The Dating Plan

In my few posts on love addiction, I’ve referenced my dating plan a couple of times. This post is to clarify what exactly I mean by a dating plan. In my love addiction recovery work, I work through the 12 steps, based on the ones founded by Alcoholics Anonymous. Once I got past step 5, my sponsor announced that I was ready to make a dating plan. In my alcohol recovery, I have at times been asked to make a list of my “ideals” for a future mate. This list was then presented back to me and I was told that these were the things I needed to build in myself.

Think of the dating plan as the same thing, but on steroids.

See, before the steps, before the dating plan, I had this idea of a perfect fantasy man. Of course, he would fall at my feet and serve me and give me all the love I could ever want. Every day would be like this:


Not that that’s bad. But expecting every DAY to be that way is a little lot unrealistic. Nowadays, I can’t go around expecting a man to give me a fix anymore. Tell me I’m beautiful and get me all high on that affirmation. Or get high on all the dramatic ups and downs of the relationship – the intense romantic moments that reek of toxicity, as well as the heightened rage. Or even more so… stay with a man whom I don’t love, who doesn’t love me, who is stuck in active addiction… all because I am terrified to live life alone.

I spent steps 1 – 5 recognizing powerlessness, asking for help, surrendering, making inventories, and telling on myself. In short, learning how to build myself from the ground up. A lot of my work, too, was learning how to be alone. In my sobriety work, I not only have bottom lines (things I refrain from to sustain sobriety), I also have top lines: things that I do to actively promote a healthy, fulfilled life that I can love being in whether I am with someone or not. Almost all of my first year was spent on steps 1 – 5. I didn’t make a dating plan until after that. All the while I was also working on consistently doing my top line behaviors – journaling, time with friends, yoga, creativity, visiting the ocean, writing, blogging, music, calling my sponsor, going to meetings.

But even after all of that work, I’m not “cured.” Humans aren’t meant to leave relationship in the dust forever, though. So how in the world does a love addict navigate the world of dating? It would almost be like an alcoholic being a cupbearer in the old days – i.e. tasting the wine for someone. Which we all know is a horrible plan for an alcoholic. We’re likely to guzzle the whole damn cup, not even realizing it’s poisoned. So how does a love addict steer clear of guzzling poison?


Enter the dating plan.

I am not smart enough to see my addictive patterns on my own all the time. I could easily get lost (also why I go to meetings). Part of my dating plan was to go over all of my addictive patterns and cycles so I could see them. To look at red flags of when things are not going well in relationships. Having bottom lines in dating that I need to steer clear of. Maintaining a list of absolute deal-breakers (things like active addiction, for instance). These things tell me what to be careful of… they are the wine in the cup that has been poisoned and the cupbearer spits out.

But also within the dating plan, I do list ideals, which for the alcoholic would be like drinking sparkling water. Ideal characteristics in a mate (things like spirituality, physical and emotional sobriety). Ideal characteristics in a relationship (someone who is my best friend). Ideal goals for emotional and physical intimacy, including specific timelines. And, an especially important part – my ideal life. Basically, a bucket list. Why is this a part of the plan? Personally, I think it’s because then I can see if my life goals align with someone else’s. I also get the added benefit of seeing what I really want to do with my life! 🙂 What I am passionate about and what really makes me tick. It’s important to know this stuff before you find out how someone else ticks. And if you tick on the same beat.

At this point in the game, I am not settling.


Nor can I, for the sake of my sobriety. One of my bottom lines is not to go against the dating plan, so it’s pretty damn important. If I go against the dating plan, I’m in huge danger of losing myself and my sobriety.

But my dating plan, and my entire program, have done something else that was really important for me. They gave me a detailed how-to on facing real, healthy relationship. I’ve never been able to do real, healthy relationship and I felt like I was shooting wildly in the dark at first trying to find some kind of game plan for it. Now I have clear guidelines. Look for this, but not for that. I also know that relationship with myself FIRST is the most important thing. If I don’t have that, I don’t have anything really.

And I can be happy alone – which is a complete miracle!


29 Replies to “The Dating Plan”

  1. Brilliant post. So grounded.

    I was incredibly lucky – when I got sober I’d been married 19 years. She’d been through hell with me. We continued together – which was frankly touch and go for a long time on both sides. I wasn’t sure I could do sobriety in the same place I’d been part of me considered a clean break, start totally anew as an ideal (yep spot that) way. Also she had to come to terms with me and my recovery – AA dominated a lot early on, she was resentful of that, she felt like she’d been there why did I need these others to help. Also one day she looked at me in a moment of anger over something, which wasn’t my business, so I was staying out of the ring about it. She said “You aren’t the man you were” and turned away. But that was a good thing and we are better now than ever.

    One thing – I used to constantly ask her in little ways if she still loved me – I needed to be told. I stopped asking – she’ll love me if I’m good to be loved if I love her back and it works – I cannot demand that love in any way. Freeing myself like that was necessary for me since I now can love freely back with no demand or obligation.

    1. Oooh – needing to be told of someone’s love. That hits hard. I still have to work on that. Even from friends I tend to always want reassurance that they love me. That’s a really hard pattern to break.
      If I would have gone on with my ex (had he been willing to get sober) I know it would have been hard. I commend you for sticking it out like you have. It’s not an easy row to hoe, trying to make a relationship different that has been one way for so long. That involves two people changing their ways which is so much harder than one. 🙂 That involves lots of teamwork. I think about sometimes what it would have taken for me and my ex to have had a good marriage. It would have been tough. But it’s good for me to remember that, because it keeps me in reality about how relationships go. So thank you for sharing… and good for you for doing some really hard work.

      1. I sometimes say it was a miracle our marriage survived my drinking. It was a bigger miracle it has survived my sobriety! She didn’t drink so that helped a lot

  2. You have out so much work and effort into your life. I found myself nodding in agreement to some and some things even pinching a nerve, reminding me of my own addictive behaviors. I love that you’re sharing this with us. I hope you find someone who ticks at the same beat. 🙂

    1. I try! It’s not easy sometimes and I always have more to learn.
      Thanks! I’m glad to share. People don’t talk about love addiction much, so I’m trying to get the word out a bit more. 🙂
      And it would be lovely to find someone who ticks at the same beat… we’ll see what happens. 🙂 If not I have such a great life today that I don’t feel it’s neccesary for survival! 🙂

  3. Back in the day, my dating plan consisted of ‘a tall, blond, beauty queen, nymphomaniac, mute, who had won lottery, and owned a liquor store.

    Today it is someone I could share my AA and S -5th step with and they wouldn’t run away in horror. Slim pickings.

  4. wonderful post, Laurie. Lots of maturity and insight and self-knowledge. Tht doesn’t amount to much unless the work is done, as you are doing. I have heard of these lines that those in SLA use (my sponsor is in that too) – so for some it’s not going on porn sites, or not masturbating X amount of times, or things like that. Equivalent of knocking back a drink. and then there are dating plans like you have. It reminds me of eating plans that those in OA have. I mean, we have to eat, right? So there is a way of doing it that doesn’t get one into a bing, etc. Same with the love, it sounds like.

    In AA, as mentioned, we do that romantic ideal. I did one, but it’s strange because I already was married when I got in AA, so it’s not like Mike there who came up with a lovely one (lol…does she have a sister??). But I had to write down how I would treat women in general. Respect. Dignity. Equality, etc. So I am glad you’re doing the same.

    thank you for this – I am am learning!


    1. Ahhhh yes. Self-knowledge never got us anywhere. That is really my favorite part of the Big Book, because I relate so much. That was me before I quit. So I hear you there. I actually have bottom lines along WITH my dating plan, and WITH my top lines. Some people also have middle lines – boundary behavior that can lead to crossing bottom lines, but doesn’t necessarily constitute a slip. I don’t have those because that’s not how my sponsor showed me, but some people do.
      Yes my dating plan sounds very similar to what you described for OA. Interesting to hear they do it in the same kind of way!
      I imagine it would be different doing one in AA while already married. I did something similar back when I was still married; I was in a 12-step group for wives of sex addicts, led by a therapist. She asked me to write a list of my ideal husband. That was pretty interesting. Not at all what my husband was at the time.
      You’re welcome!! Glad to hear you’re learning from this stuff! 🙂 Peace to you.

  5. You are kicking life’s arse, I swear. It would be a challenge to find someone who is more mindful of what they want and where they want to go in their life. I know that this comes out of having gone astray in the past (good lord, how I know it) but it’s kind of inspiring to get to watch you go through this process.

    1. Aussa you are so sweet. 🙂 I try to kick life’s arse most of the time but sometimes I miss and catch air instead. 😉
      Oh and definitely this MAINLY comes from going astray… haha. I wouldn’t be here without having gone astray. I’m glad though that my experience is more than helpful to just me! That makes it a little more worth it 🙂

  6. A dating plan sounds like a great idea. But learning to be self-sustaining is even better.

    I think some of the best relationship advice I ever heard was via a character in the TV show Ally McBeal (did you ever watch that? I loved it – still do, in fact)

    “A ‘me’ plus a ‘you’ equals a ‘we’. How can there ever be a ‘we’, if the ‘you’ is still a work in progress?”

    Admittedly, we’re all ‘works in progress’ to an extent, but for some reason it resonated. ‘course, I didn’t listen to it…

    1. It’s kind of a combo of both, Lizzi. The dating plan gives me some good guidelines, but the point of my recovery is definitely to become self-sustaining.
      I didn’t ever watch Ally McBeal! Sheltered homeschool kid over here, still catching up on stuff 😀 but I LOVE that quote and so believe it to be true. And it’s SO HARD to listen to! I still struggle with it (and did in fact even this week – yikes – so this is a good reminder).
      I think we are all definitely works in progress and I try not to expect perfection out of myself or someone else. There’s a book I love by David Richo that suggests being with someone who has done at least 1/2 the work they need to do to be healthy. I think that’s a pretty good guideline. 🙂
      Anyway sorry to give you a book! I’m so glad you stopped by though, SW. ❤

      1. Half the work needed to be healthy seems like a more achievable prospect than a ‘me’ which is no longer a work in progress, to be honest, so I’m kind of pleased to hear more sensible terms.

      2. Haha I have to stay realistic! No one is perfect… least of all me. Not fair to expect that out of anyone else, and that was a huge part of the problem in the first place.

  7. “I also know that relationship with myself FIRST is the most important thing. If I don’t have that, I don’t have anything really.
    And I can be happy alone – which is a complete miracle!” – It took me entirely too long to learn this and am so thankful you got to this point.

  8. I think it’s so important to know you can be happy alone.

    We all love that little jolt of energy we get when someone makes us feel wanted. But if we base our self-worth on that- which I have a problem with- that’s when it becomes destructive.

    It’s a balancing act. Like most things.

    1. Haha I know exactly what you mean by that jolt of energy. GAH. Some weeks it’s really annoying. It definitely is a balancing act… and sometimes, it drives me nuts. But if I can come back to who I am and realize what I love about myself, I can stay out of the hellfire and brimstone I create for myself by trying to get a “high” from someone else. I can remember what I love about my OWN LIFE and stop trying to make someone else give me what I have the power to give.
      But it is NOT freaking easy, man. I have to be aware of it at all times and that’s why I stay in recovery haha.
      Thank you so much for coming by, Samara! I smile seeing you here 🙂 🙂 🙂 ❤

  9. I need to create a “marriage plan” Like what I want the future of my marriage to look like…it has been awhile since I have taken inventory and it is probably good to do occasionally.

  10. Sometimes I want to marry myself, too. Which I think is an amazing compliment to give yourself! I deeply believe that the happiest people are those who know how to be content when they’re alone… it speaks to me of a vivid inner life, and when they do share themselves with people, they have so much to give.

    I’d never heard of a dating plan before this, but it sounds like stellar advice for everyone. I used to fall SO HARD, every single time, and I wasn’t sure how to define myself without a partner to bounce my qualities off of. It’s harder to be your own mirror…

    1. Right? I adore myself, I’m pretty much the cat’s pajamas. 😀 That’s so true, I love what you say about a vivid inner life, I think that is a huge characteristic of people who are content alone. They have such depth and so much to offer.
      A dating plan is such the awesome idea. 🙂 It is SO hard to define ones’ self without that mirror, but for me it has had a lot to do with looking in the mirror at my own face. it’s tricky but so very worth it in the end. I highly recommend dating plans to everyone!!! At least know what you value and how to spot if someone doesn’t align with that, and learn how to say NO to people who don’t align… saves so much trouble.

  11. I know people who have been in recovery from one addiction or another for years upon years who still don’t have this insight. You are doing an amazing job of making you and your sobriety a priority. As both should be. You are, quite frankly, amazing.

    1. Awwww. Thank you. It’s really, really tough some days and I definitely can’t manage it without the help of my Higher Power and some really smart friends. And some days I am not nearly so wise as I sound. The truth is that I am scared to death of failure. I am afraid I’ll mess it up. Sometimes I cover it up with fancy words like these. I do have a dating plan, yes. But god… some days, I’m terrified of myself. So don’t let my wise persona fool you… I’m still very human and small some days, too, and I can make my insightfulness my mask. Self awareness could have kept me from getting sober – it was a huge barrier to my alcohol sobriety. I just have to keep myself humble and remember that some days.
      Anyway, I’m sorry for the book… just wanted to put that out there. 🙂

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