Sep 21, 2019

5 Things to Know While Dating Someone in Recovery

Dating can be confusing. First dates can be awkward, relating to another person can be difficult, and building trust is a challenge. However, dating can be even tougher if you are dating someone in recovery. If you aren’t in recovery yourself, you may have some questions and concerns. Here are 5 things to know while dating someone in recovery.
1. Figure out what their recovery looks like.

If this seems like a trivial detail, think again. Recovery is a life long process, and a person who is actively treating their disease will often put their recovery before their relationship. After all, without a program of recovery, the person may not be able to form and keep intimate relationships.

Most people in their first year of recovery are advised to stay out of relationships during their first year of recovery. When people first get sober, they are vulnerable, and it is important for them to focus on their recovery. If a relationship gets in the way of that, they may push their recovery to the side and become susceptible to relapse.

You will want to make sure that the person you are dating is actively going to meetings, surrounding themselves with a sober support group, and uses healthy coping mechanisms to keep their recovery strong. You want to ensure that their foundation in recovery is strong. If the person you are dating is newly sober or isn’t involved in a recovery community, you may want to think twice about getting involved with them. After all, if they relapse, it can take a serious toll on your relationship.

2. Educate yourself about addiction and recovery.

Whether you do some online research or attend an Al-Anon meeting, its important to learn about addiction and recovery. This knowledge will help you better understand the person you are dating.

Addiction is a disease, meaning that remission, or relapse, is a possibility. However, a person that is vigilant about treating their disease is more likely to stay sober. You can learn about the signs of relapse, what makes people susceptible to addiction, and what kinds of activities support a sober lifestyle.

You can also learn about your partner or dating prospect’s past in addiction. Let them tell you their story. Listen and learn about what they have been through. Not only will it allow you to know them better, but it will build trust and understanding between the two of you. This can help set a healthy foundation for your relationship.

3. Learn about their triggers.

Triggers are anything that reminds a person of previous trauma or past situations. They may provoke an intense physical or emotional reaction, such as anxiety. When someone gets sober, they begin to feel many of the emotions that they have numbed for a long time. Some of these emotions will be unpleasant, and certain events, places, or things can set off an emotional trigger.

Being aware of another person’s emotional triggers can help you avoid exposing that person to things that will trigger them. Whether it means avoiding a certain bar or parties, being aware of your partner’s emotional triggers can help you take their feelings and needs into consideration.

Most triggers are not permanent. Over time, as a person in recovery heals and learns how to cope, they will break the mental association between their situations and their feelings.

4. Find out how you can support them.

While you can’t fix anybody, especially an addict, you can support them. If you and the other person both work long hours and he or she needs to go to a meeting when you want to spend time with that person, it's important to be understanding. Let the person know that you support their recovery and what is best for them.

Sometimes, supporting his or her recovery can mean canceled plans, cutting dates short, and a little self-sacrifice. If that is something that you find yourself unable to handle, dating an addict in recovery might not be the best choice for you.

5. Set healthy boundaries.

Addiction doesn’t happen overnight and neither does recovery. It takes people in recovery time to heal and adjust their behaviors. Unfortunately, this means he or she might make mistakes and act out on old behaviors from time to time. Therefore, when dating someone in recovery you will want to make sure to set healthy boundaries.

Make it known what behaviors are acceptable and which ones are unacceptable. If his or her behaviors are unacceptable, being in recovery should not serve as a scapegoat. Instead, a person in recovery should treat you with the same respect that you would expect from anyone else.

Dating Someone in Recovery: Are You Ready?

Evidently, there are many things to keep in mind when it comes to dating someone in recovery. It may seem overwhelming at first, but most of these things are simple aspects to having a healthy relationship. All relationships will have ups and downs, but as long as you are prepared and committed, you can get through whatever the relationship throws your way.

Hailey is a recovered alcoholic who advocates breaking the stigmas that surround mental health and addiction. Her passions include writing, hiking, and volunteering at a women’s shelter.

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