The Sober Dating Experiment

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SoberDating_slide02Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
Dating is the worst. More often than not, it makes me feel insecure and nervous. I’m essentially exposing myself to another human being and asking him to please like what he sees. I get anxious about whether he wants to perhaps start a relationship with me, maybe spend the rest of our lives together, father my children, and then…wait, am I getting totally ahead of myself? Probably.

In any case, I found that alcohol helped with the daunting dating game. Usually, I felt like I needed a drink to get through a date or to make it more fun. This meant that I was relying on alcohol as a potion to ease my social anxieties. Truthfully, drinking was my go-to “get to know you” date activity. The more I thought about it, the more I began to grasp the often-messy consequences of drinking while dating.

There was that guy I took home whose name I didn’t remember. I just called him “champ” until he went home the next morning (hoping the nickname sounded sexy and flirtatious). Then, of course, there’s the string of drunken, questionable numbers I still have saved in my phone: “Paul Guy From Bar,” “Brian From Sales?” “Guy Shared Cab With,” and last but not least, “Shots Bro.”

Add to that list too many tipsy conversations with strangers, drunken make-out sessions, and false connections: It was all really just the cocktails talking. I started asking myself if I should really be lubricating my relationships with booze. Perhaps, I was doing more harm than good. Suddenly, it didn’t seem like such a wise idea to have my judgment clouded, my inhibitions lowered, and my standards skewed, especially during the early stages of a potential relationship. In hopes of figuring out the role that liquor was playing in my love life, I began examining my dating behavior.

Was I going on mostly alcohol-related dates?
Bars aren’t exactly the most ideal settings for romance, but that’s where I typically had first dates. Bars are loud and distracting and fueled by, well, booze. Besides, nobody looks good under those fluorescent light fixtures that hang at every sports bar, ever.

Did alcohol affect the kind of men I dated?
Well, I was meeting a lot of men at bars and at parties after a few too many. I thought our conversations were deep and intimate, later realizing that maybe they were just passionate because of the alcohol. I think I even stayed in relationships for far too long because they were fun rather than meaningful. And, I won't let myself forget about the time I accidentally made out with the guy wearing a vest, and another one wearing a fedora.

Did I need to try dating without drinking?
Yikes, maybe. In better understanding alcohol’s role in my relationship, I started to see it as a third wheel. So, I decided to date sober. I wanted to see if and how it affected who I dated, how I dated, and why I dated. So, each time I was asked on a date, I told each potential partner that I was dating sans drinking. Here’s what happened.
SoberDating_slide03Illustrated by Sydney Hass.


I started dating more appropriate people.
When I started presenting myself as confident and happy — someone who was truly looking to get to know another person and potentially form a relationship with them — the right people were eager to meet me halfway. Because, although the tattooed bad-boy who is talking so close to my face that I can feel his breath on my skin might seem sexy after a night of partying, he’s probably not looking to settle down (something I am looking for). Without beer goggles, I could read that situation loud and clear.

I went on better dates.
Once I took alcohol out of the equation, a world of locations opened up to me. I was taken on a date to the zoo! A museum! I went on a walk-and-talk around my local park. Getting drinks is boring! Why not go on a picnic? Go hiking. See a concert. Cook dinner. Have fun and explore — it’s what dating’s all about, right?

I started expressing myself more accurately and appropriately.
Sober socializing made me more deliberate about who I spent my time with; I was more aware of what those around me were saying, and how their words and actions made me feel. I started entering situations as the best version of myself, and I became intentional with my words and present in my conversations.

Hooking up meant something.
What happened when I took the bottle out of the bedroom? My sexual actions became deliberate. They felt more intimate, romantic, and meaningful — even if a bit awkward at first. Mustering the confidence to go in for a first kiss without that liquid courage was a little nerve-wracking, but it also gave me butterflies.

So, where am I now?
I’m married to the love of my life! Just kidding. But, I do have a new lens on love — one that doesn’t involve liquor. I found myself incredibly present and on-point with the absence of alcohol, and actually had more fun on my dates because I was focused on enjoying another person as opposed to a cocktail.

If you can relate to all of this, you might want to try doing what I did. Of course, it doesn’t need to be a permanent thing, but you might be surprised at what a few sober dates can reveal.

NEXT: Single Girl's Dating Advice

Ali Segel is a former elementary school teacher and current freelance writer born and raised in Los Angeles. She enjoys all the foods and all the Netflix. You should probably check out her blog, Earth, Wind, & Unhired, or follow her on Twitter @OnlineAlison. She's still single, but is finally out of her parents' house.