If you’ve read some of our articles here on Smart Dating Over 60, you’ll see we’re usually not talking about dating for its own sake, but about dating with a purpose. Traditionally, the main purpose of dating is to evaluate potential partners for a secure, meaningful, and long-term relationship.
Of course, there are other reasons for dating. Some people only want companionship, dinner partners, entertainment, or even fleeting hookups. And dating for its own sake is certainly a way to learn and grow, especially as youngsters in school, or after a breakup or divorce.
Yet when your dating goal is to find a life partner, dating is as much a process of discovery about yourself as it is about the other person. To attract the right partner, you’ve got to fully know who you are, so you can differentiate yourself from the crowd.
As Daisy says in this article about getting to know yourself,
“The more specifically you can speak to people about yourself, and write about yourself in your online dating profiles, the more likely you’ll connect with a kindred spirit.”
There’s a line in Alcoholics Anonymous 12 Steps and 12 Traditions that has to do with self-evaluation in step four. It says,
“The primary fact that we fail to recognize is our total inability to form a true partnership with another human being.”
When I first read that line, newly in recovery, I was taken aback. After all, I believed I just had a little drinking problem. I still had friends and family who talked to me. That didn’t strike me as a “total inability.”
Of course, I was wrong. As a recovering alcoholic, I can tell you that all my relationships prior to recovery were not true relationships. They were simply interactions.
All these “relationships” were governed by the coping and survival skills I learned growing up in an alcoholic home. This was my protection. If people couldn’t get close to me, they couldn’t hurt me.
It’s not possible to form a true partnership when people can’t get close. Introspection and work in AA showed me that I too had a total inability to form a true partnership.
In time, the work showed me how in recovery, I could indeed form a true partnership and have loving relationships with others.
5 Ways Addiction Sabotages Your Dating Success
Addiction has many ways of sabotaging relationships through harm done to others and to self. Here are at least five ways that happens.
1 – Secrecy and lies
There’s a lot of shame and guilt attached to addictive behavior. Acting in fear (of being found out, of being judged, of being forced to quit their addiction) active addicts cover their tracks about money, why they’re acting strangely, who they’re with, or what they’re doing.
Naturally this leads to problems with trust. You can’t have a good relationship when your partner is suspicious of everything you do.
2 – Anger and/or abuse
Many substances increase feelings of anger in the user, especially if they already have problems dealing with anger. They then tend to lash out emotionally and often physically.
3 – Addiction damages your children emotionally
Children of an addicted household learn their behaviors and life skills from dysfunctional, addictive behaviors of the parents.
A disease affects all those who have a relationship with the addict. These relationships are typically codependent. This means the non-addict focuses on the addict to control their addiction for them. In turn, the non-addict takes on guilt, shame, and blame that truly belong to the addict. That’s one form of codependency.
4 – Finances
There is a tendency to lose jobs because of the behaviors associated with addictions. Practicing addicts make terrible employees.
5 – High risk of illness, death, or arrest
Death, jails, and institutions—these are the inevitable outcomes to an un-checked addiction to alcohol or drugs. You hear this in AA all the time.
I’ve lost count of the number of people I’ve met who ended up in one or more of these situations.
That’s just a short overview of the downside to addictions. There is no upside, even in dating.
Yet it’s entirely possible, with introspective work, to overcome this dysfunctional behavior. I learned through experience it IS possible to form a true partnership with other human beings. It’s a marvelous thing to enjoy.
How Can I Tell I’m an Addict?
If you’re trying to master the dating scene in your search for a partner, you’ve probably done a bit of self-reflection, especially if you’ve got more than a few decades under your belt! Maybe you’ve even questioned whether you’re an addict.
There are many addictions, such as alcohol, drugs, gambling, food, sex, spending, love, and work. Yes, even love can be an addiction. While love is something we all want and need, a love addict is compelled to find “love” to make themselves feel worthy.
Most addicts know they have a problem, but not always. Sometimes it helps to get insight from others who have been in the same boat as you.
I put together this list of addiction resources that can help you answer the question, “Am I an addict?”
It’s a scary thought to finally face up to an addiction. But when you get to the other side you’ll wonder why you waited so long. There is nothing to fear about recovery.
Of course, you can also turn to licensed therapists, counselors, psychologists, and psychiatrists for help. In fact, I heartily encourage it. But most of the resources below are free, and it’s a start.
Resources for Addiction Recovery
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
From their website—SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.
Twelve Questions Only You Can Answer is a quick guide to whether you have a problem with alcohol.
Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA)
Not just for sex addicts, it’s also for love addicts and emotional anorexics, people who retreat from any kind of intimate involvement.
Has Your Life Been Affected by Someone Else’s Drinking is a self-quiz to see if you suffer from codependent behaviors. For families and friends of alcoholics.
Similar to Al-Anon, Gam-Anon helps you determine if someone’s gambling problem is affecting your life.
Do you think you’re a compulsive gambler? This 20-question self-assessment will provide insight.
Here’s the Gambler’s Anonymous homepage.
Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA)
For shopaholics, those who think they have a compulsion about spending, there is Spender’s Anonymous.
Debtors Anonymous (DA)
Related to spending and shopping addictions, Debtors Anonymous is for those who find themselves in debt due to self-destructive behavior with money.
Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOA)
If you grew up in an alcoholic or similarly dysfunctional home and continue to suffer relationship and self-esteem problems, ACOA can help.
There are at least two organizations available to help with food addictions.
Final Thoughts on Addiction and Dating
If you’ve been banging your head against the wall with relationships, and you think you’re an addict, take some time to work on it.
When you’re free of the bondage of addiction, you’re free to find true love and genuine, lasting relationships. That’s when your dating adventure really begins.
In the words of Socrates,
“My friend…care for your psyche…know thyself, for once we know ourselves, we may learn how to care for ourselves.”
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