In my two previous postings to this site, I have addressed single recovering sex addicts’ readiness for dating and the formulation of a plan for healthy dating. I have not, however, addressed the fact that meeting and dating in the 21st century is more often than not facilitated by digital devices. In fact, in today’s world if people are not looking for love online, they’re limiting their chances of success. As such, if recovering sex addicts are looking for a relationship, be it casual or serious, they probably need to join the online parade, posting their profile on at least a few dating websites and apps – but only as they keep the following tips in mind.
NOTE: If dating sites and hookup apps are part of a sex addict’s bottom line acting out behaviors, then he or she may need to forego online dating, opting instead for more traditional routes like meeting potential partners at social gatherings, in certain work related settings, and through friends and family. This “analog” dating process does work; it’s just a bit slower.
The most important piece of advice for recovering sex addicts who venture into the online dating world is “be honest.” There are two main things about which the absolute truth is required.
This honesty process starts with a realistic self-examination. For recovering sex addicts, one useful idea is to write down the qualities that they think best define them, along with the qualities they are looking for in a dating partner, and to then run that list by their support network for honest feedback. Once recovering sex addicts start the process of accepting themselves as they are, letting others in on that, and looking realistically at what they would like from a potential partner, they are on the road toward healthy romantic attachment.
Know the Options
Recovering sex addicts need to understand that not every dating site/app is created equally. Some are specifically geared toward single people looking for a meaningful relationship, some are geared toward single people looking for casual sexual encounters, some are geared toward married people looking to cheat, etc. As such, some sites/apps are better for recovering sex addicts than others.
If a recovering sex addict is looking for a long-term intimate connection, he or she should will most likely want to post his or her profile on dating sites and apps geared toward finding Mr. or Ms. Right, like eHarmony and Match.com. On the other hand, if a recovering sex addict is looking for casual dating – and for many recovering sex addicts this is a perfectly healthy goal – then he or she might want to consider “adult friend finder” apps like Blendr, Tinder, Skout, Grindr, Dattch, etc. In all cases, recovering sex addicts should discuss their list of preferred sites/apps with their sober support network, asking for input and feedback before posting any profiles.
Post a Complete and Accurate Profile
When posting a profile, recovering sex addicts should make sure that both their vital statistics and their intentions are known to those who may view their profile. They should not try to pass themselves off as 30 when they’re 50, and they shouldn’t pretend they’re a surgeon if they actually work in a convenience store. If they post a photo – and they’ll get a lot more interest if they do – it should be a recent, unretouched image. A face pic will do; body shots are not required. Most of all, they should NOT say they’re looking for a lifetime partner if all they want is to date casually, or vice versa. That is very uncool. Remember: posting a dishonest profile may lure someone in, but eventually that person is going to find out the truth. Being realistic up front can save everyone involved a lot of time and heartache down the line.
Narrow the Search
Most dating websites and apps allow people to search in very specific ways – age range, type of relationship sought, physical characteristics, smokers vs. nonsmokers, drinking and drug use, location, level of education, hobbies, religious affiliation, etc. Often, the best approach for recovering sex addicts is to pick three to five criteria that are most important in another person, and to search for people who meet those benchmarks. This eliminates the people with whom the addict has little to nothing in common. After that, the addict can look at the remaining pictures and videos to see who’s attractive.
Before contacting or responding to anyone online, recovering sex addicts should closely read that person’s profile to see what it is that he or she is seeking. For instance, if the addict is looking for a serious relationship but the other person’s profile lists casual sex as the goal, the addict should stay away.
Finding an appropriate dating partner can be difficult, even with digital assistance. But if finding a mate (or even just a casual dating partner) is important, recovering sex addicts shouldn’t give up just because they hit a few roadblocks. After all, research shows that finding a romantic match is often a matter of numbers. For instance, it is generally believed that a single man or woman who is trying to find a long-term partner may have to go on dates with as many as 25 new people before finding the right person. Unfortunately, many people just plain give up long before they reach that number. So if a recovering sex addict truly wants to find a healthy relationship partner, he or she needs to date – perhaps a lot – without becoming unduly tied to the outcome of any one situation. Most of the people an addict meets (both online and in the real world) are not going to be a great fit. That’s OK. The addict just needs to keep dating until a reasonable match shows up.
The second part of being persistent is not getting down on oneself when dates don’t go as hoped. Many people have a few dates or a few months of dates that don’t go well and decide they are too fat, too unattractive, too poor, too uneducated, too old, or too whatever else it is that they feel insecure about. The first few people they meet don’t seem interested, so they erroneously conclude that everyone else will feel the same way. This belief is not true! In reality, there is a lid for every pot. It doesn’t matter if a person feels unattractive and that his or her last date apparently agreed with this assessment, because there is someone out there who will take one look and swoon. Recovering sex addicts should not cheat that person, or themselves, out of that experience just because their last few dates wilted their self-esteem.
Robert Weiss LCSW, CSAT-S is Senior Vice President of National Clinical Development for Elements Behavioral Health, creating and overseeing addiction and mental health treatment programs for more than a dozen high-end treatment facilities, including Promises Treatment Centers in Malibu, The Ranch in rural Tennessee, and The Right Step in Texas. He is the author of several highly regarded books, including Sex Addiction 101: A Basic Guide to Healing from Sex, Love, and Porn Addiction. For more information please visit his website at robertweissmsw.com or follow him on Twitter, @RobWeissMSW.