Romantic relationships in recovery are tricky business. As a rule of thumb, most people will tell you to wait at least one full year before starting a new relationship with a love interest. This may seem like an incredibly long time but it is absolutely worth it and it is good advice for a number of reasons.

Relationships in Recovery Can Wait. Your Sobriety is Worth It.

When you enter treatment the goal is to achieve and maintain sobriety. It is something you are doing for yourself, and while of course, your loved ones play an important role, at the end it is an individual choice. That means that you need to completely focus on yourself and put everything else aside, romance and relationships included, assuming you are single.

When you are in treatment, you will be completely immersed in learning about yourself and finding the root causes of your addiction. This way, you can work to stay sober in the future. Also, you will partake in a number of activities to relearn how to live life sober. It is an entirely different experience when drugs and alcohol aren’t clouding your judgment. You may find out new things about yourself that you never knew like new hobbies, likes, dislikes, and activities you enjoy. While in treatment you are in a sheltered environment with a ton of support to prevent you from relapsing.

Once you complete treatment, many people make the mistake of leaving the supportive environment of treatment behind cold turkey and jumping right back into regular life. This is a massive set up for failure. It is essential to slowly wean off of your treatment so that you still have professional support around you. At the same time, the last thing you should be looking for is a significant other. Starting a new relationship will just serve to distract you from your recovery and give you something else to worry about.

The Negative Side of Relationships in Recovery

In early recovery, you simply don’t know yourself. You may have spent months or years as an addict, and that old version of you is nowhere close to the sober version. In fairness, how can you know you are attracting the right partner if you don’t even know who you are as an individual. It isn’t fair to you to start a relationship this early on, and it is also not fair for the person you are starting the relationship with.

On another note, even if you ignore the advice of waiting a year for relationships in recovery, the romance might not go as planned. Honestly, how often do relationships go smoothly? There are fights, arguments, and breakups, all of which are emotional and difficult to maneuver for even the strongest people out there. In early recovery, you are not at your strongest, as much as you think you might be.

The Benefits of the Waiting Game

Now that we told you all the negatives that can come with dating too early, it’s time to discuss the positive reasons to wait. First of all, you’ll have the time and focus you need to make things all about yourself. And that is the only thing you need to be doing when you are first trying to stay sober. You’ll get to know yourself and re-establish your place in society as a friend, family member, coworker, or student. You will have time to get your feet under you and be financially independent once again, without spending your entire income on drugs and alcohol. You’ll also have the time to learn about your likes and dislikes and become a confident and self-sufficient person.

Once you have given yourself time to accomplish everything above, you will be mentally capable of finding a healthy romantic relationship in recovery. You’ll be able to find a proper partner who will compliment you and lift you up instead of potentially break you. Patience is key, and a year will pass before you know it. Trust us, it is worth it!

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MD

Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MDDr. Jeffrey Berman is a psychiatrist in Teaneck, New Jersey and is affiliated with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. He received his medical degree from State University of New York Upstate Medical University and has been in practice for more than 20 years. He also speaks multiple languages, including French and Hebrew.

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