I know this might sound like the start of a pious, over-eager graduate about to announce something unimportant on LinkedIn, but I have started dating without drinking. It might not be for everyone, but it has surprised me how much of a game-changer it is.
I’m more clear-headed. I know that lots of us, myself included, love to use alcohol as a crutch or a way of not feeling our emotions for a while. But, if we get into the habit of drinking socially, we aren’t ever really present in the moment. Socializing should be enriching and add value to our lives, rather than be something we use to distract ourselves, or waste time. Being clear-headed means that you can enjoy what’s in front of you — a cool person — without thinking about how to get wrecked on a Friday. Plus, nothing kills the vibe like dating an alcoholic who doesn’t accept help.
I have more money. This is money that I can develop a healthier relationship with and use to save and invest and support my life going forward. Furthermore, it incrementally increases the quality of date nights when I’m not drinking. There’s no pressure for the other person to do the same, but it’s great if they align with your plans. The money you save on alcohol also means that you can try new fun activities or treats together. It’s a way of investing in your future together.
You can have new experiences. You will have a different set of priorities when drinking isn’t on the table. First of all, it means that you have more mental, emotional, and financial capacity to try new things when you aren’t focused on numbing the world. That’s a big change, a brave one. You can experience that vulnerability together with the person you’re dating and grow together. We all know that sometimes drinking can ruin a relationship.
It’s a great way to reset. If you’re just been through a breakup or are in the process of getting over one, quitting cold turkey is a really effective way of getting distance from the problem. It helps you to mentally reset and figure out your new priorities and goals. It’s not the safest option if you’ve had a history of abusing alcohol in the past — for that situation, seek more professional help so that you’re not relying on masochistic coping mechanisms.
You will forge stronger connections. When you’re open to new experiences and opportunities and understand the risks and vulnerabilities involved in sober dating, you’re more able to connect on a stronger basis. Being able to date with your eyes open, intentionally, is really special. You will forge longer-lasting, more meaningful connections with that special spark.
You’ll be funnier. This is because you aren’t focused on being the center of attention, or the loudest person in the room. It means that you aren’t performing as much, or relying on alcohol to attract your partner. When you’re focusing on listening more and showing the best parts of yourself, you are automatically more likely to be a better partner. It means that you’re maximizing the chances of having a successful relationship by setting good, honest foundations.
I know my own boundaries. Learning about your own relationship with alcohol means that you do a lot of work thinking about your other boundaries too. When friends start talking about their evening plans or inviting you out to group dates, but they won’t cut out alcohol too, you do some internal thinking. If friends don’t value your choices or support you, they’re worth losing. When you attract the right people into your life, dating or otherwise, you know when it feels right. That’s what you deserve.
You avoid the time-wasters. It’s also a helpful way of cutting out duff potential partners early in the process. If they aren’t willing to go on a date with you where you aren’t drinking, then you save yourself a wasted date. If guys aren’t willing to compromise in a simple sense for one date, then you’re better off without them. You will realize that you’re worth more than that and that you need to find someone who will actually want to meet your needs and support you.
I learned what I value in a relationship. When I’m dating someone new, it’s important to know where that relationship might lead. Without alcohol clouding your vision, you can be more realistic about the person before you. Are they a good way of passing the time? Yes, but is that enough? Is that what you really want? We all need to learn these kinds of questions so that we can make accommodations for ourselves. If cutting out alcohol on first dates improves your experience of them, then go ahead. Protect that.
You get better at communicating. Just as people who lose their sight might get a more sensitive hearing, people who date without alcohol are often better in relationships. They know the value in asserting needs, and without relying on alcohol to have a fun night out, and they appreciate how important that is. In short, you grow to be more mature in relationships.