Sober dating or “dry dating" (dating without alcohol) snuck onto the list of pandemic trends as a result of more self-reflection time and an inability to hit the bars. However, drinking on a first date has been customary for ages.
“Would you like to grab a drink sometime?” We’ve all heard the question. It’s normal, even presumed that you will meet for the first time over your drink of choice. The casual atmosphere reduces pressure, letting people rely more or less on “liquid courage” to loosen up for that first experience with a potential romantic partner.
But some singles have begun to question whether this norm is good when it comes to drinking on dates. Sobriety is on the rise for many regarding their romantic and platonic social life.
In fact, Bumble predicted sober dating as a 2022 trend. Data collected by Bumble reveals that 34% of the app’s users said that they are more likely to go on a dry date now than before the pandemic. The research also showed that 62% of the population believe that they are more likely to “form deeper and more genuine connections” by dating without drinking.
The app even offers a badge to indicate that you do not partake in drinking culture. But, why announce that you don’t consume these social lubricants? Because it may just be easier to get in front of it, rather than having to explain on your first date why you ordered a coke instead of a vodka soda. So really, the badge helps prevent a mid-date conversation about sobriety.
Now, let’s be frank: one could argue that relying on alcohol to get through a date is an unhealthy habit normalized for too long. So what happens when we have to get to know someone while sober?
Well, many are finding out now. We spoke to some experts about the rise of sober dating – read on to see what they had to say.
A sobriety expert and recovery coach on questioning habits
“The pandemic disrupted so many beliefs that we probably never would have questioned before, including the assumption that dating and alcohol go hand-in-hand,” says Dani Medrano, sobriety expert and recovery coach at Tempest, an online alcohol treatment program.
“Many of us have spent the past two years questioning our habits and getting clearer on our values. It makes sense that a desire for a more considerate and intentional dating experience would be a natural outcome of so much introspection and self-evaluation.
“The best thing about sober dating is that I can trust myself and my behavior in any situation,” explains Medrano. “I show up awake, present and totally myself. I know whether or not I feel a connection, whereas before, I might have had a particular impression that night, only to wake up the next day not quite sure.
“These days, dating is a far more meaningful experience. Whether or not there’s a love connection, I get to practice staying steady in myself and knowing that I’m dating in a way that aligns with what I really want.”
A dry dater on forming authentic connections
“It is an incredibly impeccable experience to connect with someone not only on the physical level but emotionally, spiritually and mentally,” says Lisa Kendi, whose four-year marriage resulted from three years of dry dating.
“Dry dating adds such deep connections not only with your partner but individually as well. It enhances a healthier relationship, partnership and friendship between partners. It also gives room for partners to experience each others’ world, hobbies and interests. It creates room for a stronger friendship with partners which results in a stronger foundation.
“More often than not alcohol is used to soothe the nerve,” says Kendi. “In doing so, we intentionally or unintentionally create a distorted recollection of events. Every experience becomes emotionally, mentally and energetically heightened. Hence, unreliable in choosing a partner we want to share deep, rich and authentic experiences with.”
A clinical sexologist on practicing dry dating and building confidence
“While most people rely on alcohol to ‘lubricate’ the conversation on a date, dry dating emphasizes dealing with the anxiety head-on and making things work without alcohol,” says Dr. Rachel Sommer, a clinical sexologist. “Of course, it won’t be amazing the first time you do it, but gradually practicing sober dating helps build your confidence and other underlying problems drawing you into alcohol.
“Whether it’s a night out, cooking together or a movie night, keep alcohol away. Dry dating reduces the pressure to get physical during or after the date while fostering better conversations and increasing the likelihood for a follow-up date.”
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