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Successfully Dating a Person with an Addiction

5 “green” flags to look for if you want the relationship to work.

Photo by Logan Weaver on Unsplash
Source: Photo by Logan Weaver on Unsplash

Key signs that an individual is in recovery and is open to a relationship.

  • The person is open to speaking about the addiction.
  • You sense a desire for connection.
  • They adhere to a routine and their life reflects a health focus on eating and resting.
  • They take responsibility for past actions.
  • The person prioritizes a relationship over the addiction.

If you’re dating someone with an addiction of any kind, it would behoove you to know what “green” flags to look for. "Green" meaning signs that point to a potential fruitful, healthy, and engaging relationship as opposed to one involving secrecy, lies, and cover-ups.

As a psychotherapist specializing in trauma and addiction, here are five important “green” signs to look for:

1. Acknowledges the addiction. If you suspect someone is struggling with an addiction, chances are you’re right. If they get defensive and demand they have the right to their drug of choice, then you’re headed towards a relationship rife with problems. However, if the person is forthcoming and acknowledges the addiction early in the relationship, or is actively in recovery or open to it, then this can bode well for the relationship.

2. Emotional connectedness. When a person is in recovery, their desire is for connection as opposed to distancing themselves from you even more. The opposite of connection is when you get a sense your partner is “not present” with you or other friends or family members. This one may be hard to discern because people struggling with addiction may have learned how to hide it. But once again based on intuition, you may feel something is amiss in the relationship as your desires to spend time together, enjoy activities, or draw emotionally closer may be rebuffed.

3. Physical stability. People in the midst of addiction will lose sleep, forego hunger pangs and do whatever it takes to get their addiction met. In short, these people will most likely have physiological changes due to not getting enough sleep, rest, or food. But people in recovery will try and maintain some semblance of routine and consistency in their physical realm knowing the physical impacts of the emotional/spiritual components of recovery.

4. Cognitive distortions. People in healthy recovery take accountability for their past actions and can tell you how they have been in denial and how they have blamed others and groomed others to dismiss their problematic behaviors. However, people who you may want to stay away from are those who bombard you with an endless litany of excuses, rationalizations, and project their problems onto you. They may even blame you for your concerns.

5. Prioritizing the relationship over the addiction. Healthy men and women in recovery will prioritize their relationship over their addiction. In other words, they are not only getting help but they are striving to improve their relationships by finding ways to continually grow in how they relate, listen, and accept feedback from their partners. In contrast, people to potentially avoid are those who want to both maintain their romantic relationships while also staying in a relationship with their addiction. These people may want to keep their partners but in the end, their actions demonstrate the need for their addiction above all else.

The reality from my counseling perspective is that many people don’t know they have an addiction until their partners have the courage and conviction to confront them and draw healthy boundaries. When partners communicate unequivocally that the addiction is not acceptable and if the person shows remorse, contrition, and demonstrative behavioral changes (i.e. starting therapy, reading books, breaking denial, etc.), then these are “green” flags that the potential for a healthy future exists.


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