Sober Woman Dating a Drinking Man

By Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

Hi there. I have been dating a great guy for 4 months who doesn’t drink a lot and treats me well. I have never seen him overindulge, but his friends are partiers. Sober for 8.5 years, I am okay with evenings out with people who are drinking as long as I can leave when I want. This is where the problem comes in. He says he’s fine with it, but the nonverbals disagree. This weekend we went to his friend’s b-day in Tahoe and it was 16 partiers (pot and alcohol) and me. I was unprepared for the pot and thought the gathering was going to be much smaller. I’m fine in a lot of situations, but the truth is, I don’t want to feel obligated to spend the weekend in a party house with people drinking and getting high. I told him this and his response follows, “Well, I want to hang out with you and with my friends. They drink, which is what will be going on if we’re hanging out. If you don’t want to interact with them then that’s going to create distance between us and I don’t know how this will work.” I don’t feel like I have to spend every moment with the person I’m dating (would actually prefer not to) and am fine with him going on weekends without me or staying somewhere away from the party. This keeps coming up for us and the truth is that even though I care about him and we get along really well, my party life is behind me and I don’t really wish to spend a ton of time in places where the MO is getting drunk. His drinking doesn’t bother me, but feeling pressure to participate in that environment is stressing me out.

A: I think he said it all when he said it was a deal-breaker if you had boundaries about his drinking friends. You have worked hard to achieve your sobriety and sometimes people come into our lives to help us establish limits. This sounds like the case here.

I don’t think this is a black and white thing. I think the idea is for you to say you don’t know how it will work either and you are willing to go forward on a situation-by-situation basis. These things tend to sort themselves out fairly readily. Stand your ground. You are looking to be a priority in someone’s life and if that is not on his agenda then you need to find a situation where that is as important to the other person as it is to you.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 5 Apr 2012

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2012). Sober Woman Dating a Drinking Man. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 21, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2012/04/05/sober-woman-dating-a-drinking-man/