A Therapist Offers 3 Reasons Why You Should Give 'Sober Dating' A Try
It's not the alcohol that makes the date great, it's you.
By Jourdan Travers, LCSW | May 28, 2023
Going to a pub and cracking open a few pints or splitting a bottle of wine with your meal at a fancy restaurant are popular date choices. Whether to help us let loose and 'be ourselves' or slip into deeper, more vulnerable conversations with ease, alcohol seems to play an important role in the nascent stages of dating.
Over time though, many catch themselves thinking:
- "We used to have so much fun together, what happened to us?"
- "I just feel like he/she doesn't understand me anymore."
- "I don't think we have anything in common, I feel so bored all the time."
While alcohol may help us overcome the initial awkwardness we might feel when we begin dating, having it accompany every single date can actually erode the quality of your bond. After all, how can we count on a connection that was formed when both parties were in altered states of mind?
Here are three reasons why you might want to give sober dating or 'dry dating' a shot instead.
#1. Drinks dilute authenticity
Dating can be an anxiety-inducing process. We might ponder a million questions about how we look or what we should say before walking out the door. It is natural to rely on a couple of drinks to help you calm the nerves.
While consuming alcohol might make you less anxious and more fun and gregarious than your sober self, it might also take away from who you really are. Alcohol depresses your central nervous system and, as a result, makes you more uninhibited and suggestible than usual. However, these effects, as we all know, are temporary and come with a host of side effects.
This is not to say that one is trying to be someone else if they drink during a date. However, if one cannot imagine going on a date without any alcohol at all, it is worth considering if they are avoiding being authentic or vulnerable altogether. Moreover, if a date begins to like the intoxicated version of you, what might happen when you do not have the crutch of alcohol?
A study published in the Journal of Health Psychology reports that former drinkers and lifelong non-drinkers actually felt like their most authentic selves when they were sober, in complete control of their cognitive faculties. The 'liquid courage' one might get from a cocktail is short-lived and unhelpful in the long run, according to them.
Instead, if one figures out how to hone their dating skills without the social lubrication provided by alcohol, they might not put it on the pedestal that people often do. In this case, dinner with drinks would just be one of the options for a date instead of being the only one.
#2. Booze might blur the red flags
Your drunk self might find it easier to ignore or rationalize things that would be issues to your sober self. You may find yourself laughing at jokes you would normally find offensive, or making split-second decisions that you may regret later.
A study published in the Journal of Neuroscience confirmed that alcohol creates feelings of euphoria and does in fact reduce anxiety, but it might be because it reduces our ability to differentiate between threatening and non-threatening stimuli resulting in an increased capacity for risk-taking behavior.
Naturally, we are stimulated only to feel more positive and focus on making it work rather than seeing the person or the connection for what it truly is. But, as is the course of nature, the truth comes out eventually and we might end up realizing that, especially when we're under the influence, not every chance is worth taking.
#3. Sober dates can be more fun than cookie-cutter dates
Asking someone out for a drink has almost become a Pavlovian, conditioned response. At times suggesting anything other than that can be met with judgment and hostility, labeling you as 'too naïve.' That's why we give in most of the time, suggests a study published in Substance Use & Misuse.
Remember, whatever your decision may be, it deserves respect. And not receiving it is a red flag in itself.
Sharing creativity and interests is always a great way to encourage more transparency and allow for a real connection. Here are some ideas for alcohol-free dates that you can try:
- Visiting local sites like art museums and galleries or any landmarks in your city, depending upon your common passions
- Trying interactive experiences such as escape rooms, joining a cooking or a dance class, or going bowling can give you something to indulge in other than drinking
- Going to local shows and events like musical concerts, food festivals, and comedy shows
- Keeping things simple and going out for a coffee, ice cream, or a drive
Be willing to try something new and your date can be just as romantic and memorable. You can find out a lot more about a person and have meaningful conversations when alcohol isn't clouding your judgment.
We usually consume alcohol to add a dimension playfulness and effervescence to our dates. It is clear, however, that there are many other ways to achieve the same effect or even discover newer levels of a shared bond if we are willing to put in just a little bit of creativity.