Dry Dating: How To Navigate New Relationships While Sober

The dating world is constantly evolving, but the practice itself can be extremely anxiety-inducing. Fear of rejection or judgment is often held by both parties, which is why alcohol consumption has become socially accepted as a coping mechanism to manage these feelings in the dating world. Alcohol — or "liquid courage" — has been a partner in crime for daters to help manage nervousness because it gives our brains a "disinhibited buzz" that makes us feel much more socially free, per The Washington Post

According to a study conducted by the American Addiction Center,  while half of millennials surveyed said they knock back a couple of drinks to soothe those pre-date jitters, more than a third embark on a date completely sober. This newer concept of remaining sober while participating in dating is called dry dating.

Dry dating just may be the future of dating. The trend has grown in popularity, largely due to the social realization of alcohol misuse during the COVID-19 pandemic. Dry daters are refraining from consuming alcohol and getting to know each other as their authentic and sober selves. So why should one participate in dry dating and how do you navigate that conversation on a date?

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

How to navigate dry dating

Navigating a new relationship without alcohol doesn't have to be awkward or challenging. Sobriety is normal, so there is no reason to be embarrassed about your decision to dry date. The key to dry dating is to be confident, honest, and unwavering about your decision, without making the date all about alcohol consumption or the lack thereof. If questioned about your decision to dry date, you should only reveal what you are comfortable with because you don't owe anyone an explanation as to why you are sober, especially someone that you have just met!

Caggie Dunlop, a podcast host, and experienced dry dater, shared her dry dating tips with Alcohol Change UK. According to Dunlop, a smart tip to avoid misunderstandings is to let your date know that you do not drink beforehand. This way, all parties are aware of the boundaries and can move forward with them in mind. Dunlop explained it as an opportunity to "eliminate the bad eggs much faster" by gauging your date's response. A person's response to your decision to dry date could be a good indicator as to if they truly respect you, and may even turn out to be a good way to break the ice. Dry dating is not for everyone, but it is important to respect other people's decisions to dry date, even if that is not something that you choose to participate in. 

What are the benefits of dry dating?

A major benefit of dry dating is authenticity. Without the veil of alcohol, you can fully be your authentic self, which can help you to make an informed decision on if the relationship is a good fit.

Naomi Bridgman explained the clarity that dry dating has brought her in her relationships in an interview with Stylist. "It definitely affects the way I behave and engage," she said. "Before when my first dates were centered around alcohol, I often found myself coming away and wondering if there was any connection or attraction ... without alcohol, I think the effort to be more authentically yourself is there and it's clearer if there is a spark or a connection." 

Experts told The Washington Post that dry dating can increase confidence, allow for more genuine conversation, and enhance creativity. It can also heighten feelings of safety, especially when you are in the beginning stages of getting to know someone and building trust. Dry dating is a positive dating alternative for those seeking new experiences and can help create healthier and happier relationships.