Upon getting sober, many people may wonder what is going to happen to their dating life.
It’s so common to meet up at a bar for a first date, or grab a glass of wine with dinner at a nice restaurant. In fact, most people don't think twice about it. So when you stop drinking, how do you keep dating?
The truth is that while possible, it can still be tricky to navigate. So here are a few pointers for dating someone who drinks if you are in recovery.
1. Be upfront and honest immediately.
I’ve always believed it’s important to know what you are getting into when dating someone. It will be much smoother from the get-go if you tell the truth right off the bat. It may not be easy to tell someone you no longer drink, but doing so right away will set the tone for the relationship. It’s a common fear that a potential partner may no longer be interested if they find out you are sober while they are not. But if that’s the case, they probably weren’t a person worth keeping around anyway.
I told my boyfriend of three years that I was sober on our very first date. Though I knew he still drank, he didn’t bat an eye when I told him I didn’t, which made me ever more sure that he was someone I wanted in my life. I’ve never regretted telling him right away, because the way he handled it spoke to the type of person he is. Chances are you won’t regret telling the truth about who you are, as difficult as it may be.
2. Set clear boundaries.
Once some time has passed and you’re both on the same page about you being sober, you’ll probably want to have a deeper discussion about it. This may mean going into detail about why you decided to stop drinking and what your recovery means to you. Your partner should understand that your recovery is one of the biggest priorities in your life, and more likely than not, they’ll want to do what they can to help you. This is where boundaries come in.
Everyone has different boundaries, depending on where they are in their recovery and how comfortable they feel around alcohol. Maybe you’re OK with your partner having a few beers around you, or maybe you feel that would be too triggering. Whatever the case, the important thing is that you communicate about it so that you both know how the other feels and what they expect. A lot of conflict can be avoided by having this conversation.
3. Be OK with letting them do their own thing sometimes.
This is one of the most important things, in my opinion. It’s important for both me and my partner because I never want to limit what he does or take drinking away from him. I don’t want my own decisions to impact his responsible relationship with alcohol. Because this is so important to me, I make sure he goes and spends time with his buddies. I offer to pick him up if need be and make it clear that it’s OK with me that he goes out and has fun.
In many ways, this is good for your recovery, too. It’s important to realize that some people do have a healthy relationship with alcohol and at the same time acknowledge that you are not one of them. And that's OK.
4. Always, always communicate.
I can’t stress this one enough. If something about your partner’s drinking begins to bother you, you need to tell them that. They can’t fix it if they don’t know there is an issue in the first place. Whether they’ve been drinking around you too often, or got way too drunk for your liking, you need to tell them. Sit down and have a good discussion about it. In most cases, they’ll be willing to listen and figure out what they can do to help.
But if for some reason they don’t care how their drinking affects you, it make be time to rethink the relationship. Your partner should respect you and your decisions, especially if you’ve always been open and honest about your recovery.
The reality is that dating is never easy, and adding recovery into the mix might complicate it even more. Always remember that how another person chooses to react to your recovery says more about them than it does about you. As long as you think through how you want to handle dating while sober and have a plan to address it with potential partners, you’re doing all that you can to put your recovery first.
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Beth Leipholtz is the founder of Life to be Continued, a blog about the realities of getting sober young. She writes about her own experience falling into addiction and how she found her way back out. Beth also works as a newspaper reporter and graphic designer in Minnesota. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @EL9292