Most single recovering sex addicts find, after a year or so of solid sexual recovery, that they are ready to think about healthy romance. If so, they should develop a workable plan for dating before they begin the process.
As with sexual sobriety plans (i.e., circle plans), dating plans can help addicts understand their goals
and define their healthy boundaries. Once a written plan for healthy dating is in place, they are much less likely to encounter problems (especially problems that might eventually lead to a slip or relapse) in the dating world.
Most recovering sex addicts find the simple “traffic signals dating plan” suggested below to be quite
helpful. Red lights are characteristics that are unacceptable in anyone the addict might date. Yellow lights are characteristics that should cause the addict to proceed with caution. Green lights, obviously, are traits the addict finds healthy and desirable in another person.
Each recovering sex addict’s dating plan should begin with a list of goals. Addicts should write down three to five goals that they have for dating and future relationships.
Example: I want to be in a monogamous relationship, and to eventually get married.
Next, keeping the listed goals in mind at all times, addicts should list red, yellow, and green light characteristics of people they might consider dating.
As stated, red lights are characteristics that are unacceptable in anyone that the addict might date. If a person displays even one of these traits, the addict should immediately stop dating that person.
Example: I will not date anyone who is already in a long-term romantic relationship.
Yellow lights are characteristics that should cause the addict to exercise caution in a particular relationship.
Example: I will be cautious about a person who is habitually late, especially if that person doesn’t call to inform me and apologize.
Green lights are characteristics that the addict finds desirable in a person they might date.
Example: I will happily date a person who has lots of different interests, some of which are shared by me.
Again, an addict’s goals for dating should always be kept in mind. Any red, yellow, or green light characteristics that do not align with the addict’s goals should be reconsidered.
Addicts must also recognize that they are not always honest with themselves. At times, they will twist the truth or ignore what they know to be healthy (or unhealthy) so they can do what they want in the moment. For this reason, it is vital that recovering sex addicts not date without keeping their support network (therapist, sponsor, friends in recovery, etc.) in the loop, continually asking for feedback and accepting advice when given.
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If you or someone you care about is struggling with sex, porn, or substance/sex addiction, help is available. Seeking Integrity offers inpatient treatment for sex, porn, and substance/sex addicts, as well as low-cost online workgroups. At the same time, SexandRelationshipHealing.com offers a variety of free webinars and drop-in discussion groups, podcasts, and more.