It’s no secret that dating can be tough — and it can be even tougher to date if you’re not sober but your partner is. Sometimes, if you have no personal experience with something such as addiction and recovery, it can be difficult to get on the same page as your partner. There isn’t a clear rule book when it comes to a non-sober person dating a sober person, as each and every relationship has its own unique dynamic. For this reason, it’s important to consider a few factors when dating someone who no longer drinks or uses drugs. Here are a few pieces of advice for this situation, coming from someone in recovery.
1. Make an effort to understand your partner’s reasoning for sobriety.
Some people in recovery may have been dating their partner when they decided to get sober, and in situations like these, it’s likely the partner understands why their significant other decided to make changes in their life. They likely saw first-hand the negative effects drinking was having on their partner’s life. But this isn’t always the case. Sometimes a person may decide to get sober, and then meets their partner and settles down. This can make it a bit more difficult for you, the non-sober significant other, to understand why your partner decided to cut out alcohol. It’s important for you to take the time to talk to your partner about the effects alcohol or drugs were having on their life and why they felt it was in their best interest to stop drinking or using completely. Even though you may never fully understand what your partner’s life was like when they were drinking or using, it matters that you make the effort to understand to the best of your ability.
2. Have a conversation to set some ground rules.
This one is vital for any relationship in which one person is in recovery and the other is not. If you are in a relationship with someone who is sober, take the time to have a conversation with them about how your own drinking may or may not affect them. Some people in recovery are OK being around alcohol, while for others it is too tempting. This can depend on a number of factors, including how long your partner has been sober and how confident they are in their sobriety. If your partner does not feel comfortable being around you when you are drinking, it’s important to respect that. If you don’t, there could be some tension and frustration in the relationship, and it could possibly jeopardize your partner’s recovery.
3. Don’t make assumptions.
Because there are certain stereotypes about people who are sober, it’s easy to think they wouldn’t want to be invited to places such as bars or that they’d rather be left out of alcohol-centered events. While this may be the case for some people in recovery, it’s not the case for everyone. Some people in recovery can handle themselves perfectly well around alcohol and may be hurt if they are not invited places simply because alcohol will be present. This assumption can be incredibly hurtful when coming from you, their partner. On the flip side, it’s also important not to assume someone in recovery is comfortable around alcohol. It really just depends on the person. In a relationship, it’s not difficult to be honest and have a quick conversation in order to avoid any consequences of assumptions.
4. Ask questions you have them.
If there’s something about your partner’s history or their recovery that you are wondering about, just ask. When you are in a relationship with a person, you have a right to try and understand them to the best of your ability. If your partner is not comfortable discussing a certain topic, he/she will tell you that. But more often than not, they will probably be happy you asked because it reflects the fact that you care and are trying your best to understand them and their lifestyle. Asking questions will help you gain a better understanding of your partner and likely make future discussions easier.
5. Determine what you can do to aid in your partner’s recovery.
Though recovery is largely an individual process, the people in a sober person’s life play a large role in it. There may be certain things you can do to help your partner that wouldn’t cross your mind if you didn’t take the time to ask. For example, maybe he/she doesn’t like when you keep your own alcohol in the house, or when you leave glasses from alcohol in the sink. Or maybe all your partner needs from you is for you to check in once in awhile and make sure they feel good and on track. Everyone is different. These types of things may seem small to you, but could affect your partner greatly, so taking the time to ask could make a big difference in the relationship.
Of course, these aren’t the only pieces of advice for dating someone in recovery. But these are a starting point and offer a good foundation on which to build a relationship. Though it may not always be simple to date someone in recovery, it’s something that can be done with patience and effort from both sides.
If you’re ready, joining your partner in sobriety can be the most supportive thing you’ll ever do. Check out this 6-week guide to changing your drinking habits.
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.