Sober Living, Sober Loving: How More People Are Embracing Dry Dating

Photo by Migue Panera via Unsplash.

Words by Ronnia Cherry. Photography Miquel Parera on Unsplash.

Many are coming to realize that alcohol does not need to have a role in their love lives.

For as long as we can remember, drinking and dating have gone hand in hand. Pop culture has played a role in making drinking not only fun and sexy, but seemingly, essential. It’s hard to imagine Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw without her classic cosmopolitan or James Bond without his signature “shaken, not stirred” martini. Literary and film enthusiasts alike may recall Daisy Buchanan desiring nothing more than “a place to have a Mint Julep.” And, music lovers had “Drunk In Love” relationship goals despite (or perhaps in favor of) Beyonce and Jay-Z  waking up “on the kitchen floor, wondering how the hell did this happen?” (Oh baby!) 

Drinking alcohol is all around us.  

In 2018, Huffington Post declared that Modern Dating is Making Us Drink More with one commentator admitting that she can have chemistry with pretty much anyone after a couple of glasses of champagne. According to Zoosk, dating singles tend to drink more than the entire general adult population. Around 72% of online daters admitted to consuming alcohol on dates, compared to 64.8% of the general population. Recovery First reported that more than a third of women and nearly half of men said their dates already had a drink in hand upon their arrival. 

However, things are starting to shift. In late 2022, Tinder reported that alcohol-free dates are the newest trend challenging the traditional dating norms. “Over 25% of surveyed young singles on Tinder said they drink less on dates compared with last year,” the dating app states. “When describing their drinking habits, 72% of Tinder members said they don’t drink or only drink occasionally on their profiles. In fact, the 🍻and 🍷 emojis each decreased (40% and 25% respectively) on Tinder profiles.”

Many are coming to realize that alcohol does not necessarily have to be a part of their love story. While there may be some obvious challenges to dating while sober, or “dry dating,” there are also some surprising benefits to bypassing intoxication in the pursuit of intimacy. 

How And Why People Are Dry Dating

Chris Opoku, founder of The Chritical Magazine, has been sober her entire life due to her faith. She finds alcohol to be a distraction to dating. “You can hold genuine conversations for longer without any mood influencer like alcohol,” she said. “You avoid the risk of dating a reckless drinker, which is often tied with reckless decision making. You save a lot of money. You discover more enjoyable couple activities to do.”

A sentiment shared across the board, dry dating is more cost effective. However, how people approach their sobriety widely varies. While Opoku’s is through her faith, Nicole Russin-McFarland, film music composer and director of The Mystery Dating App, turned to sobriety after complications with diabetes. She says anything that can be done with drinks, can also be done without them. “I prefer activities such as bowling, cinema, trying new restaurants, and paintball,” she said.

New York-based Matt Jones* says the types of dates he goes on hasn’t changed that much since he’s stopped drinking, although he still experiments with psychedelics about twice a month and takes the occasional weed edible. 

“Since I partake in other drugs, I feel like I can get away with going out with people that drink without feeling out of place. I love going out dancing, visiting museums and galleries, catching a live show, and trying new restaurants,” he offers. “I am also a painter, so if we share a common interest in creating, hopefully we can influence each other and work on projects, either solo or together.” Ultimately, it seems sober daters are prioritizing connecting with others over the activity itself.

How Sober Daters Talk About Their Sobriety

As the reasons and ways people live soberly differ, so does the way they communicate it in their love lives. “I address it casually, because I’m ok with being at a bar or being around people that are drinking without feeling anxious,” Jones said. “It’s definitely not the first thing I bring up, but if someone suggests meeting for a drink I let them know that I’m happy with grabbing a NA drink and I don’t mind if they drink.”

Brooklyn-based DJ StrongStyle says his sobriety has completely changed dating for him, even down to the initial exchanges with someone. “I had to relearn dating, not just sober, but all together,” he says. “Right away I need to be vulnerable, and it can be emotional at times. Most times, your basic introduction is going to be telling a stranger you have a substance abuse problem and then you just hope for the best.”

Sophie Banyard, a former heroin addict-turned-personal trainer, gave up drinking two years ago. While she found dry dating to be a very different experience at first, she was surprised how most people responded. “I don’t think I got any bad reactions,” she said.

Not everyone has been received as warmly, though. “Once, someone canceled a date altogether after learning I didn’t drink. Honestly, that was probably for the better,” Jones said. “I’d rather not entertain dating someone who didn’t know how to hang with the social lubricant.”

How Sobriety Changes Dating 

Overall, dry dating doesn’t have to be daunting. There is someone for everyone, regardless of your drinking preferences. “Sobriety adds a new dynamic. I tend to not go after people who make alcohol a strong part of their [dating app] profile,” Strong Style reveals. 

For Bayard, it’s afforded more clarity. “I think dating sober also means there’s no risk of the booze creating a false connection, which definitely happened to me a lot when I was drinking,” she said.

And, Russin-McFarland finds there are plenty of people who don’t prioritize alcohol to connect with. “I find lots of wonderful people to talk to who have either overcome alcoholism themselves or their loved ones have, so they themselves don’t mind another person who goes out and doesn’t tempt them with alcohol.”

As the people’s relationship with alcohol evolves, dating trends are changing along with it. It is now tradition for some to kick off the new year with Dry January. Dry dating might just be the new wave to take a clear-minded approach to love, a journey that honors presence and longevity, allowing us to truly get to know our partners – and ourselves.

*Last name has been changed at the request of the source. 

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