With our ever-present desire to keep things nonchalant in our love lives, 'grabbing a drink' has become the modern date default. With ambiguous atmospheres that lend well to both intimate and casual settings — and zero pressure to hang around beyond a single drink — they typically make for the ideal date spot. Except, with many of us reevaluating our relationship with alcohol, and bars and pubs being shut down for the better part of two years, the movement towards 'dry dating' has been gaining a lot of momentum amongst singles.
Now, if the thought of a first date without alcohol makes you feel a little uneasy, you’re certainly not alone. Whether it's someone you've never met, or even a person you've known all your life, it's natural to want to swig down some liquid courage before, during, and even after a meetup. It's all part of the dizzying excitement of romance, right?
But if you're embarking on a dry January challenge, looking to cut down for health reasons, or simply cherish the feeling of waking up without a hangover, dating can actually be a bit of a minefield. After all, we so often equate a boozy night with good memories, and alcohol can be a crutch that enables us to lower our inhibitions just enough to relax our nerves. Luckily, dry dating is becoming more common than ever, particularly during the pandemic.
According to a Bumble survey collected last year, almost one in five people don’t want to drink on dates post-lockdown, with about three-quarters of respondents believing sober dating actually leads to better connections. Only, if you've never been a sober dater before, it can be tricky to alienate drinking from a date. So, to help the course of love run smoother, we've compiled some tips and tricks to set you on the right track — and to ensure your dry dates don't become... well, dry.
Set the scene
Take some control over the situation by suggesting date ideas that don't centre on booze. Activity-based dates that still allow for plenty of getting to know each other, such as pottery classes, walks in the park, or even stand-up paddleboarding, are great since the absence of alcohol isn't really obvious.
But don't be afraid to just set up a dry picnic or movie at your place either, any stigmas of alcohol being the only gateway to a good time are incredibly outdated.
Calm your nerves
If you've often found yourself shotting tequila with friends before a date in order to feel at ease, we get you. But drinking isn't the only way to settle your nerves, and most of the time it's just a placebo, anyway.
To combat debilitating nerves, try out breathing exercises, journaling, stretches or micro-meditations while you're getting ready or, even chatting to friends and distracting yourself.
Do your research
If your date has chosen the location, always look it up.
While there are almost certainly going to be non-alcoholic options on the menu wherever you go, being surprised by happy hour at a whisky bar isn't exactly ideal.
Do your research into the place, and if you feel you'll be tempted or uncomfortable, counter with another more sober-friendly venue. Bars are great, but they're definitely not the only place to have a good time.
Talk it out
It might not feel organic to open up about personal subjects to someone you just met, but, at the end of the day, remember that you don’t owe anyone an explanation about your sobriety beyond the fact that you don't want to, so say as much — or as little — as you want.
Unless you're just looking for a casual hookup, their response will speak volumes and may even help you to see if the connection has room to actually go anywhere. Any pressure or discomfort coming from them is a giant red flag, though, and someone who isn't understanding of your choices probably doesn't deserve a second date, in our humble opinion.
If you or anyone you know is experiencing substance abuse and requires help, Lifeline's crisis support line (13 11 14) is available 24 hours a day.