Dating can be tricky in recovery. Your focus must remain on staying sober, a part of your life that requires a great amount of time, energy, and sacrifice. A new relationship requires time and energy as well as the ability to compromise, and it is not uncommon for these two purposes – a relationship and a focus on sobriety – to conflict.
When a relationship is a positive part of your life and contributes to your ability to stay clean and sober because your partner is supportive, it can be a wonderful thing. But when your relationship begins to fall apart, it can threaten your ability to stay sober. The sooner you can identify the issues that are causing the breakdown of your happiness, the sooner you can take action to stabilize in recovery.
- Your partner is using
If your partner is drinking heavily or using drugs, this is a problem that can directly and negatively harm your ability to stay sober. Even if your partner drinks in moderation and does not have a substance use disorder, it can be triggering to someone who does to constantly be with someone who uses alcohol. Additionally, your partner’s constant use of any illicit substances or heavy amounts of alcohol means that you always have access to these substances, and when cravings peak, this access can more easily lead to relapse.
- Your partner continues to spend time with people who actively drink and use drugs
Even if your partner is clean and sober – or does not drink or use drugs around you – if all their friends are frequently under the influence, it can become an issue. You may feel as if you cannot spend time with your partner and your partner’s friends, which can make your partner – and you – feel isolated from each other.
- You are fighting – a lot
If you are arguing about how to spend your time, what to eat for dinner, how much time to spend together, whose house to sleep at, friends, family, etc., and fighting is more common than peace, it will not take long for the constant stress to threaten your ability to stay sober.
- Your friends or family cannot stand your partner
Though this is not always an indicator, if your friends and/or family members do not like your partner or feel that there is something specifically wrong with how your partner treats you, and there are other concerns with the relationship, it can be a sign that the relationship is not a positive part of your life and recovery.
- You often question the relationship
When you are alone, after your partner leaves or when you are making plans to get together, if you do not feel happy with how things are going or just feel that things are not as interesting or positive as you would like your relationship to be, then it may be time to move on. Boredom can be just as devastating to recovery as stress caused by arguing.
- You (or your partner) feel uncomfortable doing things alone
If you do not feel safe venturing out on your own or if your partner is unhappy with doing things without you, this is a sign of codependency and a definite threat to your recovery.
- You (or your partner) feel uncomfortable when the other person does things alone
If you find that you feel threatened by your partner spending time with friends or pursuing hobbies without you, or if your partner gets upset when you go out on your own, this too is a sign of codependency and not good for your recovery.
- Your partner asks you to make changes that require you to give up on your goals
You may have a heavy course load that your partner does not like; a big commitment to an internship, volunteer position, or 12-Step meetings or other recovery/treatment meetings that your partner finds intrusive; or a focus on something that is uninteresting or distasteful to your partner. If their response to those feelings is to ask you to give up those things and therefore the goals that you are working toward, it may be time to reconsider the relationship rather than your goals.
- Your partner makes requests that stop you from remaining active in recovery
If your partner works actively or passively to stop you from showing up to 12-Step meetings or attending therapy sessions, or otherwise disparages the work you are doing in recovery, it is time to end the relationship. It is imperative to your ability to stay sober that everyone who plays an active role in your life is supportive of your ongoing prioritization of recovery.
- Being with your partner triggers your cravings for drinking and drug use
Whether or not any of the issues listed above are frequent or infrequent problems for you with your partner, if you crave drugs and alcohol continually and often feel on the verge of relapse due in part to issues with the relationship, it is time to step back and return your focus to active recovery. In fact, even if your partner is perfectly supportive and there are no overt problems, but simply being in a relationship is causing you to feel uncomfortable with yourself or your recovery status, take a break from the relationship to figure out what is going on and reconnect with recovery principles and goals.