There’s a recipe for a healthy relationship that tends to infuriate people in early recovery: “Friendship, courtship, relationship.” This adage advises us not only to go slow but more importantly, to build a solid foundation upon which to relate to one another.
It’s very hard and very draining to be a true friend to someone when we’re busy being our own worst enemy. The foundational aspects of healthy relationships are first and foremost how we relate to ourselves. Secondly, we should be looking for and investing in relationships that support our recovery.
We need to relate well to those who hold us accountable and advise us. Whether these are peers, coaches, counselors or sponsors, we need to be able to accept outside input with grace.
If we find that we struggle to form new friendships, then we must identify the barriers. Perhaps we are socially anxious or deeply insecure. While these discoveries can be discouraging, they are common and are best viewed as opportunities to heal and become more of the person and ultimately, the partner that we wish to be.
Developing friendships naturally expands our support system. It’s often best for us to have both natural and professional supports in early recovery. As we gain stability, security, and health, we may wish to move forward without professionals in our lives. The more natural supports we have, the more readily we complete this transition.
If we are able to establish friendships then we may find that we are attracted to those we have already invested time and energy into knowing. This is a far better foundation to build upon than simply rushing into a dating exchange because we already have a sense of who the person is and they have come to know us in a way that isn’t pressured with expectations.
We urge folks to be open and honest and to simply ask for what they want. If you request that a friend consider changing your relationship to dating, we recommend doing so without expectation. We tend to be very susceptible to feelings of rejection when someone is not interested. Maintaining the friendship can be awkward after the request but it is eminently possible.
If they are interested, start in a public place. This removes the pitfall of simply jumping into sex. Be romantic and attentive. The transition is likely to be uncomfortable at first. New things always are.