If You're Dating Someone Who Doesn't Drink, Here Are 6 Ways To Help Them Feel More Comfortable
In the dating world, it often feels like drinking alcohol is just par for the course in meeting someone. So many first dates happen over drinks at bars, and hookup culture depends in large part on the "liquid courage" people consume before sending that "you up?" text at 1 a.m. But not everyone chooses to date this way. If you're dating someone who doesn’t drink, and you want to support their lifestyle choices, how can you navigate the dating scene in a way that's thoughtful and affirming to them?
Thankfully, dating as a non-drinker doesn’t have to be boring at all. And just because your partner chooses not to drink doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy alcohol when they’re around. “The fact that I don’t drink has nothing to do with the fact that you do,” says MJ Gottlieb, creator and CEO of Loosid, a dating app and social platform for the sober community. I asked Gottlieb for his suggestions on making your partner feel supported when they choose not to drink alcohol, whether they have experience with alcoholism or are abstaining for financial or health reasons.
I also spoke with Ruby Warrington, author of Sober Curious: The Blissful Sleep, Greater Focus, Limitless Presence, and Deep Connection Awaiting Us All on the Other Side of Alcohol. Like Gottlieb, she emphasized that a life without alcohol doesn’t have to be monotonous. In fact, your relationship will be at its best when your support your partner and their life choices. Read on for some helpful tips on how to make that happen.
1. Plan dates at creative locations.
“Try to take them places you know serve good alcohol-free options,” Warrington suggests. Many cities have alcohol-free bars that serve mocktails even the most seasoned margarita drinkers will love. You can also grab a different type of "drink" by going to get coffee, bubble tea, or smoothies together. Or, plan dates that don’t involve getting drinks at all — like a picnic in the park, a night at the theater, or a yoga class.
2. Pace your own drinking.
If you’re at a bar or restaurant and you want to enjoy a glass of wine, go for it — your date shouldn’t judge you for your choices, just as you shouldn’t judge them for theirs. But do be mindful that your alcoholic drinks will have a different physical effect than their tonic water or lemonade. “You'll get on a completely different level pretty quickly if you're downing wine while they're on the soda and lime,” Warrington notes. To avoid an awkward situation, limit your drinking to an amount you know you’ll be able to handle.
3. Show an interest in their choice, and respect them for it.
Warrington says that one of the best ways to support a non-drinker is to “show an interest in their choice, and let them know you're open to hearing about their experiences as a non-drinker.” Regardless of their reason for not drinking, it’s a choice they’ve made for a better life for themselves, and it will mean the world if you respect and care about that decision.
That being said, don't ever push for more information than your partner wants to share. If they don't care to talk about why they've chosen to stay sober, respect their boundaries by allowing them some privacy in this regard. You can respect their choice without needing to hear every little detail about it.
4. Plan ahead for your nights out.
If you’re planning a night out together with friends and you know you’ll be drinking, talk about it with your partner in advance. “Before a night out, you can make a plan for what to do if the non-drinker wants to leave early and you want to stay,” Warrington suggests. “Then it won't become a ‘thing’ in the moment.” You never want to make your date feel singled out for their choice not to drink — so if you know in advance that they’re planning to duck out early, you can help that moment go smoothly for them.
5. Don’t project your life onto theirs.
This is super important to remember: Your partner's choice not to drink has nothing to do with you or your life. “Drinking is not a lifestyle,” Gottlieb explains. “You can be at the same parties, the same concerts, everything.” Sure, it’s a lifestyle choice, but it doesn’t need to affect the time you spend together. Whether or not you choose to drink around your date, that choice should be made based solely on what makes you happiest. You can enjoy alcohol while your date chooses to abstain, as long as you both acknowledge and support each other’s choices.
6. Don’t focus on the fact that they’re not drinking.
If you’re out together and other people are drinking, try not to draw attention to the fact that your partner isn’t participating. “The more you focus on the person not drinking, the more self-conscious the person becomes,” Gottlieb explains. If one of your friends asks your boo why they’re not drinking, let them answer honestly, then move on. “[Don’t] make it an elephant in the room,” Gottlieb says. “That’s the worst thing you can do.” If your friends are making a big deal out of it, help your partner to politely deflect their comments, and steer the conversation in another direction.
The most important thing you can do is to be proud and supportive of your boo as they pursue a sober lifestyle. Whatever you choose to do in your own personal life, your date will appreciate that you care about their health and happiness. And if you’re ever worried about making them uncomfortable, have an honest conversation about it! Together, you can make a plan to have fun together without feeling unnecessary pressure or stigma. And that’s a lifestyle choice everyone can get behind.
If you or someone you know is seeking help for substance use, call the SAMHSA National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP(4357).