Should an AA Sponsor Try and Have a Sexual Relationship With a Sponsee?
A sponsor is trying to have an affair with his sponsee. What do you think of this?Reply
First and foremost, a sponsor should not begin a romantic or sexual relationship with the individual they are sponsoring. This is due to the power differential between the sponsor and newcomer, despite the sponsor and newcomer being ‘equal’. The basic standard is that a sponsor and the person they are sponsoring are equal, because all those in recovery are equal, no one person is ‘better’ at sobriety than the other. However, there is an initial adjustment period that many newcomers in recovery have causing them to be more susceptible to emotional or psychological vulnerability, creating a ‘power differential’ between the sponsor and the newcomer. This is because the newcomer looks to the sponsor for guidance, support, and to learn. Despite someone being sober for a longer amount of time, that initial sponsor relationship is reflected through their journey. Therefore, the inherent power difference is also reflected, even when they are no longer considered a ‘newcomer’.
This ‘power differential’ is why, despite being two consenting adults, sexual or romantic relationships should not occur between many similar situations such as therapists and clients, employees and their manager, etc. One member is newer, has less power, may be in a vulnerable state of mind, and the other is there to assist, guide, teach, and provide support. In all similar cases, the sponsor, or person with more implied ‘power’, has the responsibility to uphold the moral obligation not to take advantage of the other while in their emotionally vulnerable state of being.
Individuals entering sobriety should always choose their sponsor very carefully. They should choose someone they are comfortable with, they can trust, and who embodies the journey of sobriety they wish to pursue. Once chosen, the sponsor is then to support and guide the sponsee appropriately, building that trusting relationship. If the sponsor is to seek an inappropriate relationship with a sponsee for personal gain, they should remove themselves from the situation in an appropriate manner. Seeking this relationship can be very detrimental to their sponsee’s well being, and their sobriety journey.
The boundaries between a sponsor and the person they are sponsoring should be consistent among all those they sponsor. Good practice of this would be to layout guidelines and boundaries right away once entering a sponsor/sponsee relationship. This way, later on, there is no confusion or blurred lines.
Some examples may include:
- How often you are comfortable communicating (daily, weekly, etc)
- Preferred method of communication (Phone call, text, email, etc)
- Scheduled meetings outside of AA meetings (i.e. monthly 10 min check in at a coffee shop)
- Disclosure boundaries (sexual orientation, personal life details such as marriage or kids, etc)
The sponsor must also consider the environment of AA when setting boundaries. AA meetings can be very warm and welcoming, and overwhelmingly emotional. This is where lines tend to feel blurred to both parties, specifically the newcomer as they are overcome with emotion that may be overstimulating. The sponsee will probably also need assistance in setting their own boundaries early in their journey, since they may not have had any previously. Again, this is where the sponsor should maintain their own strong, moral, responsible boundaries.
Overall, a sponsor should not have an affair with their sponsee. It is inappropriate, and can be very harmful to the sponsee as they are focusing on their sobriety. It can lead to a very traumatic response, various issues with trust in future relationships, and can cause relapse as a way to cope with the consequences of the affair.