Finding Love without Liquor

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Why Sober Dating is on the Rise

The longing for love is universal: we all hope to find the person with whom we can share our days, nights, and lives. Love is at the center of countless films, novels, songs, television series, and all manner of art forms, and stories of romance and attraction loom large in conversations everywhere.

The journey to meet that perfect person, however, can be far less romantic. For those who are not lucky enough to pair off happily after with their high school sweetheart, one of the only ways to search for love is through dating. This is, of course, when two people meet up and see whether or not they like each other enough to try a relationship.  Dating, too, is at the center of many pieces of pop culture and conversation starters, though for different reasons. Whether you love or hate it, dating is deeply embedded into many of our social histories.

For many people, dating also inevitably involves drinking. Alcohol is used on many a date as a social lubricant and confidence booster: starting with a bottle of wine for the table is a surefire way to get the conversation flowing, no matter whom you find yourself sitting across from at the restaurant. This is so much the case that it is not uncommon for couples to fall in love intoxicated long before they get to know one another sober.

Fortunately, in recent months, there has been a movement away from drinking on dates. More and more young people are choosing to meet one another sober. What has brought about this shift in dating culture, and is it here to stay? This week we will examine why young people are choosing to date sober and what this trend suggests for our society more broadly.

Dating without Drinking

Earlier this year, the popular dating app Bumble – famous for giving women the agency to decide whom they wish to speak to on their platform – listed “dry dating” as one of its trends. Dry dating is the practice of going on dates without alcohol, and this is the first time the term was seen on one of the many dating apps available to people of all ages all around the world. So, what prompted Bumble to add it to their list of trends for 2022? 

According to research conducted by the app regarding its user preferences, 34% of individuals reported being more likely to go on a sober date than in pre-COVID times. [1] And although the repeated lockdowns of the pandemic certainly played a role in this increased interest in dry dating, it is not the only factor at play. Articles by Vice, Refinery29, and the BBC, among countless others, include the voices of young people around the world who are choosing to go without a drink on their dates for a wide variety of reasons. Many of the individuals interviewed in these articles express the belief that dating without alcohol will lead to better connections, more interesting activities, and a more robust sense of who the person they are spending time with actually is. [2][3][4]

There is good scientific research to suggest that these beliefs are grounded in reality. Alcohol has been shown to cloud perception, influence decision making, and increase the likelihood of engaging in risky behaviors.[5][6] When it comes to finding love, the ability to see and understand the world clearly, make good decisions for yourself and your date, and behave in a way that is safe and reasonable are all critical elements to success. 

Love, Trust, and Sobriety

Although many relationships begin with alcohol, few are cemented by drunken experiences that neither party can clearly remember. Rather, lasting love is built slowly on small trusting acts and shared meaningful experiences which accrue over time to develop a strong bond. 

This is what psychologist and social researcher Brené Brown refers to as, The Anatomy of Trust,  Brown compares the process of building a relationship to a jar of marbles, with each party adding a marble to the jar each time the other does something which proves that they are trustworthy. After enough time has passed, the marble jar will be full as the couple has shared many experiences of trust, affection, and care.  This, she notes, is the foundation for a successful and strong relationship. [7]

Based on this description of love, it makes sense that young people might choose to begin their romantic relationships sober. By eliminating the judgment-clouding and perception changing influence of an intoxicating substance, it is possible to begin putting marbles in the trust jar from the very first date. 

Although the sober dating “trend” may not last, the fact that certain young people are choosing to date without alcohol is certainly a good thing. For starters, it helps to remove one of the perceived barriers to dating for those who are in recovery or who choose not to drink for religious or personal reasons. It also helps promote the understanding that fun, friendship, socialization, and love never need to rely on intoxication.

If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol use, get in touch with us today. We are here to listen, provide support, and offer resources toward recovery.

Sources

[1] Bumble, (2022). Here are Bumble’s Predictions for Dating in 2022, According to Data. https://bumble.com/en/the-buzz/2022-dating-trends

[2] Khan, A. (2022) Why Young People are Choosing to go Sober on Dates. Vice. 23 Feb. https://www.vice.com/en/article/88gk4x/young-people-genz-choosing-sober-alcohol-free-dating-relationships-sex

[3] Bakshi, P. (2022) With ‘Dry Dating’ on the Rise, Here are our Tips for a Sober Good Time. Refinery29. 17 Jan. https://www.refinery29.com/en-gb/sober-dry-dating

[4] Klein, J. (2022) Dry dating: The rise of sober love and sex. BBC. 11 Feb. https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20220209-dry-dating-the-rise-of-sober-love-and-sex 

[5] Cantrell, M.A. (2016). Engagement in High-Risk Behaviors among Young Adult Survivors of Childhood Cancer Compared to Healthy Same-Age Peers Surveyed in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Journal of Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology. Jun 1; 5(2): 146-151. doi: 10.1089/jayao.2015.0053

[6] Harvey, A. J., & Seedhouse, M. (2021). Influence of Alcohol and Cognitive Capacity on Visual Number Judgements. Perception, 50(1): 39–51. https://doi.org/10.1177/0301006620984105
[7] Brown, B. (2021) The Anatomy of Trust. Unlocking Us. https://brenebrown.com/podcast/the-anatomy-of-trust/

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