Dating Made Easy in Recovery

Let’s face it…dating isn’t easy.  Updating your profile, returning emails, setting up dates, going on dates, and not getting a return call and so forth.  Well, let’s imagine being in recovery for sex or love addiction and entering the dating world.  Even harder.  It’s like being a recovering alcoholic and having a drink poured in front of you repeatedly.  So what does one do when he or she is single, has been in recovery for a year and desires to date?  Many of my clients have been faced with this question after living with a strong recovery plan.  I believe that it’s very important to be a part of the world, get out there and date.

I remember reading various books when I was child, like… Pride and Prejudice and Little Women.  These books mentioned having certain proper editicates of courting or dating someone.  These silent fopas no longer exist.  We broke many of these habits of the past when feminism entered the scene in the 1960s and maybe even prior to then.  Though, there are many behaviors that I’m glad to be rid of, I think there was reason put behind some of these social graces from the past.  Courting guidelines may have been restrictive in nature; however, these guidelines allowed many of us to get to know one another, reduce impulsive behavior and allow family members and the courtor develop a relationship with one another.  It was used as a time of evaluation, familiarizing one self and to pace the relationship.

I believe presently, many individuals don’t know how to date.  Dating has changed so much over the years as individuals work more and we’re all on the move.  We are a product of a communication system that is heavily influenced by technology and various forms of communication.  We have come a long way from having a family member set us up on a date or meeting someone in church or school.  Individuals are dating by meeting folks on the Internet, taking risks with meeting a stranger.

Dating has become another job or hobby.  Checking your email daily, updating your profile, setting up dates, scheduling, paying for the dates and having to sit through exciting, energy provoking dates (hopefully) and evenings where you’d rather be at home watching your favorite television series.  Some are determined to locate the man or woman of their dreams, and others who don’t want to work that hard.

Imagine being a sex or love addict and reentering the dating world.  Let’s imagine you’ve been sober from your addictive behaviors for a year or so and now you wish to no longer live like a hermit, but scared to death to act out in behaviors that no longer serve you.  Where hobbies can easily become habits and habits into addictions.  Subjects like dating and healthy sex are foreign.

Let’s assume you already have a clear idea what your addictive behaviors are or as they say in Sex & Love Addict Anonymous, your bottom lines.  These are behaviors that you are clear that triggering your addictive behavior (e.g., causal sex, cursing internet sites and etc.).  And you can’t be a hermit.  You have to live your life.

It’s just as important to identify healthy non-addictive behaviors to participate in as listing your addictive behaviors.  We can’t just have a list of don’ts and not have a list of dos.  We set ourselves up for failure that way.

That’s why I believe that it’s essential to create a dating plan with your sponsor or therapist.  It’s important not to do it alone, because your own best thinking can lead you back down the road of addiction.

Creating a plan for any situation can be a liberating tool.  If you know your parameters this will allow for freedom.  It’s like putting a fence around a play ground, you’re free to play within a safe space, versus having no fence and playing in areas where you could easy hurt yourself or be hurt by another.   Check out San Diego SLAA’s Dating Plan:

SLAA Dating Plan Worksheet

Dating Plan

Characteristics I choose in a date:

  1. Like what I need to stay safe
  2. Define what I mean by “available”
  3. Define what being sexual is to me
  4. List what I want in a partner
  5. What was I originally attracted to
  6. What totally turned me off


  1. First ____ dates he/she does not come to my house.
  2. Minimum notice of at least ____ days before a date.
  3. No French kissing on the first ____ dates.
  4. No long lasting French kissing on the first ____ dates.
  5. Date must start and stop on time.
  6. No phone calls longer than ____ minutes in length.
  7. No more than ____ phone calls a week.
  8. No phone calls/chats that interfere with ___________________________________
  9. No breaking a prior commitment to accept a date.
  10. No light petting for ____ weeks/months.
  11. No heavy petting for ____ weeks/months.
  12. No revealing past history until the ____ date.
  13. No more than ____ dates a week for the first ____ weeks/months.
  14. Meeting for coffee at a restaurant is not a date.
  15. Never sex within the first ____ weeks/months.
  16. Never sex without:
    1. AIDS test
    2. Commitment of exclusivity
    3. Discussion about STDs
    4. Pregnancy protection

Bottom Line Behaviors


  1. Activities that I either must do, or be sure to avoid, in order to stay out of my addictive pattern.
  2. Non-negotiable boundaries I set for my own behaviors to achieve and maintain my serenity.

Addictive Cycle or Pattern

  1. Repeated behaviors that recur from one relationship to the next that create disharmony, keep me trapped, stuck, unhappy or unhealthy. Usually there are hints or red flags that I am in an addictive pattern. For example:
  2. Thinking that every person I date has the same defects.
  3. Thinking that every date is a potential spouse.
  4. Rushing relationships to keep them exciting.
  5. Acting outside my values to keep a relationship going.
  6. Needing to be in a relationship all the time, rainchecking, setting up a new relationship without closure on the one I am currently in, etc.

Discovering Your Addictive Cycle

  1. How do you usually begin a new relationship? Make a list of your past several relationships and how you got involved.
  2. What are the signs things are not going well?
  3. What red flags do you tend to ignore or rationalize?
  4. What makes you stay in an unhappy relationship?
  5. What were the perks and payoffs in previous relationships?
  6. How have your last several relationships ended?

Elana Clark-Faler
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