Something that a lot of recently sober men grapple with is how to start dating again. For most people, dating is tough to navigate. You’re trying to show the best parts of yourself while figuring out what the other person is like. For a recovering addict, showing the best parts of yourself comes with extra challenges.
The most natural instinct is to lie. You will probably feel the need to fill in the “blank” parts of your narrative with an idealized version of your history. However, if you’re planning on starting a serious relationship, you’ll need to be honest about your addiction eventually, and it’s going to be tough replacing your narrative with what really happened.
But can you start with the truth? Will that just chase everyone away? The following 3 tips will help you navigate dating as a recovering addict.
1. Don’t spill everything immediately
Some recovering addicts deal with their insecurity about their addiction by spilling everything on the first date. Immediately. This is understandable. You’re scared that this will scare the person away eventually anyway, so why not see how they respond now?
However, spilling your entire narrative is never a good way to start a date, whether or not you’re a recovering addict. Think about how you would feel if your date told you all of their problems with work and friends from the get-go!
Furthermore, there are unfortunately misconceptions about addiction that many people never have to challenge. Particular attributes are assumed about male addicts – such as a tendency towards violence, sexual misgivings, etc.
Give the person a chance to get to know you a bit before completing your narrative. Don’t lie, and certainly don’t wait too long. But start small and build details as you build the relationship.
2. Stay proud of your achievements
I have seen many people leave rehab with a tremendous amount of pride about recovery. That is, until they face dating as a recovering addict. Suddenly, they are uncomfortable, assuming others will see their strengths as weaknesses.
This is where you need to stick to your guns. Reinforce what you know about your process before each date. Remind yourself that the possibility that others do not understand or relate does not diminish your achievements in any way.
Also, remember that a lot of people know and love someone who has struggled with addiction, even if they themselves have not gone through it. They may be more attuned to (and impressed with) your experience than you think.
3. Let them be a part of your journey
When you’re starting a relationship as a recovering addict, even after you’ve shared what you’ve gone through, you will probably feel the urge to keep any current struggles to yourself. It is far easier to talk about battles you have won than to share a challenge you may not overcome. You want your partner to see you as strong, rather than to treat you as if you’re fragile.
However, your partner is likely to respect you even more if you’re open about what you’re going through. Not only will they empathize, but they will also feel a sense of relief. They will feel way more comfortable knowing your inner reality than constantly imagining all the worst case scenarios. They’ll also want to be a part of your journey.
Let them in and tell them what you need from them. The healthiest relationships are maintained by each partner expressing their needs. Yours will be no different.