How to mentally prepare for a sober date

Healthy relationship therapist, psychologist and Fitafy dating expert Michaela Josephson sat down with bubble. to discuss how to sober date: why we should consider it, how to prep for a sober date, as well as great sober dating ideas.

Michaela Josephson. Image supplied.

Q: What’s the problem with dates that involve drinking? And why do so many of us feel the need to drink on dates in the first place?

So many of us do it because it gives us the good old liquid courage. I think it really takes the edge off when people are putting themselves out of their comfort zone and into situations that are daunting and requiring you to be vulnerable. And essentially that’s what dating is. You need to be vulnerable to be able to meet up with someone you’ve never really met before. That’s why people do find it easier to have a few drinks on dates.

The problem with that however is often our prefrontal cortex gets affected by alcohol and that in itself makes our decision making go a bit haywire, as well as our opinions and the way we present ourselves. I always find that when we drink too much we end up presenting not only a version of ourselves that isn’t authentic – and one of my biggest tips for dating is to always be yourself – but we also meet an unauthentic version of the person we’re trying to get to know.

Q: What if our date suggest going to a bar, or a date idea that involves drinking? How can we steer away or even reject those ideas without feeling awkward?

I would say treat it like you’re speaking to a toddler. If a toddler is being naughty, you just change their attention to something else and give them something more exciting to focus their attention on.

Basically when you’re dating, you’re in a really uncomfortable, nerve-wracking stage of life and when that happens you’re not usually responding as your full adult self – you kind of respond as your inner-child, because it’s scary! So, I guess when your date says something like ‘let’s go to this bar and have some drinks’ you can say ‘yeah, that sounds great. Another idea is there’s a trampoline place down the road’ or ‘there’s a gaming arcade nearby’, or even ‘did you hear about that really sick axe-throwing place? Would you be keen to try that?’.

You can see if giving them an exciting alternative is something that interests them, and if not then you always have the option of going to where they said and you don’t have to order an alcoholic drink when they do.

Q: How does one mentally prepare for a sober date?

I would say that when you're going into a date sober, you’re probably going to have more nerves running around you. So, the best thing is just knowing what it is you’re looking for. Be sure in what it is that you are looking for in a partner. What qualities do you want to find? That way when you do rock up to your date, you're going to have a clear idea in your mind of what it is that you’re actually looking for.

Another is to be confident in your own strengths and who you are as a person. If you are a bit self-conscious or not feeling super confident, sit yourself down before the date and write down what your strengths are as well as your best qualities. Have a look at them. It can be a super uncomfortable task but you're alone and no one's going to see it! The task is to remind yourself what is good about you as a person and as a partner – what makes you a good choice.

Yes, of course it’s important to impress other people, because that’s essentially what dating is, but your needs are still important and you still deserve what you need. Never put up with less. And that doesn’t mean arrogance and overconfidence, it just means that if you’re going to go in sober that you may feel more nerves, and you just need that reminder of your strengths and best qualities.

Q: Do you think sober dating also alters our feelings towards having sex on the first date?

I think it would play a factor. I think there’s also many other factors that do come into pay though. And the benefit of a sober date is that you can assess more clearly if you want to have sex on the date. At the end of the day, you do you – that’s totally up to you! But you’ll at least know that’s what you want in a real, clear frame of mind.

I do think in general that sober dates lead to less sex on the first date because you’re not encouraged by a little extra help. But on the same token, if you’re to meet somebody because you do just want to have sex and that’s why you're going on dates, then that’s also okay and you’re going to do that whether you’re sober or not. Even if you’re looking for a long-term partner, you might still also find that having sex on the first date is something you want to do.

Q: Conversation can get a bit awkward and stuck during first dates! When we’ve been drinking, it can help make it feel smoother and we feel more bursts of confidence. When we’re sober, I can imagine it would be a trickier situation to navigate. What are some good talking points that could come across naturally on a sober date?

The number one thing I always say for people to do is just to lead with curiosity. If you go into a conversation curious, you're not going to be stumped on talking points. Whether you're sober or drunk, if your goal in any conversation is to lead with curiosity, you’re going to be genuinely curious as to who they are, where they came from, what they do, whether they enjoy their job, what they do for fun, their crazy life stories, and so on. I feel like the key to conversation is going deep.

Keep up with Michaela’s healthy dating advice on Fitafy!