Many men who are working to maintain sexual purity are single men. There’s a perception that the majority of men in recovery from sexual sin are married because they have more to lose. Not true. What is true is it is Every Man’s Battle!
For single men it is imperative that they work their recovery and have support or even a sponsor as they continue to grow stronger in their recovery. If you are a single man working your recovery and are already in a dating relationship, or you’re ready to begin dating, here are some thoughts on how to pursue healthy dating relationships while staying committed to your recovery.
Two main components of recovery are (1) accountability and (2) the deep work required to work through the issues behind your sexual purity struggles.
Accountability is one of the most important tools in recovery. You should be faithfully attending meetings and connecting with an accountability partner or sponsor who is willing to have difficult conversations with you and will ask specific and hard questions. Connect with a men’s sexual integrity recovery group – a group of men who are willing to be confrontational and transparent with you. Men grow stronger in the company of men who are seeking recovery.
Addressing your deeper issues will require work. Usually this is best done with an experienced therapist who is familiar with sexual addiction and recovery. Working through deep issues is almost always a painful and arduous process. It will take time but is worth the time it will take to heal and begin a healthy relationship with yourself and others.
Before pursuing a romantic relationship, ask yourself if you’re ready to enter into a dating relationship. Get the input of your therapist, accountability partner and accountability group. Don’t rush it! If you’re comfortable beginning to date again, remember — sexual temptation is also a part of healthy relationships and will need to be managed with strong boundaries.
Boundaries are an important part of any relationship. Without them we would continually violate others and have difficulty holding onto our own identity and sense of self. It will be important to establish, maintain, and clearly communicate both clear emotional and physical boundaries. Your accountability partner can help you and encourage healthy boundaries. You also need to be open to your girlfriend about your journey and recovery. She may have her own boundaries that you will need to respect in order to have a safe and healthy relationship.
Physical boundaries should be set before you approach the first date. Know that you are at risk of poor decision making in the moment. As the relationship continues you can ask her about the kinds of physical touch she feels comfortable with in public, or in front of her mother! Setting conservative physical boundaries also encourages emotional intimacy, as you’ll spend more time talking and getting to really know one another. Many couples add another level of safety by not being alone together except in public. A therapist or sponsor will be invaluable in walking you through this difficult process of setting and honoring physical boundaries.
If you feel yourself becoming impatient with her, check in with your accountability people. Dating is not a race, and instant gratification is not the solution. It takes time and patience to develop real intimacy and lasting relationships. Regardless of how you may have previously acted out, intimacy is what you have really been grasping for. True intimacy is not natural for those who have struggled with sexual sin and it takes work. You will need to learn to be intimate through the expression of your heart. This is a tall order, and if you are serious about the person you are currently dating, you will need to be transparent and disclose the nature of your addiction and acting-out behaviors. You cannot be truly intimate and hide this part of yourself. Disclosure is best done when you start getting serious about the relationship. It is dishonest to keep this area of your heart hidden from her as she continues to give you hers.
Sharing your heart may be one of the scariest things you have ever learned to do, but it will be the most significant aspect of a healthy relationship. Finding your heart and moving toward true intimacy can be very painful and rewarding. There will be times when it is all you can do to maintain sexual sobriety. Staying connected to your sources of accountability and keeping well within the prescribed boundaries are essential if you are to progress toward a truly intimate relationship. You have settled long enough for the counterfeit, now discover what God has for you!