9 tips for staying sober while dating during Dry January, because the struggle is real

It’s no secret: Dating can be awkward. It’s one of the reasons — for better or worse — why so many first dates take place over drinks. But what if your date can’t include alcohol? This is the reality facing anyone dating during Dry January. And for some, it’s a little daunting.

In case you don’t know, Dry January is the practice of staying totally alcohol-free during the first month of a new year. Many view the New Year as the perfect time to cleanse and renew — especially when it comes to personal health — and omitting alcohol can be a big part of that process. And while there are undoubtedly countless potential benefits to Dry January, it can also feel a little weird if you’re on the dating scene.

Drinking is often a majorly social activity, so much so that it can almost feel anti-social to say you’re not doing it (even though there is absolutely nothing wrong with abstaining from alcohol, ever). And that being said, dating while sober is absolutely possible, and likely a lot easier than you think.

So if you’re doing Dry January this year and looking for some tips to help ease you into the dating scene, read on!

1 Be upfront about what you’re doing.

It might be tempting to not say anything about your decision to participate in Dry January to a new potential partner, but it will probably be way less awkward if you’re upfront. You can bring it up casually if they ask if you want a drink, or just use it as a conversation starter. In a piece on Dry January for Mic.com, New York City-based licensed clinical psychologist Sanam Hafeez says, “Sharing that you’re committed to a booze-free January keeps you accountable.” It also keeps your relationship from being dishonest in the very beginning stages.

2Don’t avoid dating because you’re nervous.

We get it: Dating without the comfort of a drink to soothe your nerves can potentially be intimidating — so much so that you might consider giving dating up during the month of January. But if you meet someone you want to get to know, you should go out with them, drinks or not! Meditation leader Biet Simkin even encourages dating while doing Dry January, saying, “Going in [to a date] sober allows you to stick to your guns. What you actually want in a partner doesn’t have to go out the window, like it often does when you’re drunk.” Simkin says that when you’re drinking, you’re more likely to settle for qualities you wouldn’t accept if you were sober.

3Go out with a fellow Dry January-er.

Not only will this help you feel more comfortable in your decision and give you a strong conversation starter, but it will also help you get through the month. Holistic nutritionist Kristin Dahl says, “Creating a support system is key — engage your friends, family, and co-workers. Group efforts create a collective energy that makes it easy to stay on track.” You guys may even bond over your decision to not drink.

4 Go somewhere that makes you feel comfortable.

Without the perceived safety net that alcohol can sometimes provides, you might find yourself feeling more anxious and jittery than usual. So find a different safety net. When your date asks where you want to go, offer up a place you know you’ll feel comfortable. Maybe it’s your favorite restaurant, or the coffee shop where you’re a regular. It might mean more of a group or double date situation with your closest friends by your side. Whatever it is, sticking to your comfort zone will help soothe your anxiety.

5Order a non-alcoholic drink while you’re out.

Instead of ordering your usual alcoholic drink, order something else — anything else — to sip on while you chat. In a piece for Brit+Co, registered dietician Lisa Hayim says, “The hardest part of being at a bar is being badgered by others to drink. If you have something in your hand that you’re sipping on, no one will be asking questions. Use it as a time to hydrate.”

6 Think of some talking points beforehand.

If you’re feeling nervous, it always helps to prepare a little (and this can be helpful even when it’s not Dry January). Think of three things you know you can definitely bring up, like a movie you just saw, a book you’re reading, or something funny that happened while at work. You don’t want to sound like you’re reading from a script, but having some go-to ideas can help keep things flowing.

7 Try doing an activity-based date instead of dinner.

Dry January can be the perfect time to spice up your dating game: Aka, an activity-based date. Dahl noted, “This is also a perfect time to try something new. Take a cooking class, check out a new fitness trend, begin hosting weekly dinner parties at your place…” If it’s nice out, suggest a hike.

8 Stop thinking about your sobriety.

You might be spending endless time stressing over the fact that you’re sober and your date isn’t, but they actually…might not even care. Simkin says, “People aren’t thinking about what’s in your drink. They’re just living their lives.” So try not to spend time obsessing about your Dry January status and just have fun! Also, don’t get freaked out if your date is drinking without you, or if they get a little tipsy. The more focus you put on the drinking the less comfortable you’ll likely feel.

9Think about focussing on yourself.

If you’ve read through these tips and have come to the conclusion that dating while sober doesn’t sound like it’s for you, that’s totally fine — you definitely don’t have to do it. In fact, you might want to use this month as a time to focus on yourself. Studies have shown that being in a relationship can make it harder to be successful at Dry January. If you feel like the temptation will be too much, then maybe think of January as the perfect month for taking time for just you.

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