Health & Wellness Relationships

Sobriety and Romance: When is it Ok to Start a Relationship?

A question that invariably arises among people who are just getting sober is “When can I get into a relationship?” Read More


A question that invariably arises among people who are just getting sober is “When can I get into a relationship?” It is a question that comes out of the mouth of just about every newly sober person that walks through the doors of treatment centers and 12 Step meetings throughout the world and it is easy to see why.

First, every person has a fundamental human need to have relationships with others, and second, being left without their traditional coping mechanisms for dealing with life, drugs and alcohol, many newly sober people want to seek out relationships in order to deal with the discomfort of being sober. While the latter isn’t inherently bad, it can cause issues for people who are just getting sober if they are not yet ready to be in a relationship or not yet ready to deal with the pain of the possible ending of their relationship. But with all that said, in regards to the question of when can you get into a relationship in sobriety, the answer is… it really depends.

There is no clear-cut answer to this question. It isn’t just a matter of saying wait an arbitrary amount of time, like a year, and then poof you’ll be magically ready to have a relationship. In fact even though a lot of the time you will hear in recovery that you should wait a year until you get into a relationship with someone, rationally speaking, this doesn’t really make sense. A person that is not ready to get into a relationship at 11 months, will more then likely not be ready to be in one at 12 months. While the difference a month can make can be drastic, just simply saying wait a certain amount of time isn’t really a good barometer for when you should get into a relationship.

The reason I say this is because time does not really get us ready for the things we face. Time does not mean that you are now in a position to deal with some of the more complicated things in life, like building romantic relationships. It just simply means that for a certain period, you haven’t drank or used drugs and while this is an amazing feat, it really has nothing to do with being in a relationship.

In fact, I would go out on a limb and say that there really isn’t a great way to measure when you should get into a relationship besides what was initially told to me when I was getting sober, and even that leaves a lot to be desired. It was told to me that I should wait until I finished my 5th Step before I got into a relationship and I remember at the time it made sense to me. I was told the reason for this was because until I did a 5th Step, I wouldn’t really understand the nature of the problem that plagued me for some many years. I wouldn’t understand how I had been selfish and dishonest in relationships in the past and because of this, I would be doomed to repeat the same mistakes. I took this to heart and so I waited, but even after finishing my 5th Step I didn’t really feel ready to be in relationship with someone else.I had like 5 months sober and I was still off my rocker, so I decided to wait until I felt ready.

The good news is that when I did finally get into a relationship, when I had around 9 months sober, I knew that I was ready. I knew that I had waited long enough and it felt right. It didn’t feel like I was forcing anything and I was actually interested in the person. I didn’t feel like I only wanted to be with her because I couldn’t be alone and I didn’t feel like it was a bad decision.

This brings me to the portion of this writing where I will actually give some advice on the topic of sobriety and romance, and that is, listen to what your conscience is telling you. That is how you’ll know that you are ready to be in relationship. Don’t get me wrong, there may still be some confusion on the matter, but if you feel like you are not hurting anyone and it truly feels right, then give it a shot and see what happens.

I think a lot of the time we get this idea in our head that we can’t trust our own thinking. While this is true to a certain extent, and talking to others is always important, most of us really know the difference between something that is good for us and something that is bad for us, the problem is that we often times choose not to listen to this voice. We choose to move forward with bad decisions because we want what we want, when we want it, but with sobriety and romance, if you just listen to the dictates of your conscience you will more than likely be alright.

If you believe that you will be able to not completely lose yourself in an unhealthy way in your new relationship then you should be fine, as long as you continue to do the things you need to do for sobriety. Just keep it simple because sobriety and romance do not need to be complicated. They do not need to be incompatible and relationships do not need to be something to be feared.

You don’t need to wait until you are “whole” before you get into a relationship with another person because if this was the case you’d be waiting your entire life, and you don’t need to be anything besides in a good place yourself and ready to try to share your life with another human being. So while we often time give a lot of reverence to sobriety and romance because of their ability to cause relapses, if you just follow what you know to be right, you will be able to navigate anything in life.