So you identified that you have a codependency problem, and you decided to do something about it. You went to therapy. You’ve been on a long hiatus from dating. That’s good—very good. So many people do not have the strength to admit they have a problem and then do something about it. So you should feel really proud about that. Now, here comes yet another tough part (I know, it’s one thing after another): you have to go back into the dating world at some point. Having true control over a problem doesn’t mean completely removing yourself from temptation but rather being able to be around temptation, and resist it. Much like alcoholics eventually go to birthday dinners at restaurants with bars and just order a water, you need to go back out into the dating world and just take things slowly. Here are tips for establishing boundaries when you’re post-codependency recovery.
Tell new people
I know I keep comparing codependency to alcoholism but it really bares many resemblances. And, just the way a recovered alcoholic must tell people in her life, “I cannot have alcohol,” someone recovering from codependency issues should tell dates, “I have struggled with these issues and I’m working on them, so it’s important to me we take things slowly.”
Stay busy with friends
One of the best ways to stop yourself from falling back into old habits of moving too quickly with a guy is to stay busy! Stay busy with friends, with a hobby, with your career, or with volunteer work. Remind yourself, every day, that you have a very full life, with or without a man.
Be more judgmental
It’s time to be a bit more judgmental. Approach dating with the viewpoint, “Do I like this person? Does he meet my standards? Is he a good match for me?” rather than, “Oh my gosh I just don’t want to be alone so I’ll find reasons to like this guy.” Be ready to not like some people.
Bring him around others
While you don’t need to start bringing him around as a boyfriend (that’s moving too fast), you can bring him around friends in a casual setting. Invite him to a party or a beach day with friends. This is important for two reasons: 1) Your friends can give their assessment of him and 2) It stops you two from just holing up in a love shack, hidden away from people, like you tended to do when you had codependency problems.
Hold off on sex
While others can get away with having sex early, those with codependency issues simply cannot. The strong chemical bond that follows sex just complicates things for you. So you should probably hold off for months.
Easy on the alcohol
Though you aren’t an alcoholic, know that drinking alcohol will make it much harder to stick to these other rules. So it’s a good idea to not drink too much during this time. That even includes when you aren’t with a guy, since booze may drive you to call him, go over there, and do something you shouldn’t like have sex with him early.
Keep some things sacred for now
You have your favorite places like parks, restaurants, and museums. Don’t share those with every new guy. Those are for you. The old you brought every new guy deep into your life, bringing him to your most cherished spots right away. But that was a form of moving quickly.
Keep interactions to once or twice weekly
In the beginning, just see him once or twice a week. He may excitedly say one night, “What are you doing tomorrow?” but even if you are free, put the breaks on this. It’s important to integrate this person slowly into your life.
Create text/call limitations
Create limitations around phone communication, since this can spark codependent behaviors. Don’t text him all day or start every morning and end every evening on the phone with a guy you just started dating. Keep it casual. Touch base once a day with some short texting. Call a couple times a week.
Don’t make far future plans
Resist the urge to make far future plans. When a date is going well, he may get caught up in the moment and say, “You should come with me and my friends on our boating trip this summer! We do it every year you’d love it!” Just say, “Oh sounds fun! We’ll see.”
Don’t talk about him much yet
Don’t talk your friends’ ears off about him yet. Talking about him a lot has a way of telling your subconscious that things are already serious with him—and they aren’t.
No going away together
Do not go away together. Don’t do it. Some people do this ridiculous thing where they go on a trip with a man they just met as a way of seeing if they’re compatible, but vacation is not real life. And the fact that you took the time off work and spent so much money on the trip will actually play tricks on your mind. You’ll tell yourself you like the guy because you want the experience to go well.
Have a sponsor
Just like in AA, you can have a codependency sponsor. This could just be someone you really admire and trust, who knows you well, and is very good at establishing healthy boundaries in her own life. Touch base with her once a day. Tell her how things are going. She can keep you in check.
Don’t get mentally ahead of yourself
Don’t start daydreaming about him and fantasizing about what a great husband he’d make. If you find yourself doing this, dive into something that fascinates and excites you besides men. Like a hobby or a book or something career-related.
Avoid men who push these limits
If any men do not respect these boundaries, set them free. That means that they have codependency issues and they are not recovered—nor are they trying to recover.