“Where can we go get a drink?” was often the first question Milica Dodic was asked when people would ask her out on a date through apps like Tinder and Bumble.
“It’s something that’s quick, and an fall back on,” the 28-year-old said. “Drinking also gives you liquid courage.”
For many folks, getting to know someone over a few beers is a normal part of dating. But for those like Dodic, who don’t drink, the question can pose a unique challenge: how do you tell someone you’re sober?
How to tell your date you don’t drink
According to registered psychologist and relationship expert Nicole McCance, it’s often best to be up-front with your date and tell them you don’t drink early on. This way, she said, you weed out people who don’t respect your lifestyle and who aren’t compatible with you.
“Some of my clients will actually put on their dating profiles because … it makes it easier to filter people out,” she said. “I actually see that as a good thing, because it can deepen connections right away.”
When it comes to how much information you share with a suitor, McCance said telling someone that you simply don’t drink is sufficient — especially if you are just getting to know them. You don’t need to explain yourself or justify your sobriety.
“Open yourself as much as you feel comfortable with,” she said. “If you’re just chatting back and forth , for example, saying something like, ‘I used to drink and now I don’t’ is enough. You don’t know this person yet.”
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“You can say, ‘Maybe we’ll get into it when we meet’ and that’s totally fine.”
Dodic, who works in film, said she’s open with suitors about the fact she doesn’t drink before they go on a date. She stopped using apps a few months ago, and now meets dates organically. If they ask her why she’s sober, she’s usually candid, and often says drinking alcohol doesn’t make her feel good.
“I usually tell them, just so that they’re aware, and so they know my limits,” she said. “I find that it can sometimes change their opinion of me in a way. … There’s a bit more awareness.”
Non-drinking date ideas
Letting someone know you aren’t a drinker also helps when it comes to planning dates. If you’re not comfortable meeting at a bar, you can enforce those boundaries right away, therapist McCance said.
“There’s a spectrum of sobriety,” McCance explained. “Some people are sober but don’t mind dating somebody who is a social drinker, and they can happily sit across a table from someone who’s drinking in front of them. Then, there are other people where that would really not be healthy for them.”
“It’s really important as a sober dater to reflect on what’s important to you.”
Dodic said she doesn’t mind going to bars on a first date, but she won’t drink while she’s there. It’s helpful when they also serve food. Instead, she prefers cultural dates, like going to an art gallery or exploring a neighbourhood.
“I remember, I had one really great date last summer, which ended up going all night,” she said. “We started hopping around different places and it was an adventure, where we didn’t have to rely on alcohol.”
If someone suggests a date that involves drinking, it’s also a great opportunity to tell them you’re sober and suggest another activity, said Vancouver-based dating coach and relationship expert Deanna Cobden.
“You can say, ‘Thanks so much for the invitation. I don’t drink, but I’d love to meet you for coffee and a walk,'” she said.
“With coffee or tea, you have to add a bit of an interesting element to that date, so go for a walk by the water or walk through an interesting neighbourhood. You need to have interaction. Otherwise, it turns into a bit of a job interview.”
Not drinking on dates helps with judgment
When you’re sober, you don’t have alcohol clouding your memory or judgment of a person. Being mentally alert while getting to know someone helps you figure out how you really feel and if there’s a spark.
“It’s difficult to be vulnerable. When you’re sober, you feel like you’re being judged a lot more,” said Dodic. “The person is seeing the real you.”
“When you’re drinking, … a lot of the time you’re like, ‘Whatever, this person is not even going to remember what I said.’”
Not only are sober dates better for forming opinions, abstaining from alcohol is better for your body, too.
“A lot of my clients feel insecure and like they’re different. They feel like is harder, but not drinking is a healthier option,” McCance said. “There are many, many social drinkers who will respect you and will actually be quite inspired by that.”
“It takes a lot of inner strength to go against the grain.”
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