Healthy Dating Guidelines — Part Two


Melissa Killeen

As a recovery coach, I often see that many of my clients have difficulties negotiating new relationships. In the 12-step rooms of the sex and love addictions, members write their healthy dating guidelines when they are entering a new relationship. They review their dating guidelines and make a commitment to their sponsor to follow these guidelines, before the first date. The following dating guidelines can be used by young adults, people that are separated or divorced, and for those who have been single for decades. Last week’s post focused on selecting the characteristics one wants in a potential date, the first date guidelines and first date deal-breakers. Feel free to circle the things that you embrace as your healthy dating guidelines and leave the rest. This week’s post covers the dating guidelines for the first month and on through to the sixth month. These guidelines are specific to circumstances that may occur during the courtship period. These suggestions will help anyone avoid the common pitfalls faced by those who are trying to win the heart of another. 

Beginning of the relationship, guidelines for the first month

  • I will be meeting in a public place for the first 3 dates
  • I will not make up in my head that he/she is the “one.” Time is the determining factor of a solid relationship.
  • I will limit the amount of fantasy or daydreaming I have about this person.
  • I limit my electronic transmission and media use, because it is a gateway behavior to fantasizing and intimacy avoidance
    • I will limit my contact by phone, to one 30-minute conversation every other day
    • I will limit my contact by email to two emails a day
    • I will limit my text to four texts a day
    • I do not track this person on their dating sites or social network sites
    • All phone calls, emails and texts will be non-sexual and not intriguing
    • I will not stare at my phone expecting an instant reply or call back
  • I will limit the dates to this person to one date every other week for the first two months
  • I limit the amount of money I spend on a man/woman for dinner, vacations. clothes, gifts
  • I will not use money spent as an expectation of some form of reciprocation
  • I will not expect a man to purchase dinner, parking or movies every time we date
  • I will not kiss this person on the first date
  • I will not be involved with any form of sexual touching on the first date
  • I will place appropriate guidelines on when I will kiss or erotically touch this person, e.g. third date to kiss or two months of dating the person before I erotically touch
  • I will place appropriate boundaries with this person regarding my personal time. No phone calls/dates/interactions with this person that will interfere with me getting to work, doing my work, going to church, fixing my family’s meals, getting a good night’s sleep or any other prearranged time with my children, their school related activities, my friends, therapy or 12-step meetings.

Negotiating physical and emotional intimacy, guidelines for the second month

  • I will have an appropriate conversation about dating others
  • I will have an appropriate conversation about setting guidelines regarding sex. I will not have sex with this person until our third or fourth month of dating
  • I will not have unprotected sex
  • I will not have sex with this person until I am in a mutually agreed upon committed monogamous relationship with an emotionally, legally, physically, and spiritually available man/woman and only after testing for STDs
  • I will attempt to work through any misunderstanding or disagreement that may arise
  • I will not discuss my personal inadequacies, family issues or flaws in great detail in hope of capturing instant intimacy and/or sympathy
  • I establish the boundaries of my children and my family, a date does not get introduced to my children or family in the first two months
  • I do not depend upon this person for the satisfaction of my emotional needs
  • I am aware of my blindness to obvious warning signs that tell me a date is untrustworthy disloyal, hateful, spiritually uncommitted, hooked on drugs or alcohol, given to selfishness, etc.
  • I will not have a relationship with someone who is unable to recognize their need for or refuses to get help for their problems or addictive behaviors
  • I should speak respectfully of the person I am dating when in public and in private
  • I should follow the rules of etiquette, open doors for a woman, ask the man if he wants to order dinner for me, and not look at other women or men in the presence of my date
  • I will not equate human worth with wealth, beauty or handsomeness

Settling into a relationship, guidelines for the third and fourth months 

  • I will have an appropriate conversation about dating others
  • I will have an appropriate conversation about sex with this person
  • I will not have unprotected sex
  • I will not have sex with this person until I am in a mutually agreed upon committed monogamous relationship with an emotionally, legally, physically, and spiritually available man/woman and only after testing for STDs
  • I will work through different approaches to sex, intimacy and commitment
  • Regardless of how brilliant the beginning of this love affair has been, I will take time to “check my assumptions” with this partner before committing myself. Is he/she on the same wave length as I am, e.g. are we both committed to having a monogamous relationship?
  • I will look closely at any extreme dependency that I or my partner might display
  • My partner shall respect my basic need for autonomy and he/she will have my respect for their autonomy
  • I will not end the relationship because of a discourse, misunderstanding, disagreement, jealousy or because of my fear of abandonment. I will endeavor to work through these situations, and will request the same of this person
  • I will see discourse as an opportunity to both learn and use problem-solving skills with this person. Arguing in a relationship is not the problem. The problem arises when I don’t use healthy skills to resolve conflict.
  • I want an opportunity to build a deeper relationship with this person as we recognize that we are loved and accepted for being true to ourselves
  • I am interested in building trust in this relationship

Is this going to last? Guidelines for the fifth and sixth months 

  • I will be able to incorporate my friends, neighbors, work colleagues and family into this new-couple relationship we are developing.
  • I am okay with my new partner wanting to socialize without me, even though it may trigger feelings of insecurity, or fear of an imminent ending to the relationship. I will verbalize my feelings in a constructive way to my new partner.
  • If my new partner has certain insecurity problems and does not address his or her own issues, I know I cannot rescue this person
  • I will not allow anyone to be verbally, emotionally, physically or sexually abusive to me.
  • I have to communicate with my new partner
  • I may see the sexual charge or activity is starting to recede. I can use this is an opportunity to be intimate in non-sexual ways
  • I can only change myself. I can’t expect this partner to lose weight/get a job/like my family/change their mind about having kids or change any other behavior or attitude I don’t like. I cannot make this partner change, it only leads to anger and disappointment
  • Can I live with this trait for the rest of my life?

A long-term relationship takes hard work—is it worth it? Being with someone for a long time is a sublime experience. Having a close, intimate connection to another person is unlike any other relationship you have experienced. Perhaps the experience of a lifetime. For people who make it through the heart-pounding passion of falling in love for the first time, a long-term committed relationship may seem hard, but it’s worth the effort.

Melissa Killeen wants to thank Juanita Johnson and Dave Savage for their input on this blog




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