle of seeking and maintaining sobriety adds a whole new layer of uncertainty, pain, and frustration that can impede both your relationships and your journey to recovery. Because of this, it’s almost never a good idea to start dating in early sobriety. You’ll already be facing major changes in your lifestyle, friendships, self-image, and your general outlook on life. Adding a new relationship will most likely be too much to manage.
Because of the emotional implications of early relationships, especially for people who have a history of dysfunctional or unhealthy patterns, dating early in recovery is one of the most common reasons for relapse. Because of this, it’s highly recommended that you don’t try to date, either casually or seriously, in the early stages of recovery.
How Long Should You Wait Before Dating?
Of course, getting sober doesn’t mean you have to give up on finding love. So how long should you wait before putting yourself back out there? While the answer will be different for everyone, it’s important that you wait until you have maintained sobriety for a significant amount of time before jumping into the dating pool. Most experts recommend waiting until you have stayed sober for at least one year.
This will give you time to readjust to sobriety. Getting clean means shifting many aspects of your life including your routine, mindset, hobbies, and social life. Waiting a year before dating allows you to feel more settled in your sobriety and will give you space to figure out how a romantic relationship might fit into your life and what you’re actually looking for in a partner.
Not giving yourself time to emotionally heal from your past relationships and learn how to navigate dating in a healthy way will leave you vulnerable to falling back into old patterns. You may also end up putting much pressure on early romantic relationships in recovery. It’s common for people in treatment to become so invested in a relationship that they begin to place the weight of their entire recovery on it. You should be in a place where a breakup or relationship problems won’t cause you to lose faith in your journey.
Of course, many people need even more time before they’re ready to start dating again, and that’s okay! Your health and wellbeing should always be your number one priority. If you find that you’re longing for a romantic connection but you aren’t sure if you’re ready yet, don’t be afraid to reach out to your sponsor, therapist, or your sober group to work through your specific situation.
Should You Only Date Other Sober People?
For many of us, the sober community leads us to build incredible new friendships and mentorships with other sober people who understand what we’re going through, and romantic relationships can often form as a result of this. Dating someone who is also in recovery can have many positives. For one, having a partner who drinks or uses other substances makes it far more difficult to avoid triggers and stay on track. By dating someone who is sober, you avoid constant exposure to these triggers.
It also helps to have a partner who knows what you’re going through. Addiction and recovery are uniquely difficult experiences, and having a partner who’s been through it themselves can be a source of tremendous emotional support.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that you can only date other sober people. There are many people who have healthy and long-lasting relationships with partners who drink. If you do begin a relationship with a non-sober person, it’s important that you continue to put your sobriety first. Be honest with them about your sobriety and feelings and don’t be afraid to set boundaries and enforce them.
Tips for Dating While Sober
For people that have been sober for a while and are ready to put themselves back out there, this is an exciting time. For many people, it’s a moment where they feel they’re ready to start building a long-term sober life and can begin to repair their relationship with love and intimacy. However, when you begin any new journey, it’s important to stay committed to recovery and prepare yourself for the challenges that will inevitably come up. Here are a few tips on how to date while sober:
Put your sobriety first.
There may be situations in which you feel that your relationship is putting your sobriety at risk. If you feel that conflict, lifestyle differences, or past traumas are leading you down a bad road, it’s important to seek help for these issues and potentially reexamine if the relationship, or dating in general, is good for you. You deserve to share your time and life with people who are as dedicated to your sobriety as you are.
Be honest about your sobriety.
Whether you’re dating someone who’s also in recovery or otherwise, honesty is essential to cultivating a healthy relationship and staying clean. Being honest about how you’re feeling and your boundaries allows you to grow closer to a potential partner while also helping you progress and learn through your recovery.
Maintain your support system.
When we begin dating again, especially if we get into a new and exciting relationship, it’s common for other aspects of our lives to fall to the wayside. However, as someone in recovery, it’s vital that you don’t lose your support system. While you may find that your partner is wonderful support, it’s important to stay connected to your friends, sober groups, and sponsors as well.
Don’t rush yourself.
There’s never a good reason to rush into something if you’re not ready. There’s no “right” timeline when it comes to your health and sobriety, or your relationships. If you don’t feel ready to date yet, or you feel that a relationship is moving too fast, don’t hesitate to slow down and work at your own pace. You’re not in this alone!
OTR Is Always Ready to Help You Through the Challenges of Recovery
Dating, like any new journey after recovery, can leave you feeling uncertain and worried. But remember that sobriety isn’t limiting. Instead, it gives you the freedom to enjoy all the beauty that life has to offer!
Oregon Trail Recovery is here to offer you support and guidance through every stage of your recovery. We’re here to provide compassion and care without judgment so that you can begin the incredible journey to the fulfilling and complete life that you deserve. Call us at (855) 537-0067 to get your questions answered and get expert help no matter where you are in your recovery.