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It may feel like going to bars and drinking is the best way to meet people when you’re single. But whether you’re avoiding alcohol due to addiction, health, religious, or other reasons, there are lots of ways to meet people that don’t involve imbibing alcohol.
Regardless of your reasons for staying sober, you will likely encounter some obstacles — all of them surmountable — to living an alcohol-free social life. The key is finding ways to implement healthy strategies for dating.
You may feel at a loss for date ideas that avoid the drinking culture that often overlaps with dating. You may wonder how much background about your sober lifestyle to share with dating prospects, and you may worry about people’s judgment, rejection, or lack of compatibility. It can be scary to contemplate how to calm any dating jitters without the use of alcohol.
All of these questions and concerns are natural, but they don’t have to restrict you from going after your goal of finding a partner. Here are six sober dating tips:
Knowing what you’re looking for in a partner — including their drinking behavior — will help you determine if someone is right for you.
Consider how you would feel about dating someone who drinks when you don’t. How would you handle your partner drinking around you? Would you be more comfortable dating someone else who is also sober and/or shares your views on drinking? How will you address any concerns about alcohol use?
Only you can judge what is best for you based on your values and lifestyle. That’s why it’s important to dig deep and be honest with yourself.
Also know that answering these questions may take some trial and error and real-life dating experience. For instance, if you’re on the fence about dating someone who drinks when you don’t, you may gain useful information by meeting and dating partners who drink. Pay attention to their behavior when the two of you are out with a group of friends. How does your date manage the social pressure to drink? How does he or she respond to pressure from friends to partake in drinking? You will have the opportunity to see how you feel, evaluate barriers, and tackle difficult conversations about drinking.
However, be careful in over-generalizing opinions and making assumptions due to one person’s behavior. You may find compatibility is not about whether someone drinks or doesn’t drink, but rather how they handle their drinking in terms of frequency and amount as well as how important alcohol is to them.
It’s natural to fear that your date may no longer be interested if he or she knows that you are sober and they’re not, but don’t let this stop you from starting a new relationship with the truth. If you hide who you are, you will miss the chance for genuine connection.
First, consider disclosing that you don’t drink on your dating profile, and sign up for dating apps and sites focused on sober dating. While you shouldn’t disclose your whole sobriety story prior to meeting (layers are your friend!), be direct in saying that you don’t drink when you are setting up the date, regardless of what is mentioned on an online dating profile. Doing so beforehand gives your date time to process the information.
If you’d like, you can also give a brief explanation and build on this later when you establish some rapport. Also be sure to guide and educate your date by being more specific about expectations. For example, “I’d love to meet up for tea or coffee. I am sober and generally avoid the bar scene.” Or “I personally don’t drink, but if you’d like to have a drink, I’d be happy to meet you somewhere that has great cocktails and other non-alcoholic options.” Don’t leave your date hanging with how to proceed, and be sure to answer any questions honestly.
The worst thing you can do is go along with something you are uncomfortable with or pretend to be someone you are not to impress others or avoid rejection. If your date rejects you because you are sober, remember this person is not right for you and move on.
You may feel perfectly comfortable and at ease sitting in a bar getting to know someone without a drink in your hand, or it may be best to avoid bars at all costs.
Picking a location that showcases your best self is a significant factor in improving the likelihood that the date will go well, so don’t agree to date ideas and environments that make you feel anxious. Consider coffee shops, ice cream stores, and bakeries if you’d like to have a seated dining experience or include food or snacks.
Also plan activity dates such as bowling, hiking, rock climbing, or playing mini golf. Other ideas include walking around a local art gallery, museum, park, or zoo. These types of dates are great ways to break the ice and take the pressure off keeping the conversation going. Know that there are various non-alcohol related date options if you are willing to think outside of the box.
Also remember that first dates can be awkward, in general, regardless of whether alcohol plays a part. You can make it less awkward by keeping the conversation light, sharing your passions, listening with curiosity, and being open to growing a connection over time.
When used as a crutch, alcohol may temporarily help with anxiety, but hiding behind alcohol isn’t the best path to get to know someone.
Alcohol is often overused to decrease nerves and loosen up. However, it can interfere with your ability to assess compatibility and pick up on red flags. These are good reasons to feel at peace with not drinking on dates.
Also, when you don’t drink, you are showing your date that you don’t need alcohol to feel comfortable being yourself. This shows confidence and authenticity, which are both very attractive qualities.
If you’ve been focused on your recovery and mental health, you probably have put dating on the backburner for an extended time. In fact, not dating for your first year of sobriety is often standard advice in the addiction and recovery world.
Jumping back into dating without a drink in your hand is likely to bring up insecurities, anxieties, and fears. Even if you’ve worked on yourself and have a deeper understanding of addiction, dating may bring up old wounds and urges to drink, making it feel like a big disaster.
When you’re ready to invest time and energy into dating, take your time. Enjoy the new people you meet by getting to know them and allowing them to get to know you. However, don’t make dating your be all end all focus. Rejoining the dating scene must be balanced with your other goals and reevaluated if it’s getting in the way of sobriety. Start slowly and keep your expectations realistic. Continue to use resources that support your recovery, whether it’s a 12-step program, regular meetings with your sponsor, community groups, exercise, counseling, or self-care practices.
Also take active measures to calm dating jitters, and make sure the past is not negatively impacting the present. Find ways to better manage the challenges of dating, so they don’t lead you to drink as a coping mechanism, avoidance tactic, or emotional pain reliever. Remember recovery is a lifelong journey, so don’t let your dating goals interfere.
Anyone who tries to persuade you to drink, judges you for your choices, or pressures you in any way is not the person for you. Period.
You deserve someone who is understanding, non-judgmental, and empathetic about your lifestyle regardless of his or her own drinking behaviors. If someone rejects you for being sober, you may temporarily feel beaten down and insecure. But don’t let what others think negatively affect your worth or hijack your personal goals.
Reaffirm for yourself that you can successfully date without drinking, and stay open to meeting a partner who loves and accepts you for you. There are many great singles out there who don’t care whether you drink or not, so stay open-minded.
You may feel at a disadvantage when it comes to dating and meeting new people if you choose not to drink — regardless of the reasons you avoid alcohol.
It’s true that sober dating presents some unique challenges, but being sober can actually lead you to build connections that are not blurred by alcohol if you own who you are and what you want.
By implementing healthy dating practices, your sober lifestyle doesn’t have to get in the way of finding love.