For many people, dating and alcohol go hand in hand. Whether it’s to calm first date nerves and provide ‘liquid courage’, or as a convenient option of grabbing a quick drink after work, alcohol is woven into our social culture to alleviate the pressure of dating.

However, as well as being expensive, alcohol can cause you to lose inhibitions that are all too important for setting boundaries.

Hangovers can cause post-date embarrassment and anxiety, as you mentally replay what you said or how you acted over and over again. Sober dating can be daunting, but the upside is so much more clarity, and feeling like yourself.

We spoke to CEO of One Year No Beer, Ruari Fairbains, who outlines the 7 benefits of alcohol-free dating.

You reveal a lot just by deciding where to meet

We’ve become almost conditioned to say, “Let’s go for a drink!” as a first date default. Dating alcohol-free allows you to do something different and maybe more exciting — think ten-pin bowling, hiking or even micro-gliding. Activities away from alcohol are much more bonding, and it can immediately put you both on equal footing. If your potential date isn’t up for alcohol-free activities, it might suggest they’re not as adventurous as you are, that they don’t want to bond with you in the same way, or that they feel they need the alcohol to bolster their confidence. But remember, a negative reaction is their issue, not yours, and it’ll only help you weed out those who aren’t a great match. On the other hand, if their response is positive or simply curious, you’ve got yourself someone you can talk with and relate to.

You make a better connection

When you invite alcohol along on the date, your tolerance level increases and prevents you from seeing things clearly. And if you don’t see a person for who they really are, you’re not going to truly connect. When you go alcohol free, you may discover that you had previously been guilty of giving more time to someone you had little in common with apart from alcohol, instead of focusing on someone you genuinely like and could really connect with.

You’re able to set boundaries

It’s vital to set some boundaries, first to ensure old habits don’t start creeping in, and second to be comfortable with the direction and pace of a date or potential relationship. Boundaries are tricky beasts to set, but they are of course all about saying “no”. For that, communication is key.

If your date tries to pressurise you to drink or doesn’t understand why you want an alcohol-free lifestyle, confidently decline a second date, and figure they’re simply not the one for you. Doing this will give you the confidence to feel secure enough in your dating needs and wants, which makes you feel more confident all-round.

Being a good communicator and asserting your boundaries is essential when dating. You have a better chance of building a relationship on strong foundations with someone who will truly respect your decisions and lifestyle choices.

You can experience a sober first kiss

We all know that alcohol takes away a lot of fear and doubt, but facing that fear and doubt helps you build who you are. Alcohol often relieves nerves but may also mean that you don’t truly remember the kisses you have! A sober kiss is much more special. You just have to just go with it – and above all enjoy it! Don’t forget that in all likelihood they’re just as nervous, yet the connection you’ll be left with is so much better.

You save so much money

If you choose a bar and the date is going well, it’s all too easy to get carried away with ordering drinks because you don’t want the date to end prematurely. The problem is that you gradually lose your inhibitions and sense of self as the date drunkenly progresses, and you may not even remember the later conversations. Plus, you’re left with a hefty bill for a date, where your money was spent on drinks and you don’t even remember how they tasted. Save money on dates by not having to rely on a drink to keep up your end of the conversation and spend extra money on more meaningful adventures instead. When the money goes towards a bucket list adventure, you create a memory with that person which you can treasure – whether the relationship works out or not.

You don’t have to explain yourself

You don’t have to justify to anyone why you don’t drink alcohol. It’s a very personal question linked to your mental and physical health. So often, alcohol free daters feel pressures to give their life story, whilst knowing nothing personal about their date. You don’t have to share any of this until you feel comfortable doing so. Instead, equip yourself with a simple one liner (like ‘It’s more fun!’ or ‘It’s not for me’), and leave it at that. When you get right down to it, if going on an alcohol-free date makes the other person feel uncomfortable, they’re not for you.

It gets easier over time

The more you do it, the more you realise you can do it. Dating is scary, but you have the power within you to do it alcohol-free. Essentially, enjoy falling head-over-heels without falling head over heels. It can help to create a space of support and encouragement too. Talking about how your date went with your friends, family or other like-minded alcohol-free people is a great way to share your excitement about alcohol-free dating. It reminds you that you’re not missing out on dating by not drinking and are still able to have a great time – maybe even a better time.