Dating in recovery is a topic that needs to be addressed. After all, relationships can bring the best and worst out of people. We all need relationships to thrive and I’d argue survive. So, learning to have Godly, healthy relationships is a worthy endeavor.
I can almost guarantee the roots behind any addiction stem back to some dysfunctional relationship, trauma, and/or abuse. Relationships are that powerful. When trust is broken, some type of damage is done.
My next statement comes only from personal experience and from years of working with broken women. Until we are able to face our pasts (however painful) and learn to reconcile, heal, forgive the unforgivable, and replace lies with truth, we will not have healthy relationships.
It’s the hard work that no one wants to do. However, as one who has done it, I can say it’s the most worthwhile work I’ve ever done.
I’m in a relationship currently and we are doing it more differently than I’ve ever done. For that reason, I wanted to share what I’ve learned…
How Not to Date in Faith Recovery
The only reason I used the word dating in the title is that it’s such a widely understood term. However, I don’t really believe in dating. Why? Because I don’t think it’s God’s design.
Here is, In My Humble Opinion (IMHO), a healthy relationship progression:
As you may notice there is no dating in that progression. The relationship simply matures onto the next phase (or not). Additionally, some phases have more twists and turns before progression occurs. Lastly, as one progresses, each phase grows in importance.
Acquaintance to Friendship
This where you meet someone and if there are enough common interests, it can grow to be a friendship.
I have a good friend in recovery who advised me to create some important lists before I ever thought about wanting to meet a man.
The lists were to be comprised of my:
- Deal Breakers
- Preferred/very important characteristics
The first is the most obvious and those are items that are non-negotiable deal-breakers. I really only have two – he has to be a humble man of strong faith in Jesus Christ and he must support my sobriety.
The second list of items are not deal breakers but rather characteristics that are very important to me.
Finally, the want list is like a wish list and it can include things which would be lovely but not super important and certainly not deal-breakers.
Building a Strong Foundation
Any good carpenter will tell you that building a solid foundation is key to building a strong house.
Well, Jesus is the best carpenter I know he advises us to build a foundation on Him. That is what we as believers are called to do both individually and relationally.
Any good relationship begins with friendship. Furthermore, I discovered if I allowed the emotions to flood in too soon, my perceptions could be skewed. Proverbs 24:3 says Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
That being said, friendship is the best way to just get to know one another while protecting our hearts.
Also, the romance stuff is easy but friendship takes work, intention, and time. Let it marinate!!! The other stuff will eventually come if it’s from the Lord.
Friendship to Courtship
Courtship may be considered an old-fashioned term but I don’t care. I LOVE it. Courtship essentially means, dating with the intention of marriage.
It’s the phase where a couple will start to ask each other some tough questions. Here are some topics to address:
I actually received counsel from a pastor and other sisters in Christ while we were still in the friendship phase. From there I formulated some questions to ask. Furthermore, I requested the questions to be answered in the written form. I took the time to also answer the same questions as well as other ones he asked of me.
It’s wise to seek outside counsel from pastors during the courting phase.
A lot of prayer needs to go into this phase as the couple seeks the Father’s heart on the matter.
I’m now in the courting phase of my relationship and am blessed beyond words. We did ask each other a lot of the tough questions in the friendship phase. I had some walls up and needed to dig deep even as friends.
However, with patience, prayer, guidance, and lots of lengthy discussions over hikes, we proceeded to the phase of courtship. My guy even asked my parents if he could receive my parents’ blessing to court me (blushing).
Courtship to Engagement
Once a couple is considering moving onto engagement, it’s wise to seek more pastoral guidance. Why? Because emotions are now involved and can cloud one’s perspectives.
The bible says there is wisdom in the counsel of many.
While we are in our courtship we are reading two books currently per the counsel of others:
Here are some other books that were recommended too:
We want to keep building a solid foundation for our relationship and eventual marriage. Moreover, we want to build our marriage the way God has designed it to be. Earthly marriage should be a reflection of his relationship with us (Christ and his bride, the church).
If the Lord, the counsel of pastors, and the couple are all discerning to proceed then it’s time to go onto engagement!
Engagement to Marriage
We are trying to do things God’s way which means, holding off on sexual intimacy until marriage. That being said, we so no reason for a long engagement.
Plus, if a couple has done all the necessary work up until this point, the only reason to wait is if your venue or plans require more preparation time.
We’ve both had failed relationships and marriages in our past. We’ve done and are doing the work of recovery. Moreover, we continually surrender to Jesus on a daily basis.
We are both at places where we feel that we have a lot of love to give another person.
It’s our heart’s desire to be used in ministry in helping the broken. We are very excited to see where God will take us in all of this.
Relationships take work and if one is willing to be patient while progressing through each phase, it allows for a strong foundation.
What have you learned in recovery about relationships?