Why Are Relationships in Recovery a Bad Idea?

Overhead of couple in bed

People in alcohol or drug rehabs often hear the same thing: When they’re in the early stages of recovery, it’s not a good idea to pursue romantic relationships. But why? What makes relationships in recovery such a bad idea?

As it turns out, the reasons why relationships are discouraged during recovery are quite compelling. And they may not be the reasons that you would’ve guessed.

A Time for Self-Centeredness

If there were ever a time to be selfish and self-centered, it would be early recovery.

In early recovery, you’re still getting re-acclimated to your sobriety, experiencing the full extent of your emotions, and trying to figure out the next steps to take. The problem with pursuing relationships at this time is that the relationship will end up taking more and more of your time and focus. In other words, a romantic relationship will pull your focus from the things that you should actually be focused on while you’re still so new to sobriety.

Even if you could pursue a romantic relationship without sacrificing the effort you’ve been putting toward your recovery, it’s still not a good idea. After all, this would require you to stretch yourself extremely thin, putting additional stress on you that, in all likelihood, could even culminate in a relapse.

The Stress of Romantic Discourse

Relationships In RecoveryTo be clear, we’re not saying that having a disagreement with your significant other is a valid excuse for alcohol or drug abuse. However, those in recovery, especially the earlier stages of recovery, are still getting used to sobriety and trying to steer clear of situations that might lead to relapse. And the reality of the situation is that an argument with a significant other can be a major source of stress, which, in turn, can become a relapse trigger.

The best way to prevent romantic discourse from potentially triggering a relapse is to just avoid romantic relationships during the early stages of recovery.

A Substitution for Your Addiction

Couple Partying

When a person develops an addiction, the brain changes — both chemically and structurally — in a number of ways that have significant effects on psychology. People who have developed the disease of addiction think differently, especially after being in the throes of addiction for a long period of time. Once they have gone through treatment and gotten sober, the brain begins to normalize, but many of those neurological changes remain. As a result, a phenomenon called substitution can take place.

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Just as it sounds, substitution is when one addiction is substituted for another. So ultimately, while you may have overcome one form of drug addiction, substituting one addiction for another means you’ve basically ended up back where you started.

But what does this have to do with romantic relationships? Well, from what scientists have found by studying human behavior and neurology, romantic relationships affect the brain in virtually the exact same way as alcohol and drugs. This means it’s very easy to unintentionally substitute a substance-based addiction with an addiction to sex or romance because it all affects the same parts of the brain. For this reason, it’s also safer to avoid romance during early recovery.

A Distraction From What’s Most Important

Why Are Relationships in Recovery a Bad Idea?

Sure, we all enjoy companionship, but the pursuit of a romantic partner should never be more important than one’s own health and self-preservation. The prospect of dating may seem relatively innocuous, but the amount of time you spend dating and building a relationship with someone is basically time that you could be — but aren’t — spending on recovery.

As we bring this post to a close, we want to clarify something: If you or your loved one is already in a relationship, then this doesn’t mean you need to get a divorce or break it off with your significant other. In other words, if you already have a long-term relationship by the time you have completed a substance abuse treatment program, then there’s no need to isolate yourself. Because compared to a new relationship, established relationships don’t require as much time, effort, and attention, largely because the courting phase is in the past.

If you’d like to learn more about substance abuse, treatment for addiction, or how to build healthy relationships while in recovery, then you’ve come to the right place. Discover Recovery Treatment Center is a holistic addiction treatment facility that is founded on innovation, passion, and integrity. So if you or someone you know is in need of addiction treatment, Washington’s top option is Discover Recovery.

Don’t wait — contact us today.

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