Bottoms Not Up: What You Need To Know About Sober Dating

Here's why Gen Z is trading their cocktails for mocktails on dates.
Sober Dating
Photo: Getty Images | Koh Sze Kiat
Hayley Folk
Hayley Folk
Hayley Folk
Hayley Folk
The Knot Contributor
  • Hayley writes articles on a freelance basis for The Knot Worldwide, with a specialty in sex and relationships.
  • Her work has appeared in The Knot, Cosmopolitan, Refinery29 and more.
  • Prior to The Knot Worldwide, Hayley was a full-time editor at a business publication.
Updated Sep 24, 2023

The dating game has changed a lot in the past ten years. Think evolving relationship styles, new ways of communicating, unique date ideas and of course, the rise of social-media-friendly trends like sober dating. For some Gen Z folks, the days of "meeting for [alcoholic] drinks" are over, making room for an intentional dating space—and they're encouraging others to adopt the sober-forward dating trend, too.

But what is sober dating? Can it really benefit your dating life? Regardless of if you're going on a first date or planning a date night with a long-time partner, TikTok thinks you should give it the old-college try. After all, for those who are sober curious, the practice can have many benefits.

In this article:

What Exactly Is Sober Dating?

The idea of sober dating, also known as dry dating, is actually quite simple: It's choosing to not to drink alcohol on dates, in order to be intentional about building a space for connection and staying present.

Sober dating shouldn't be confused with being in sobriety, though. While being in sobriety is essential for some folks who struggle with substance issues, dry dating isn't about staying sober but about increasing the possibility of a thoughtful romantic connection.

Why Sober Dating Is Trendy Right Now

These days, it's easy to get caught up in trends, only for them to blow over the next week. But the sober dating trend has stuck around—and for good reason. Here's why.

It allows for true human connection

After the last few years in a life-changing pandemic, many folks are looking for human connection, meaningful spaces and ways to nurture both new and current relationships. This Gen Z dating trend is a way to allow yourself to focus on human connection in the moment—instead of feeling a buzz at the bar or not remembering everything about the date the morning after.

Dry dating keeps you more present

Picture this: You've had a few drinks and you're more focused on the feeling than you are on listening to your date talk about their hometown. This isn't exactly a recipe for connection. If you're trying sober curious dating, however, you're more likely to be present when they tell you what their favorite color is or if they're a coffee or tea person.

It fosters a feeling of safety

Feeling safe, especially while you're on a date, is extremely important. By eliminating alcohol (especially while on a first date with that person you met on a dating app), you can feel safe, have a clear mind and make decisions that you know will be right for you.

You can truly see how you mesh

Just starting to date someone? Without a Manhattan or Cosmopolitan in the mix, you'll be able to clearly see how and if you mesh with the other person. This one doesn't apply so much for long-term partners, but if the relationship is fresh, you're more likely to see how you do or don't fit together sans alcohol.

You might have deeper conversations

Sometimes, having a few drinks while on a date can actually hinder conversation instead of help it. You might be more likely to have a deeper, more meaningful conversation (that you'll remember clearly) while enjoying mocktails at the bar than you would after three drinks. Having deep conversations, no matter where you are in the relationship, can allow you and your partner to feel more understood and accepted. Who doesn't want that?

How to Bring Up Dry Dating on a First Date

Dry dating doesn't have to be intimidating. In fact, it can be a great way to start off a first date. If you're trying it out for the first time, we advise just being upfront about it when you get there. You can say something like: "I'm really looking to be intentional about dating, so I won't be drinking tonight because I just want to get to know you."

Dating, especially going on a first date, is all about feeling out if you and another person connect. Chances are, they'll respect your intentionality and honesty, which is a great start to a date. If they don't, they might not be the kind of person you're looking for. Either way, bringing up sober dating on a first date can be a great indicator of honesty, perspective and, above all, setting intentions.

How to Bring Up Sober Dating with Your Long-Term Partner

Maybe you're long past the first date but you're looking to incorporate sober dating with your long-term partner. If so, we still think the best approach is to be honest and forward. Tell your partner about sober dating, why it has piqued your interest and that you'd like to give it a try.

Try saying something like: "I saw this new dating trend on TikTok about dry dating, where you don't drink while out to be more present with each other. I'd love to try it out on our next date night."

By now, you and your partner are probably well in-sync, but building connection in relationships never stops. To have lasting communication, intimacy and understanding, being able to say what you want is key. If you're sober curious, or simply just want to give dry dating a spin, our best advice is to say it out loud.

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