Dating during early recovery can be risky to a person’s sobriety. It is important to understand when it is safe to start dating again in order to avoid potential relapse.
Early recovery is a time for people to foster their identity, to practice healthy coping skills and to maintain their sobriety. It can therefore be a challenging time to begin a romantic relationship. Most experts say that a person in early recovery should wait at least one year before dating, starting a new relationship or making important decisions. Dating should only occur when a person understands the importance and follows through with making their sobriety the main priority. A person needs to re-establish their identity, demonstrate that they can cope in healthy ways and set clear boundaries and honest expectations in a dating relationship.
Early recovery can be a time of profound loneliness, as individuals are no longer socializing in ways that they used to. Some people may even seek to replace their addictions with the high that comes from new love. These feelings of loneliness or desire for euphoria may cause a person to consider dating in recovery too early or before they are ready.
Dating in early recovery can be risky and counterproductive, as a new relationship can quickly become a distraction and complicate a person’s recovery. Dating can take away from time that a person needs to practice self-care and to manage cravings and urges.
Dangers of Dating Too Soon
There are some potential dangers to dating in early recovery. When people start dating too soon they tend to choose a different type of partner than they would had they waited until later in their recovery. Singles in recovery dating tend to choose similar types of partners as when they were using. Some people may enter into co-dependent or abusive relationships and focus too much attention on their partner.
Dating for people in recovery can be hazardous when people try to seek comfort in relationships to replace the comfort that they used to get from using. Individuals may seek the euphoric feeling that can come from a brand new, exciting relationship. People who enter relationships too early lose the opportunity to focus on themselves and on their recovery.
Other dangers of dating too soon can include feeling pressured to enter and stay in a relationship or becoming too dependent on one. People may attempt to fix another person, or expect to get rescued. Individuals can get caught up in lust, share too much about themselves or not share anything at all. If a relationship does not go well, it can lead to anxiety and depression, which can trigger a desire to self-medicate with alcohol or drugs, thus risking relapse.
When Dating Someone in Early Recovery is Safe
Those in recovery should wait until at least one year into sobriety to be safe. During this year, individuals can work on developing an identity and building confidence and self-esteem. Once a person fully learns how to love themselves, they can be open to loving someone else. A year of sobriety allows a person to learn and practice healthy coping mechanisms in addition to learning how to maintain emotional stability.
Dating someone in early recovery can be a replacement addiction or distraction. During the year of sobriety, it is important to develop and rely on a support network in addition to maintaining consistency with maintenance therapy. If a person does enter a relationship during early recovery, it is important to be honest, especially if the relationship does not go well.
Tips for Safe Dating in Early Recovery
If an individual is determined to move forward with dating in early recovery, they need to set boundaries and make themselves the priority. People need to work their program, practice the 12 steps and stay in touch with their sponsor. They need to attend therapy consistently to understand why their addiction developed in the first place along with healthy coping skills and patterns of behavior.
Clear boundaries will help a person to avoid allowing their relationship to become a distraction to their sobriety. When dating in recovery, people need to explore themselves and to develop a solid identity. Individuals need to learn how to cope with uncomfortable emotions in addition to learning how to manage triggers and cravings.
People should be upfront with their dating partners about their recovery and frequent places that do not trigger them. People should take their new relationship slow, avoid making large decisions and make sobriety the main priority. Ultimately, a person needs to find a healthy partner who will wholeheartedly support their recovery.
Health.usnews.com. “Why Newly Sober Alcoholics and Addicts S[…]’t Date for a Year.” February 13, 2017. Accessed August 7, 2019.
The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.