Do you feel ready for a relationship? Are you looking for useful tips for dating in recovery?

Recovery can be an extremely difficult time, both for the person in recovery and others around them. Personal relationships can provide vital support, but even existing relationships can pose their own challenges. Trying to start a new one or returning to dating too soon can be even more fraught and, in some cases, could even put the recovery at risk.

It’s important to approach dating in recovery slowly and carefully and to prioritise the recovery, otherwise, it could increase the risk of relapse. This goes for both the person in recovery and the person they are involved with. If both people are in recovery, this can be even more complicated, with factors like co-dependency to take into account. At the same time, there may be some benefits, such as a mutual understanding of priorities and the recovery journey.


Tips For Dating In Recovery – Recognising When You Are Ready

There is no hard and fast rule regarding when you can start dating in recovery after going through rehab or otherwise achieving sobriety. The first few months of recovery are particularly important and potentially risky, however. For this reason, most recovery experts and 12-step programmes would advise that people do not start dating in the first year of their recovery.

Tanya Desloover, a marriage and family therapist from California, said: “It is commonly recommended in the recovery community to avoid romantic relationships for the first year because most of us are just beginning to get to know ourselves and to define our values. We have to learn to love ourselves before we can love someone else.”

Everyone is different, of course, and so is each recovery journey. Affairs of the heart can also be unpredictable, and it is impossible to lay down hard and fast rules. The early stages of recovery do tend to be marked by emotional stability, however. Addiction and substance misuse are likely to have a severe toll on your emotional well-being, and it can take a while to regain equilibrium. People who start dating too soon into their recovery may be emotionally shut off from the other person. Or, at the other end of the spectrum, they may become quickly and unhealthily dependent, essentially trading one addiction for another.

The 12-month guideline is just that – a guideline. In general terms, though, it is generally advisable to make sure you have reached a more stable part of your recovery and emotional life in general.


Setting Boundaries

When it comes to our tips for dating in recovery, setting boundaries is one of the most important pieces of advice we can give you. They can help to avoid co-dependency, encourage feelings of self-respect and personal growth for both parties and manage expectations related to the growing relationship. These can be key elements of any relationship but can be particularly important when dating in recovery.

Every relationship is different, but you might consider the following tips when it comes to setting boundaries in relationships during recovery:

  • Be upfront but share at your own pace – You should always be upfront with anyone you might be getting involved with about the fact that you are in recovery. Beyond that, you should not feel that you ‘owe’ the other person details about your former substance use, recovery or other aspects of your past and emotional life that you are not ready to share.
  • Take things slow – This might involve limiting the number of dates you go on or the time you spend together. The person in recovery should make whatever time and space they need to be able to focus on themselves. It will not do a new partner or relationship any good if they don’t take time for self-care.
  • Avoid situations you are uncomfortable with – Some recovering addicts are better than others at dealing with being around people drinking alcohol. But if this is an issue for you, you shouldn’t let yourself be pressured into it. This could mean missing a new partner’s party if it was held in a bar, for example.
  • Set limits on the relationship – You might want to set sexual and emotional boundaries as you take things slowly. This might not always suit the other person. Draw a clear distinction between your own wants and needs and that of your partner.
  • Make recovery the priority – One clear boundary that should be set early is that the recovery should come first. This might include setting time aside for therapy, aftercare and other ongoing elements of your recovery. It’s unlikely that any new relationship would survive a full relapse in any case.


Maintaining a Healthy Relationship in Recovery

All the things that go into maintaining healthy relationships in any situation also apply when one of the people is in recovery. It is important to be honest, to respect your partner – and yourself – and to set boundaries, as mentioned above. Relationships also take time and effort. While recovery should always be a priority, this does not mean that a new relationship can be neglected and still expected to flourish.

Another reason to wait for a while before dating is that people in recovery may initially look for people whom they used to be attracted to during their substance misuse. These may be self-absorbed, self-destructive or toxic in different ways. It can take maturity, understanding and resilience for the other person in a relationship with a recovering addict.

Tips for dating someone in recovery could include:

  • Learn about addiction and recovery
  • Show patience and understanding
  • Provide support, time and space
  • Don’t enable a return to drugs or alcohol
  • Encourage healthy coping mechanisms
  • Maintain your own independent life, interests and personal growth


Prioritising Recovery

In order to make a lasting recovery, it’s important to continue with your programme, whatever that might involve. If you went to rehab, you might be following a structured aftercare programme, for example. Support groups and networks, therapy and well-being techniques can all play their part. Maintain a routine, make time for anything that is an important part of this ongoing process and make your recovery a priority.

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