Conventional wisdom suggests that approximately ten percent of adults are in recovery from alcohol or drug addiction, which means that there’s a decent chance you’ll come across some of these men and women in the dating world. If you enjoy the occasional alcoholic drink but aren’t an alcoholic yourself, can you date someone who is stone-cold sober? The answer, in short, depends on how central a role alcohol plays in your life. Let me explain.
You know how some people call themselves “foodies?” There’s not an equivalent term to describe men and women who are connoiseurs of alcohol, but they certainly exist. Leaf through a glossy magazine, and you’ll likely come across at least a few advertisements for glamorous wine festivals or beer-lover events. Because I live in California, which is home to endless vineyards, wine is all the rage, and it’s common for those who can afford it to head to a weekend in Napa Valley or a local vineyard for a little R&R. If you are someone who doesn’t just drink alcohol but actually celebrates it as a lifestyle choice, dating someone sober means that many of the activities you enjoy won’t be shareable with your partner. Ask yourself: How would this feel?
On the other hand, scores of men and women enjoy an occasional drink but, overall, alcohol is a take-it-or-leave-it thing for them. The point of this article isn’t to designate which way is better or healthier – because we already know that alcohol in moderation and making wise choices is fine and good – but the point is to know who you are.
If enjoying drinks is a staple of your social life, consider how drinking would be if your partner isn’t feeling the same buzz. Would you be fine with that or would you feel like you’re not having as much fun as you would if you were dating someone who was sober?
What it would be like for your partner: Some sober men and women don’t want to be around someone who is drinking because it reminds them of what they can’t have, or it could trigger alcohol cravings. Other sober individuals don’t have a problem being around others who are drinking. If you date someone who is sober, you need to clearly ask the following question: “Are you comfortable if I drink in front of you?” Sober individuals know themselves well enough that they will tell you the truth.
What it would be like for you, the social drinker: Picture yourself having a drink or two, and sitting across from your sober boyfriend or girlfriend who’s drinking, say, an iced tea or soda. Would you feel guilty? Would you not enjoy drinking as much if your partner isn’t joining you? Some social drinkers who date sober individuals choose to drink when they’re out with others but not in the company of their sober partner. If you refrained from drinking with your partner, would you secretly feel like you’re missing out? Even worse, would you start to feel resentful that you have to make this sacrifice?
Keeping it all in perspective
As much as people preach about there being lots of fish in the proverbial sea, we all know the reality: it’s not every day that you meet someone to whom you feel sexually and emotionally attracted. When you meet someone you really like, you shouldn’t give up on that person for a trivial reason. Sure, drinking may be a part of your social life, but are you sure that it’s worth giving up the chance of a trusted relationship because you can’t share a pitcher of margaritas together? Ultimately, these are decisions that you have to make for yourself.
A few quick tips…
The best thing you can do when you meet someone sober is to talk about the possible issues with your new date; run the issue by a few friends and family members; and listen to your instincts which will tell you whether someone is worth the sacrifice. At the end of the day, I find that some of the best romantic relationships are some of the least codependent. In other words, two people can have a fulfilling, lasting relationship even if one member of the couple chooses to pursue certain activities – say, a night out over cocktails – while the other person does something different. No relationship will ever be perfect and every relationship – even the best ones – involve some degree of sacrifices.
Dr. Seth is a licensed clinical psychologist, author, Psychology Today blogger, and TV guest expert. He practices in Los Angeles and treats a wide range of issues and disorders and specializes in relationships, parenting, and addiction. He has had extensive training in conducting couples therapy and is the author of Dr. Seth’s Love Prescription: Overcome Relationship Repetition Syndrome and Find the Love You Deserve