Whether you’re in a committed relationship or dating around, romance isn’t always easy. Your love life can get even more complicated after getting sober — and more complicated still if you start dating someone who still drinks.
Dating someone who isn’t sober when you are presents a unique set of challenges. Though it can be difficult for both you and your partner, this type of relationship certainly isn’t impossible. However, before rushing into anything, it’s important to consider the difficulties you may encounter — and how you can overcome them — if you choose to date someone who drinks while in recovery.
Can You Date Someone Who Drinks?
Yes, if you want to. You are an adult and can make your own decisions. However, it depends on what you’re comfortable with, which is something that only you can decide.
While some people may not think twice about having a relationship with someone who still drinks, the mere idea may sound impossible to someone else. Some people may think they wouldn’t have a problem with it, but realize after getting to know someone that they can’t be with them if they aren’t sober. Others may do it, but only if they meet the right person. It truly depends on you.
Sobriety, Security, and Recovery
Consider how stable you feel in your own recovery. Does being around alcohol make you want to drink? Can you deal with being around a romantic partner when they are intoxicated? Can you be sure that you will maintain your sobriety in this relationship? Do you want to to be in a relationship where you have to think about these things?
Ensure that you are confident in your sobriety before entering a relationship of any kind, as they are among the most common relapse triggers. Be especially careful if you are just beginning your recovery, which is when many people are particularly vulnerable to relapsing. Dating in AA can be difficult, but it is not impossible as long as you are confident in yourself.
Communication Is Key
As with any and all relationships, good communication is absolutely vital. However, it becomes even more important when dating someone who drinks. For instance, you should be upfront about your recovery. You don’t have to give them a full account of your past, but simply telling them sooner rather than later that you don’t drink can go a long way.
It can be hard not to worry about how the other person will take it, especially if you really like them, but try not to think about it. If they make a big deal about it or become uncomfortable, they aren’t worth your time. This can be upsetting and disappointing, but keep in mind that the right person will be happy that you’re sober whether they drink or not.
Do your best to maintain an open dialogue in your relationship or as you get to know each other. Be honest about when you can be around others drinking and when you can’t. Set clear boundaries about what you are okay with. Having these discussions early on can help you avoid and resolve future conflicts. Remember that it’s okay for things to change — such as if you initially said you were comfortable with being around alcohol and then realize you aren’t — but you need to convey that clearly and honestly.
Walk a Mile in Their Shoes
You and your partner likely have incredibly different attitudes about alcohol. They may not fully understand what it’s like to be sober, while you may not understand what it’s like to have a healthy relationship to alcohol. This is perfectly normal and fine. You have had unique life experiences that have shaped you and your beliefs.
Alcohol is one of many things that you and your partner will have different opinions about. Do your best to understand their perspective. Try not to only consider what they think, but also why they think that way. Their point of view may be so different from yours that it’s hard to see where they’re coming from, but do your best to put yourself in their shoes. Your differing points of view don’t have to weaken your relationship; they can actually bring the two of you closer together as long as you both keep an open mind.
Keep It Judgment-Free
Never judge your partner for their choice to drink. After all, you wouldn’t want them to judge you for choosing not to. Just because you have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol does not mean that your partner does either. In addition, do not try to force sobriety onto your partner unless you truly believe they may have a problem with substance abuse. If you feel the need to change your partner because you want to be with someone who is sober, this may not be the right relationship for you.
That being said, you should try to help your partner if they do abuse alcohol or other substances and are open to your help. You can provide insight into your own recovery and encourage them to look into various treatment options to find the best one for them. For instance, a population health based treatment strategy that considers their entire lifestyle and environment may work better than treatment that only addresses the consequences of their addiction. Recovery is an intense and personal journey, so do not be surprised or discouraged if they choose a path that differs from yours.
Be careful in how you choose to address the issue if you truly believe your partner has a problem. Consult a professional, such as a substance abuse nurse or counselor, for guidance. They are trained to handle all phases of care, from prevention to recovery, and can help you figure out the best way to help your partner. Remember, you should only consider doing this if you think your partner actually has a problem and because you want to help them — not because you want to change them.
Any romance will have its ups and downs. Just because your partner drinks does not mean that your relationship will be inherently more difficult. You may have an additional obstacle to overcome or work a little harder to make sure you both are on the same page, but sobriety does not have to define your love life. You can still have a happy, fulfilling relationship even if you are sober and your partner is not.
Madison Ann Baker is a writer, Netflix-binger, and pop culture enthusiast who lives in Idaho. Literature and linguistics are her two passions, both of which she studied in college. She enjoys writing about animals and health and wellness, but dabbles in a little bit of everything. In her free time, she enjoys hiking with her Borador, Dash, and re-reading Harry Potter. For more info visit her on Contently.