Starting treatment for opioid dependence (a.k.a. medication-assisted treatment, or MAT) is a personal journey, but you shouldn’t have to go through it alone. While your sole focus is probably on getting better, forming healthy relationships is a valuable part of the process. But are you ready to handle the ups and downs of dating?
While romance can be tricky for anyone, dating while undergoing treatment for opioid use disorder (OUD) comes with countless challenges that can leave you feeling vulnerable and exposed to judgment. If you’re interested in or currently entering a romantic relationship, you should understand the obstacles that you and your partner will face. Being prepared helps you gauge your readiness, monitor your treatment, and take steps towards maintaining a healthy relationship.
What are the challenges of dating while managing opioid addiction?
Disclosure and honesty
It’s hard for anyone to admit their vulnerabilities, but honesty is crucial in both a relationship and treatment for OUD. You might be afraid of scaring off a potential new partner, but think of it this way—you don’t want to start a relationship with someone who would judge your journey or who cannot support you while managing their own problems.
Starting treatment alone is a massive step towards getting your life back in order. Many patients put their full focus into recovery with MAT, leaving little time and emotional energy for meeting new people. You might feel extra vulnerable making connections for the first time in a while, and the fear that it won’t work out could start to affect your ability to get close to others.
On the opposite side of the coin, some people going through treatment might jump into relationships quickly and move too fast to avoid loneliness. This can be a common fear for people whose past relationships and social activities were based on drug use. Just be mindful and take it slow. The last thing you want to do is replace your opioid dependency with codependency. This intense emotional reliance on another person can take the place of healthy coping mechanisms, detract from your personal growth, and leave you measuring your worth through someone else’s approval.
Dating for people who are in treatment for OUD can be a major test of sobriety. From parties and concerts to dinner dates and bar meetups, it’s hard to avoid exposure to drugs and alcohol, and turning activities down might make you feel bummed out. Don’t beat yourself up. Your progress is critical, so your partner should understand and be willing to find a compromise.
When you enter a new relationship with someone you truly click with, you want to be with them as much as possible. It’s perfectly fine to make more room in your schedule for somebody special, but it should never interfere with treatment. Keep attending your scheduled treatment appointments as you date and do not overlook your commitment to maintaining sobriety.
Can Suboxone® affect my sex life?
Suboxone® is a valuable and potentially life saving medication used to treat opioid use disorder. This treatment helps reduce cravings and decrease the severity of withdrawal symptoms, and like any medication, there are possible side effects. However, its potential impact on a patient’s sex life is rarely discussed, likely due to embarrassment or shame. It’s important to note how dating someone on Suboxone can affect sex.
Sexual side effects may include: decreased sex drive, reduced satisfaction from sex, erectile dysfunction, orgasmic dysfunction, premature ejaculation, low testosterone, abnormal periods, and infertility.
Sexual dysfunction can have a serious impact on a person’s relationships, confidence, and mental health. The good news is that help is within reach. Discuss your symptoms with your MAT care team and see if they have any recommendations for improving sexual function. You may be advised to talk to your primary care provider about medication or hormone therapy, and psychotherapy can also help address these challenges and teach you skills to create more intimacy in the relationship.
Your personal and sexual satisfaction is important. With the right support, there is no need to choose between Suboxone and sex drive.
How can I open up to my partner about addiction and recovery?
You know that honesty is essential, but when it comes to discussing painful experiences with OUD? Easier said than done. There is no perfect time to disclose your substance use and treatment, but you don’t want to wait too far into your relationship. First, talk to family and friends who are in the know, as well as your care team and therapist, if you meet with one. A strong support system can help you organize your thoughts and feelings, so you can be clearer and more truthful with your partner.
Be ready for questions that’ll make you uncomfortable. Stigmas, stereotypes, and myths about substance use are still rampant in popular culture, so it can take some time for someone without experience to understand. Try to keep an open mind, educate them when necessary, and give them time to reflect. This is likely going to be a very emotional conversation for both of you.
Understand that these types of conversations might lead to rejection. While hurtful, it’s best to move on. Everyone has boundaries. Keep looking for the partner who will accept and support you through your journey.