Dating in lockdown
Drinkaware’s Communications Officer Billie Morgan discusses dating in lockdown and her tips on how to navigate it while cutting down on your drinking.
Although we are currently spending most of our time at home, this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t still reach out and connect with one another. In fact, the lockdown has come at a point in history where technology allows us to connect with people all over the world. But what is love in lockdown like when you’re looking for it? As a person who has been dating, and happily single, throughout the coronavirus pandemic, I thought it might be helpful to offer some of my own dating tips.
Having a drink might not actually help you relax
There is a widely held belief that having a drink before or during your date can steady your nerves. This is a common misconception.
While working at Drinkaware I’ve learnt that the relaxed feeling you can experience when you have your first drink is down to the chemical changes alcohol causes in your brain. What happens is that the alcohol starts to supress the part of the brain that we associate with inhibition. But these effects wear off fast. And the problem this leads to on dates is feeling the need to have more and more alcohol to help you relax.
In my experience, I’m more in control without a drink, which is exactly where I want to be when I meet someone new, especially when it’s over video.
Post-date hangovers are best avoided
Even if you’ve had a lovely date, feelings of anxiety can creep in when you’re hungover. As we process alcohol, we can begin to experience psychological symptoms, such as feeling depressed, anxious or agitated. For some, these feelings are barely noticeable. But if anxiety is already an issue, which it very much is for me, the hangover effect can make those symptoms worse. So if you’ve ever agonised over a sent text message, something you might have said (or not said) or a misinterpreted comment on a dating app, this might speak to you.
Remember, the early days of dating should be fun and exciting, but can be made so much harder by adding alcohol-related anxiety into the mix.
Activities are great ice breakers
Staring down the barrel of a camera lens, trying to be interesting, while your washing dries next to your bed. The kitchen sink gurgling in the background while you’re attempting to tell a funny story. These are not ideal and can make meeting someone new online feel daunting. I would know! Both have happened to me on Zoom dates!
This is why I recommend an activity to break the ice. Don’t worry, I’m not suggesting you devise a quiz! But watching a film or your favourite reality TV show at the same time, or even taking part in an escape room together can take the pressure off making conversation when it’s just the two of you on a video call. And the bonus is that an activity takes away any expectation around drinking.
It’s ok to say you’re not drinking
If you decide not to drink on a date, whether you are seeing someone for a walk or meeting up virtually, it can be a good idea to say so up front. By making it clear, you can lead how the conversation comes up, which should hopefully enable you to feel more in control of the situation. And it shouldn’t make a difference to someone’s opinion of you, if it does they are not worth your time!
The good news is that if you are using dating apps these days, many let you display on your profile whether you drink alcohol or not. This means you don’t even have to bring it into conversation if you don’t want to.
You don’t need alcohol to have fun on a date!
A big thing I have learnt in the last (nearly) year of dating in lockdown is that everyone is in the same boat – we all start on common ground. The reality is that talking to new people while navigating restrictions is still a novelty, so I think we’re all enjoying the experience to a certain extent. However, there is such a thing as ‘dating app burnout’, and if you feel like this is happening, stop dating for a while. What you don’t want to do is use alcohol as an excuse to make dates more fun, because it probably won’t. But also, getting to know someone new right now is a unique experience – and if you meet someone virtually and you enjoy their company without alcohol, it’s a great sign ahead of meeting in person (when it’s ok to do)!
Millie Gooch of the Sober Girl Society puts it brilliantly: “Natural and effortless connections are made whether you’re drinking or not.”
 Gan, G., Guevara, A., Marxen, M., Neumann, M., Jünger, E., Kobiella, A., Mennigen, E., Pilhatsch, M., Schwarz, D., Zimmermann, U.S. and Smolka, M.N., 2014. Alcohol-induced impairment of inhibitory control is linked to attenuated brain responses in right fronto-temporal cortex. Biological psychiatry, 76(9), pp.698-707. Available at: biologicalpsychiatryjournal.com/article/S0006-3223(14)00015-8/abstract. [Accessed 23 February 2017].