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We all have the innate need to feel loved—especially on an intimate level. Being in a relationship with a significant other brings deep feelings of love, comfort, and security and can be a part of the healing process of recovery. While the desire is there, dating in early recovery and seeking intimate relationships in recovery can be full of peril and danger. When it comes to sober dating and relationships in recovery, the saying “look before you leap” takes on added meaning.

The Dangers of Intimate Relationships and Sober Dating While in Recovery

The number one goal in recovery is YOU. As you move forward as a sober person, you will encounter feelings and emotions that feel new and maybe frightening. During that period of discovery, you may feel that you are ready to date and possibly move into a deeper more intimate relationship with someone. This is dangerous for a number of reasons.

First and foremost, you are still learning about yourself. Adding the feelings that come with a relationship can create a huge emotional burden that you may not be ready to handle. If you pursue a romantic relationship during recovery and it falters, it can do serious damage. The heartache and pain resulting from a breakup may lead you back to active substance use.

There is extra danger if a relationship is codependent. If you, your partner, or both of you come from backgrounds where enabling and support of unhealthy behavior occurred, your relationship will be doomed from the start. The fallout from those relationships creates an emotional and psychological void which you may never return.

Healthy Ways to Approach Intimate Relationships in Recovery

Pursuing deeper relationships in recovery can be a formidable challenge. However, there are several things you can do to help minimize the risk of rejection and relapse. First and foremost, give yourself time to get acquainted with yourself. A general rule of thumb is to give yourself at least one year before jumping into a deep relationship. This should give you time to navigate the tricky waters of early recovery and have the life skills in place to cope with your emotions.

Secondly, be honest! If and when you are part of a relationship that may get serious, let your partner get to know the real you. Don’t give off false pretenses and pretend to be a person that you think your partner wants you to be in their eyes. Take your time and really get to know the person you are dating. Deep and genuine relationships take time to unfold.

Third, be upfront about your recovery. When you meet someone, it is understandable your hesitance in revealing that you are a recovering alcoholic or drug addict. As with any relationship, honesty is number one. Being upfront about your recovery will reduce the chance or relapse, and it will help you weed out those who are uncomfortable or unsupportive of your recovery.

Remember, your health and well-being are number one. You need to be in a good place mentally and spiritually and have the self-confidence to give of yourself in a healthy manner. You must also have the skills to be respectful of your prospective partner’s feelings and connect with them while sober dating.

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Written By: Linda Whiteside


Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor who has been providing mental health services for over 10 years.

Medically reviewed by: Dr. Ryan Peterson


Went to medical school at The George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C.

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