5 Sober Dating Tips from an Expert (Because Dating with Liquid Courage Is Awkward Enough)

Navigating the dating world can be annoying, awkward and all around unenjoyable—even after a glass of wine to loosen you up. (If you’re one of those rare souls who actually enjoys it, we salute you.) Dating while sober can pose additional challenges, with so much of dating revolving around alcohol-fueled spaces and activities. Whether you’re sober or sober curious, we tapped Connell Barrett, a dating coach who’s sober himself and has experience working with sober clients, for his tips for making dating as someone who doesn’t imbibe as successful and enjoyable as possible.

Meet the Expert

Connell Barrett is a dating coach who’s the founder of Dating Transformation. Like many singles, Barrett says he used to depend on alcohol on dates to ease his nerves, shyness and social anxiety. However, many hangovers and ghostings later, he realized that abstaining from booze is the best way to present one’s authentic self and to develop deeper relationships. (He was able to find his current partner in part by getting sober.) Barrett is the author of the book Dating Sucks, but You Don’t and host of the recently launched podcast “Dating Transformation with Connell Barrett.”

8 Things You Should Never Say on a First Date

sober dating tips
Westend61/getty images

1. Give Your Date a Heads Up About Your Sobriety 

Before you think about how to talk about your sobriety in an early dating situation, Barrett stresses the importance of giving your date a heads up that you’re sober before meeting. “Your date will appreciate the 4-1-1,” he explains. “Some singles are fine to be the only one drinking on a date, but other people may feel uncomfortable doing this. Giving your date a heads up is classy and respectful because you’re thinking about their needs and comfort. And that’s attractive.” If your sobriety hasn’t come up in early conversations, shoot the person a text saying something like, “Just so you know, I’m sober, so I’ll be having a mocktail. But feel free to drink! Sound good?”  Communication is key.

2. Use Hinge Prompts to Your Advantage

Anyone who’s spent any time on the dating app Hinge is familiar with Hinge prompts, interview-type questions that serve as conversation starters on the app. One prompt Barrett encourages sober daters to use is: “Instead of Grabbing Drinks, Let’s…” He tells us, “ Alcohol-free dates are attractive to a lot of singles, which is why this Hinge prompt works well. It’s a poll that lets you suggest three dry-date ideas that might ideal to your type. My sober clients get a lot of matches with it.”

He adds that this prompt lets you show your sense of humor as well, by making the third date idea something silly and absurd. His example? “Instead of grabbing drinks, let’s… a) Sip espresso b) Play ping pong c) Double-date with Taylor and Travis.”

3. Suggest a Creative Date

Dating can get monotonous after a while. Barrrett says that a benefit of sober dating is that it forces you come up with creative, fun date ideas. Museum visits, board game tournaments matches, pizza-place crawls, etc. “When you look beyond the bars for date ideas, a whole new dating scene opens up!” To get your creative juices flowing, here are 30 fun sober date ideas to consider.

4. Be Open to Meeting People in Bars (Depending on Your Situation) 

One big caveat here: Only listen to this tip if you’re confident in your sobriety and aren’t triggered by being around alcohol. If that’s you, Barrett says there’s a potential bonus to meeting potential partners in bars: “After I quit drinking, my first sober date in a bar was an epiphany,” he explains. “Not only was I not tempted to drink, which was amazing. But it felt freeing to be in a bar without needing constant swigs of liquid courage to be confident. True confidence and self-esteem come from within, not from a bottle. And every time I’m in a bar, I’m reminded of this, and it feels incredible.”

5. Keep an Answer to Invasive Questions in Your Back Pocket

Barrett tells us there are basically two kinds of sober daters: those who don’t like alcohol and those who’ve had a dependency problem, adding that he is in the latter camp (as are a lot of his clients). He notes that if you’re sober simply because booze isn’t your thing, just tell your date that you’re not much of a drinker. “If you’ve had alcohol dependency issues, or you’ve been in recovery, navigate the topic this way, if it comes up on a first date: Tell the truth, but don’t dwell on the topic. Talk about the elephant in the room for a minute or two while staying positive—and then pivot to better, lighter first-date topics.” While that explanation should be enough for the person you’re with, Barrett says it’s helpful to have an answer to the question “Why don’t you drink?” in your back pocket just in case. He says, “I coach my sober clients to say something like this: ‘I used to drink too much, so I broke up with booze. I’m much happier and healthier now.’ This honest response succinctly frames the subject through the lens of your growth and your commitment to health—attractive traits both.” From there, he says you can open up about your history with alcohol on the second or third date. “First-date topics should be light and fun, and not feel like an AA meeting.”

sarah stiefvater

Wellness Director

Sarah Stiefvater is PureWow's Wellness Director. She's been at PureWow for ten years, and in that time has written and edited stories across all categories, but currently focuses...