Why are New Relationships Discouraged for the First Year in Recovery?

Relationships in early recovery can be riddled with difficulties. If we’re already in a committed relationship when we begin our recovery, we often find trust and forgiveness to be particularly challenging. A healthy relationship requires honesty, compromise, and work. When addiction is part of the equation, the difficulties increase exponentially – but with effort and commitment on the part of both partners, an established relationship can survive.

However, newcomers to recovery who are not in a committed relationship are strongly discouraged from dating or undertaking a new relationship for at least a year. There are three key reasons for this:

  1. In early sobriety, it’s extremely important that we focus all our attention on our recovery. Beginning a new relationship so soon after getting sober can jeopardize our emotional stability. Even the euphoria of a new romance can lead us to relapse, just as a let-down can.
  2. In early sobriety, we’re just getting to know ourselves; the first year is a time of intense discovery. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to know how to choose a “normal” partner when we’re just finding out what that means ourselves. By learning to enjoy the stability of our own company, we slowly prepare ourselves to be part of a couple. We first need to learn how to give and receive love in healthy ways.
  3. You might think dating other people in recovery is acceptable, since, presumably, you can better understand each other. But even these relationships are strongly discouraged for the first year, for the same reasons listed above. If one partner were to relapse, the other might relapse as well – even if your partner has been sober for a long time. In addition, experienced members of a 12-step group are duty-bound to avoid romantic relationships with newcomers – a frowned-upon behavior known as “13th-stepping.”

Remember that time takes time, and there’s no guarantee you’ll suddenly become ready for a relationship just because the calendar has turned. Recovery requires honesty, open-mindedness, and willingness, and this is no less true for two people than it is for one. Whether one or both partners are in recovery, they must work equally at the relationship. Either way, it’s crucial that you stay sober, at all costs. Sobriety and recovery are not just the basis for a healthy relationship; they’re essential to your own well-being.

The Lakehouse Treatment Center understands the worlds of active addiction and active recovery. Years of comprehensive experience have helped us build a unique program focused on changing lives and rebuilding families. From detox to sober living, The Lakehouse program focuses on learning how to live and have fun again- a treatment experience like no other. Call us anytime: 877.762.3707


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