This is the question that inevitably arises once someone in recovery feels they are ready to begin dating or even start a serious relationship with someone. It may seem like dating another person in recovery would be the best choice. The two of you could go to meeting together, talk about common issues, and have the same circle of sober friends. While this kind of relationship does work out well for some, it’s not always the best choice.
Dating someone outside of recovery has its benefits as well. Because being with another alcoholic can be intense and challenging, many find that dating someone who drinks normally to be refreshing. Sometimes the personality of a normie, or someone who drinks but is not an alcoholic, can balance out the more impulsive, unpredictable personality of an alcoholic. If you do find yourself attracted to a sober person, it’s a good idea to be aware of the both the pros and cons and be honest with them about a few things before it gets too serious.
1. Start out by being honest.
Once a person finds out that you don’t drink, their first question is inevitably whether or not they can drink in front of you. Start out a relationship by being upfront about how you feel around people drinking. If it bothers you, say so. Be clear about what situations make you feel uncomfortable and which ones don’t. If you don’t mind your partner drinking, let them know it’s ok. People have some very different reactions to this topic. Some will take your word and drink normally when you’re together, while others will still feel uncomfortable and continue to ask if it’s ok, or they won’t drink in your presence at all. Decide if your partner’s reaction is appropriate for your recovery.
2. Don’t try to control their behavior.
This almost always is a recipe for trouble. If your partner enjoys a drink from time to time there’s nothing wrong with that. You should be able to let them continue to enjoy themselves, even if it means letting them go out to a bar with friends occasionally or having a beer with a meal. Not everyone is an alcoholic.
3. Make sure there are alternatives.
In certain social situations, like at parties or bars, it can be especially hard to be the sober person. Let your partner know what kinds of beverages you like to have in those situations so you don’t feel so much like an outsider. Just having a soda, energy drink, or sparkling water can make those situations much more enjoyable.
4. Let them know you still want to be included.
Many people assume that if an event or other social situation involves drinking, then you don’t want to go. Let your partner know that you still want to be invited and that leaving you out actually is very hurtful.
5. Make sure they respect you.
If you feel your partner isn’t respecting your choices or feelings about alcohol, then it’s time to move on. If the person you’re dating pressures you to drink, mocks your sobriety, or doesn’t even try to understand your feelings, then they’re wrong for you.
6. Tell them your story.
If you met a partner when you were already sober, then they likely can’t fully grasp why you made the choice. Tell them about your past, the kind of person you were when you drank, and why sobriety is so important to you. This will further build respect and understanding between the two of you.