Sober Dating – and When to Share That You’re in Recovery
With Valentine’s Day around the corner, the month of February seems a fitting time to talk about the challenges of dating after sobriety—starting with this perennial question: when do you share in a new dating relationship that you’re in recovery?
It’s a question that many in recovery ask, and while there is no magic bullet answer that will work for everybody, the following pointers can help you navigate the how and when of sharing this important part of who you are:
Be upfront about your recovery
Remember that being in recovery is nothing to be ashamed of. You don’t have to hide what makes you who you are. In fact, if a relationship is going to have legs, it will require your honesty and authenticity, which in turn can give the other person greater permission (if they need it) to be vulnerable with you. Divulging your recovery early on demonstrates your honesty, and can be a means of building trust in the relationship. It also can help you gauge whether the relationship is long-term material.
Let the other person know early on in the relationship that you’re in recovery
There are a number of reasons why I recommend divulging your recovery early in the relationship. First, it’s a critical form of relapse prevention that your recovery needs, whether you’re one month sober or have been sober for years. Letting the other person know upfront—if you’re online dating, for example, then on your dating profile—ensures that social drinking or recreational drug use aren’t first-date options or a tie that will bind you.
Second, being real about your recovery early on entails less emotional risk than waiting to share your story. The longer you wait to share your recovery, the higher the stakes and the more painful and potentially devastating a break-up or parting of ways will be. If the relationship does not work out, it can lead to feelings of rejection which can trigger old abandonment wounds, leaving the recovering person feeling as though they are “not enough.”
On the other hand, if you spill the beans in the earlier stages of a relationship when you’re just getting to know someone, it won’t hurt quite so much if they need to walk away. (If they do, that is their issue—not yours.)
Be open about your recovery and let it come up naturally as you get to know the other person
Stigma aside, there is no reason to hide your recovery. If the other person has an issue with it, it is better for you to know that early on. You won’t hide your political or religious views or personal likes and dislikes. Recovery is part of who you are. Transparency about this fact is better than keeping a secret… and keeping any kind of secret in recovery is not healthy—which will cause the other person to feel like you are hiding something from them.
If there is still a lot of shame associated with being an addict/alcoholic then you might want to ask yourself if you are really ready to be dating in the first place. If you are still uncomfortable with who you are, then there is more individual work to be done. Nobody else will accept you until you accept yourself, and no relationship that begins in secrecy and deceit will turn out being one of trust and mutual respect. The other party deserves to know the truth, and you owe it to yourself and your recovery to be truthful. You didn’t get sober to continue feeling ashamed of who you are and to continue to act out on old behaviors, such as lying by omission. The right person for you will be compassionate and understanding and will take a positive interest in how you came to be the resilient, strong, and courageous person you are today.
Got any other tips to share with the rest of us? Leave them below!