Drinking and Dating: Rules to Live By

October 10, 2012

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Today’s guest blog comes from renowned psychotherapist and YourTango expert Nina Atwood, who does a great job looking at how having a drink or two can make a big difference in your dating experience.

drinkinganddating Drinking and Dating: Rules to Live ByYou’re on a first date and it’s time to order a beverage. Should you drink?

It depends on your ultimate goal. If you’re seeking a great relationship, then your first date should be all about discovering basic compatibility, including chemistry. Since alcohol fosters false chemistry, the first rule of dating and drinking etiquette is this: Don’t drink on the first date.

There’s plenty of time to enjoy that little buzz together later, once you establish compatibility. On the first date it’s essential to be level-headed and to ask great questions, such as my all-time favorite suggestion for single clients: “How long has it been since your last relationship and why did it end?” If you are stone-cold sober, you will listen more attentively, learning far more than you can while drinking.

So now you’re on a second date, and you’ve decided that it’s okay to drink now. You order first, requesting your favorite cocktail. He orders second, and opts for an iced tea. Oops! Is this a dating faux pas or par for the course? In the language of love, it’s a problem. Here’s why: Unconsciously we look for someone who is similar, with whom we feel in sync. Couples that last mirror one another in lots of subtle ways from the first date onward.

So, when he orders iced tea and you order alcohol, you are already out of sync. It’s a tiny disconnect, but one that can influence whether or not he asks you on the next date. Thus, the second rule of dating and drinking etiquette is this: Let him order his beverage first! If he orders a non-alcoholic beverage, follow suit by ordering water, soda or tea. If he orders something alcoholic, you can choose wine or a cocktail. Of course, if you never drink, be true to yourself. You don’t have to drink alcohol to get another date. Later on the relationship, you should have plenty of freedom to order as you please. It’s only in the first handful of dates that it’s critical to be in sync.

The goal is not to manipulate him, but to pay attention to the pacing. This can maximize the connection.

Now, let’s say it’s a later date and you’re having your first drink together. That feels great, but how far should you go? In dating etiquette, how much you drink has a huge bearing on how the relationship develops. Alcohol consumption is highly associated with the timing of sex for the first time. Alcohol lowers emotional and sexual barriers and impairs judgment. The problem is that sometimes the alcohol, instead of your rational brain, chooses the partner. Let’s say he drinks and tries to get you to match his pace, even though you clearly say “no.” That leads me to the third rule of dating and drinking etiquette: Never let his over consumption of alcohol compromise your safety or well-being.

First of all, people put their best food forward in new relationships. If this is his best, you’re in for a world of hurt down the road. He has a drinking problem and is possibly an alcoholic. You are not going to be able to change him. Get the lesson now and move on. This situation also calls for having strong interpersonal boundaries.

Don’t hesitate to say good night, stand up and leave the restaurant (after calling a taxi if you need to). You do not have to be “nice” to him, and you certainly should not care about offending him. If he calls you the next day to apologize, thank him, but do not let him talk you into another date with his remorse. The behavior will not change.

But what if you are the one who really likes that fourth drink on a date? Remember that you are putting your best foot forward as well. If you can’t stop after the second drink (which is the recommended amount of daily alcohol intake for most women), maybe you have a problem with alcohol. Seek an assessment and treatment before you inflict your problems on someone else.

Having a drink on a date has benefits. It can relax you so you can freely relate to one another minus the nerves associated with new relationships. But drinking should be enjoyable and never dangerous! Following these simple drinking and dating etiquette rules will keep you from falling into some of the worst temptations and help you stay on the road to a great relationship.

What has been your experience when combining alcohol and dating?

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