Congratulations for everyone who gave Dry January a go this year – this weekend marks the last one you have to go through without having a drink.
It’s thought over six million of us quit the booze in a bid to kickstart 2022 a little bit healthier – and now, many more women are looking to say ‘see ya’ to the chardonnay when it comes to their love lives too.
‘Dry dating’ is the latest love life trend du jour, with research by Bumble finding that one in three Brits are opting to abstain from alcohol when going out on dates.
In fact, some Brits even believe that moving beyond the bottle may be the thing that helps them find true love, with 62 per cent of the population believe that they are more likely to form deeper and more genuine connections if they date without alcohol.
So why are we now deciding to date without drinking? Tyla spoke to three dry daters to see how they’re finding dating sans alcohol.
Millie Gooch, 30, London
Millie Gooch decided to stopped drinking back in 2018. The 30-year-old felt hangovers were having such a detrimental effect on her mental health that she decided to go entirely teetotal.
“I’d done my fair share of drunken dates,” she tells Tyla. “I actually found it much easier to know if I actually like someone when I’m clear headed instead of just fancying them because I’ve had too much to drink. I’m able to really see if there is a spark, if we have much in common and if there’s really a connection. “
Millie, now the author of the Sober Girl Society handbook, explained she would rely on ‘Dutch courage’ to help her through situations and environments that made her feel uncomfortable.
“Because I relied on alcohol for courage, I had no innate confidence of my own,” she said. “When I stopped drinking, I started pushing myself outside the comfort zone without alcohol and found that I developed a confidence that stayed with me.”
While Millie is entirely sober now, she does think that people reducing their alcohol intake, even just on dates, can only be a good thing.
“Even if you have no plans to cut drinking out entirely, it can be a really great way to suss out the person you’re dating,” she said.
“I always say that in a way it makes it more efficient. I can do day dates or coffee dates rather than roping myself in for an entire night of drinking and writing off the next day. It’s also just easier to spot red flags!”
Now, instead of booze-fuelled meetings in dark bars, Millie’s dates are full of variety; while she’s still had her fill of meeting for a (non-alcoholic) bev or two, she’s also had first dates in theme parks, and even doing more active meet-ups, such as kayaking.
“Generally, my sober dates have gone really well!” she says, “Most people have drunk alcohol on the dates but I think when it isn’t the sole focus of the date, no one has got really carried away to the point where we aren’t on the same level anymore.
“The thing I realised after a while of dating sober is that I’d always got my confidence for dates from alcohol and really that meant that I didn’t have much natural confidence of my own. The more sober dates I’ve tackled, the more I’ve grown in confidence and that really sticks with you. Of course, the first few are scary but once you realise that you can do them – they really do get easier!”
While Millie gave up drinking entirely, DJ Jodie Weston actually found herself drinking more, especially when the pandemic hit.
“I definitely found myself having more cocktails than beforehand. At one point I started becoming a bit of a kitchen-mixologist,” she explains.
“But now work is busy again, I’m limiting myself to only drinking two nights a week max.”
As Jodie is cutting back on her alcohol intake, she decided to take the plunge last year and stop drinking on dates – and has since had mixed results.
“I think most of us who drink alcohol are guilty of relying on Dutch courage,” she says.
“I have found that my dates have definitely become more sink or swim. It has enabled me to sieve out the unsuitable candidates a lot quicker because there are more noticeable breaks in the conversation and we cant rely on being a little bit merry to cover them up. It definitely exposes the good and the bad."
Jodie has also found not everyone is entirely complimentary about her choice to dry date – but that this isn’t actually a bad thing.
“One of my dates actually called me ‘boring,’ but a few of them have embraced it and decided to join me in having a sober date,” she said. “On one of my more successful dates, he said it was refreshing to find a girl who just wants to be present and work on making the conversation flow naturally.
“He appreciated the effort from someone who does drink but has chosen not to for a valuable reason.”
Jodie, who has to juggle the social side of her work DJ-ing alongside dating, is happy that sober dating has helped her decide whether someone is right for her more quickly that she would have done before.
And like Millie, she finds it’s boosted her confidence.
“I would say give it a go, what do you have to lose?” Jodie said.
“It's a great social experiment for lots of reasons. You go away feeling either great that you’ve met someone who you actually get on with or that they are a definitely 'no' and there is no future romantically for the two of you.”
Nwanneka has only recently pledged to give up alcohol while looking for love, and started her adventures in dry dating.
It wasn’t a particularly groundbreaking shift for her, as Nwanneka admits she’s never been a heavy drinker.
“Alcohol has always been an occasional indulgence,” she says, before admitting that she found quitting drinking dates easier than giving up the odd glass at other events.
“Even as an occasional drinker, it was definitely easier to try going on a few dry dates than going teetotal in every area of life,” she explains. “There’s always someone's birthday or a wedding when you want to have a cocktail or two.”
While it’s still early days for Nwanneka as she continues to date without drinking, she only has positively things to say about the experience so far.
“When comparing dates which involve alcohol to dry dates, I feel when I've been sober I've been more authentically me – you should only date someone who you can be unapologetically and wholeheartedly yourself around.
“Without alcohol clouding my judgement, I feel like I really get to know who I’m talking to and it confirms whether there’s actually a spark there (or if it’s just the cocktails talking!)” she laughed.
“It’s been a positive experience. No one has ever made me feel inadequate, or less than for not drinking, in fact it's often been celebrated and acted as a conversation starter, which I like a lot. Sometimes, they even join me in going dry!”
While Nwanneka isn’t sure whether dry dating will really lead her to find the one, she has no intention of ever returning to alcohol fuelled dates.
“When I drank on dates previously, I found that it could go many ways. I could feel confident (sometimes overly) or I could end up feeling quite shy; however, when I don’t drink I feel more aware of my emotions in the given moment. It’s meant I can be more in tune with myself and that my date also gets a chance to know who I really am.
“Dating sober has meant I have become more comfortable and confident with myself and confidence is always attractive.”
And for those considering the change but scared about losing all Dutch courage, Nwanneka urges people to look into easing themselves into dry dates.
“Start slowly," she says, “Check in with yourself at various points of the date and think about if you really need a drink to keep conversation going - if that’s the case, it’s probably not the right match!
“Don’t give up! Even if it feels awkward at first, it does get easier. I promise!”