Written by Leah Sinclair
With one in three people in the UK now more likely to go on a dry date than they were pre-pandemic, Stylist speaks to two women about the sober dating trend and how it’s changed their perspective.
We’re officially just over the halfway mark of Dry January, where millions across the UK are ditching their favourite alcoholic tipple in favour of something booze-free for the start of 2022.
The practice, which has grown in popularity over the past few years (a record-breaking 6.5 million Brits participated last year), sees people embrace the new year with a fresh perspective, free from the copious amounts of liquor many of us consumed over the Christmas period – but according to Bumble, this is something which is impacting people’s dating lives and is going way past the January 31st cut-off date.
The women-first dating app found that one in three people in the UK are now more likely to go on a dry date than they were pre-pandemic, amid a shift in dating with 54% of single people in the UK being more mindful and intentional in how, and when, they date.
Bumble’s research shows that 62% of the population believe that they are more likely to form deeper and more genuine connections if they date without alcohol and has resulted in the emergence of “dry dating” – and for some women, this has resulted in a radical change in their approach to the dating world.
“Prior to the pandemic, I would say that most of my dates would take place in a bar or pubs,” says Naomi Bridgman.
For Bridgman, these common dating spots would often result in a few drinks and getting tipsy – and when dates would suggest other date ideas, it would often catch her off-guard.
“I think a lot of people in my age group met on a night out in their early 20s, leading us to believe that the first date should be spent drinking,” she says. “I recall times that a date would suggest something different for our first meeting, like bowling, and I thought that was wild!”
The 30-year-old says she decided to take part in Dry January in a bid to “kick start the year with more mindful habits” – particularly as the pandemic had taken a toll on her body “emotionally and physically” with drinking becoming more frequent over the years.
“I would have a glass of wine most weekday evenings to unwind from work as I work in adult social care supporting hospital discharges. As you can imagine, there have been some tough days throughout the pandemic and I would say that one glass would become two or three glasses sometimes,” she says.
“As the world opened up, my alcohol consumption remained the same and it was something that lingered in my mind that I wanted to change as we slowly shifted back to normality.”
Bridgman started the year determined to do Dry January and went full steam ahead with cutting out alcohol – including on the dates she went on, resulting in a different approach to her dating experiences.
“I had already adopted an approach to organising first dates that did not revolve around drinks or alcohol and I think that participating in Dry January has made it easier to have a no-alcohol first date as it seems many are in the same boat at this time of year.”
“It definitely affects the way I behave and engage. Before when my first dates were centred around alcohol, I often found myself coming away and wondering if there was any connection or attraction. Or, if I did think there was a connection, I’d go on a second date and realise the only thing we had in common was enjoying pints in a pub,” she says.
“Now I like to go for a coffee or walk with my dog as Sheffield is spoiled for parks/peaks. Post-lockdown, I’ve become really keen on these types of outdoor dates, and 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.”
For Laura Crompton, dry dating isn’t a result of participating in Dry January, but a way of practising sobriety and living holistically.
“I have always looked at wellness trends more holistically rather than attaching a time frame to them and dry dating is my way of practising sobriety and allows me to reap some of the health and financial benefits without committing entirely,” she says.
As a single mother, Crompton says she hasn’t been in a serious relationship since her son was born eight years ago and finds herself dipping “in and out of apps from time to time, with varying degrees of success”.
“While parenting and work took the front seat, my dating life was patchy and while I haven’t met Mr Right yet, I have made some decent connections over the years,” she says. “I’m actually still friends with some who I met on Bumble, to this day.
Throughout these dating experiences, Crompton has learned a lot about herself, particularly as she began to dry date.
“In a way, my experiences have become more wholesome since starting to dry date. I tend not to drink on the first date with a person I am keen to get to know – I’m finding that I’m listening more attentively and having deeper conversations from the offset,” she shares.
“This really helps me to build a more meaningful connection with the person and also helps me make a more informed decision on whether I like them or not from the off. Finding that I need Dutch courage to have a bond with a person has meant I really reevaluate our compatibility from the offset.
“However, if I find the first date goes well without vino then on the second meeting I will let my hair down and show a more fun side to myself. It’s really helped to not ‘waste my time’ (or theirs), as I’m making rational decisions from the start and not letting alcohol cloud my judgement.”
While Crompton says she’s always been a relaxed and confident person, sober dating means she can appreciate aspects about herself and others without alcohol enhancing anything – and it’s something she is interested in continuing.
“I recently went to karaoke with a professional singer on a sober first date, and it was so fun – although he could hit the notes better than I could (obviously) it wasn’t awkward in the slightest,” she shares.
“In fact, being sober makes you appreciate the high you get from the activity which you’re doing rather than relying on the liquor for a buzz.”
Image: Getty, Naomi Bridgman, Laura Crompton
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