How does going sober affect your love life?

Megan Montague | June 2020 | 9 minutes

Read Megan Montague's story: "While everything in my life has been touched by my sobriety, the thing it has shifted most is my love life."

For some of you, this 93-day sabbatical will simply be a break, while for others, like me, it will be the start of an alcohol-free life (I started with Sober Spring in 2018 and two years later I am still going strong). Even if life won’t be totally alcohol-free, you might decide to cut down a lot, which could also mean changes to your lifestyle.

While everything in my life has been touched by my sobriety, the thing it has shifted most is my love life.

Prior to getting sober, to describe my romantic relationships as ‘chaotic’ would be a giant understatement. I’ve been married and divorced. Not once, but twice. I felt empty inside, and sought external things to try and fill it; alcohol, men, food, money.

When I first quit drinking I was in a particularly toxic relationship. Sober, I finally saw it for what it actually was and, when it ended, I was in a much better head space to be able to deal with it. Ordinarily, a break-up would have triggered a spell of even heavier drinking, obsessively dating and swiping on dating apps. I would seek to pin it on the other person, rather than confronting that the only common denominator in these failed relationships was…. me.

When I first quit drinking I was in a particularly toxic relationship. Sober, I finally saw it for what it actually was.

I’ve now been able to address my own toxic tendencies, heal from previous break-ups, and find a place where I feel truly happy single. I am open to finding someone, but I also feel fulfilled on my own, and my dating life is markedly different since getting sober.

Clearly, dating is a socially-distanced affair in the current climate, but it is still possible to connect with people in the open air (albeit at an Austen-esque two metre distance, where you go for a stroll).

Without further ado, here’s what I’ve learnt about sober dating, both pre- and during the pandemic:

It’s terrifying at first

Mainly because we’ve never done it before. For me, alcohol had always smoothed the way in conversation - and in bed - but I’m happy to report I can do both without the booze. Sober sex was a real milestone in my first year sober. I had used alcohol to feel sexy/sexual for such a long time that I really had to re-discover who I was in a sexual capacity.

There are no beer goggles

Way back when, I always had a glass of wine of two to calm my nerves. Unfortunately, it also clouded my judgement. These days, if there’s no chemistry or compatibility, I can see that 20/20.

Being straight-up about non-drinking is best

Or at least, I think so. I always mention it in my dating profile/bio, and I’ve have only had positive feedback. I’ve met some lovely men who don’t drink much or at all and I often get told how refreshing it is that I’m teetotal. I don’t launch into why I don’t drink unless asked and equally, I don’t tend to focus on it anyway. Not drinking is just a small part of who I am.

Right now, dating apps are very handy

With bars, restaurants and gig venues still closed when this blog went out, ways of organically meeting people are limited, so dating apps have seen a surge in chatter. My top tip is Bumble, since you can narrow your pool of search results down to non- or ‘social’ drinkers, giving the ‘frequent’ drinkers a swerve if you wish. There are plenty of great potential partners who have lives outside of the pub.

Vulnerability leads to real connection

Being vulnerable, whether it’s about past drinking or something else, is the only way to really get what I’m looking for. I’ve learnt that if we hide who we really are, we miss out on the chance for real connection. And if something doesn’t feel right, I now just say no.

The pub is not the only place to meet people

I met my last two boyfriends in the gym and now that we’re all exercising outdoors, there’s ample opportunity there. If you meet someone on a tennis court, you already know that you have at least one thing in common.

Activity dates are great

Normally you would suggest going for a drink; but you don’t do that anymore, so what to do? I’ve dragged dates on trips to the museum, seaside days and mocktail-making to name but a few. I just choose something I really want to do – that way I’ll enjoy it even if the date is lacklustre! Perhaps put this tip in your back pocket for when lockdown lifts some more.

Everyone’s different, and has different sobriety goals, but personally, going alcohol-free has given me tools to improve myself. I know I’ll now be a better partner whenever I do meet someone. Until then, I’ll just concentrate on meeting new people and spending my newfound time (that used to be sucked into drinking or hangovers) having a blast.