It’s not unusual for my boyfriend to come home after work and have a beer or two. For me, the idea of this will always be just that: an idea. Because I’ve been sober for four years, having a drink when I get home from work isn’t something that is part of my routine.
At the beginning of my sobriety, I couldn’t have imagined dating someone who was a casual drinker, but my boyfriend and I have been together three years now and have only had minimal conflicts when it comes to alcohol. For the most part, we make it work.
Here are a few tips for dating someone who drinks when you are in recovery.
1. Communicate with one another.
Of course, this is helpful in any relationship, but I’ve found that it’s especially important when one person drinks and the other does not. No matter how well you may know one another, it’s not possible to read another person’s mind. Because of this, I find that I need to tell my boyfriend when I’m feeling on edge and not wanting to be around alcohol. On the other hand, I let him know when I’m OK with going out and being around people who drink. Keeping the lines of communication open is vital for someone in recovery.
2. Try to understand each other’s side of things.
As someone who has never had a problem with alcohol, my boyfriend sometimes struggles to fully grasp what being sober is like. On the other side, I have a hard time understanding what it’s like to be someone who can have a healthy relationship with alcohol. We know that neither of us will ever fully understand the other’s side, but that doesn’t keep us from trying. There are times when we need to sit down and have a solid conversation about what the other is feeling and thinking and try to express what our own experiences are like when it comes to alcohol.
If we’re going somewhere where there will be drinking, my boyfriend is great about asking me if I need him to pick up non-alcoholic beer, pop, or carbonated water. He knows I feel more comfortable around people who are drinking as long as I have something tasty to drink as well. This isn’t ever something I specifically told him, but rather something he picked up on his own. On some level, he realizes that being around drinking can make me feel excluded, and he does what he needs to for that not to be the case.
4. Be OK with doing your own thing sometimes.
There are times when I’m just not up for going out and being around drinking, but I know my boyfriend would like to. On those occasions, I just tell him to go without me. Though we enjoy spending time together, it’s still important for us to be our own people. If he wants to go out with his buddies and drink, I’m good with that. I remind him to be safe and to call me if he needs a ride. I think being OK with this situation is vital in relationships where one person is sober and the other is not. The sober person’s life choices should be respected and understood, but at the same time they shouldn’t dictate the other person’s social life. It’s about balance.
5. Try to learn from past experiences.
Though for the most part my boyfriend and I do well when it comes to each of our relationships with alcohol, there have been times when we have had arguments over it. My relationship with alcohol doesn’t always make sense to him and vice versa. I’ve gotten upset at times when he has gotten too drunk, and he’s gotten upset when I’d prefer to spend another night at home rather than go out. Though there is still sometimes conflict over these instances, we’ve learned from our past mistakes. On the rare occasion he gets drunk, I now realize it has nothing to do with me. He’s not trying to rub my sobriety in my face or make my life harder. Chances are he just got a little carried away, like most people who drink do from time to time. The discussions around alcohol are like any other aspect of a relationship in that it’s important learn from the past and move forward.
There’s no instruction manual when it comes to being sober and having a relationship with someone who still drinks. The reality is that the dynamic in such a situation will be different for everyone. You just have to take it as it comes and be patient in the learning process. The key to having a successful relationship is being open, upfront and honest.
About the Author
Beth is a Minnesota girl who got sober at age 20. In her day-to-day life, she works as a reporter at the local newspaper. Her passions are writing about recovery at Lifetobecontinued.com, doing graphic design, and spending time with her boyfriend and three dogs. She hopes her writing can bring clarity to other young people struggling with addiction and let them know they are far from alone.