When Drinking And Dating Don’t Mix: How Do You Know When The Problem Is You?

Drinking and dating may seem to go hand-in-hand, but it’s not for everyone.

In a 2016 research study, four drunk personality “types” were found to be the most common: the Hemingways, Mary Poppins, Mr. Hyde, and the Nutty Professor. My friend group mainly consisted of Hemingways (still pretty much themselves while drunk) and Nutty Professors (generally shy friends who become the life of the party).

My type was not so fun, and I found out the hard way. It’s… Mr. Hyde.

I don’t enjoy drinking at all. But when I have chosen to indulge, it’s for a reason — social anxiety.

In big, festive group settings, it made sense to have a drink in my hand. I’d quell my feelings with one, two, three, four drinks.

But eventually (or inevitably), something random would trigger me. My sober anxiety and PTSD symptoms would surface as larger-than-usual demons. That’s when my spiral would start. Whatever outlandish, imaginary fears I pretended not to have would magically appear in the presence of booze.

My partner would react with frustration, and I’d see this as an attack. We would argue, and I’d blame him for all of the feelings I couldn’t explain. For too long, I was blind to the pattern.

After years of meltdowns occurring nearly every time I was drinking and dating, I realized I wasn’t the only one hurting. My partner was suffering, too.

Couple smoking and drinking alcohol

One day, my partner decided to go out but I wasn’t invited. I didn’t understand. After all, this wasn’t a “guys night,” so why couldn’t I come along? Was he trying to push me away?

Nope. He’d become accustomed to my episodes, so much that he made plans around them.

Suddenly, I felt like a five-year-old who’d been grounded for a tantrum I couldn’t recall.

“We’re happy,” I thought. “This doesn’t make sense. I’m an easygoing, happy person 98 percent of the time!”

But that terrible 2 percent? That was the part of me that drank.

The problems around dating and drinking have scientific backing.

In an article for PsychCentral, Dr. Gary Seeman asserts that “many relationship issues can become much worse under the influence of alcohol…alcohol affects relationships in several ways: (1) as a drug; (2) as cultural ritual; and (3) psychologically.”

Dr. Allan Schwartz, PhD., agrees. “Too many people drink heavily under the mistaken belief that it is harmless and that what happens to others who drink cannot happen to them. … Under the influence of alcohol, even the most mild-mannered person can verbally and physically strike out against others whether those people have wronged them or not.”

Once I noticed the pattern, there was no way that I could ignore it.

I’d been drinking to hide my anxiety, and any time I passed the drunk threshold, I lost the ability to process my feelings. I was like a belligerent five year-old. The grown-up part of my brain was kaput.

“[Alcohol] has more unwanted side effects than many prescription medications,” Dr. Seeman continues. “Although its chemical effects include calming nervousness, when it starts to wear off, people get more anxious. … Even ‘happy drunks’ who drink often find that over time they become more depressed. And although very moderate drinking can have positive health effects, heavy drinking gradually breaks down body and mind.”

Not only did I hate generally consuming alcohol, but I realized that combining drinking and dating was clearly damaging my love life.

Couple drinking alcohol

This was the moment of truth: I had to accept that booze affected me differently than it affected my “happy drunk” partner. Otherwise, I risked further damage.

“Does this mean I can’t go out, period?” I wondered. “What will I do around everyone else?”

Of course, the answers are obvious. Ginger ale. Coca cola. Water. Or an anvil on my head, because I realized I’d internalized peer pressure so deeply, no wonder I’d been so insecure.

The next time we went out, all I had was ginger ale, water, and juice. None of my friends asked about it. In fact, nobody noticed at all.

The results of abstaining were immediate.

There were no exaggerated triggers or meltdowns. While sober, I was equipped to handle unpleasant feelings in a way that reflected my better self.

But to be clear, “drunk words, sober thoughts” is an adage rooted in truth. My “Mr. Hyde” meltdowns were exaggerated manifestations of hidden, sober problems. But alcohol is a potent depressant.

For those who already suffer from anxiety or emotional obstacles, the effects of booze can be heightening rather than numbing.

The most rock-bottom moments in my relationships have involved booze. Drinking and dating relieved some of my social inhibitions, at first. But after two drinks, I would crash the minute anything remotely bothered me. For some of us, even one is too many. For others, the limit might be higher. The keyword here is boundaries. Do you know what yours are?

Has “drinking and dating” affected your love life? Check out this fascinating article on how sobriety might give you the best sex of your life, and then share your own “drunk in love” stories below.

The Joys of a Sexless First Date Are a lot Better Than You Might Think

There’s nothing wrong with setting out to get laid on the first date, but there’s fun in going on a date that leads to no sex, or even not kissing.

I’ve been in a total “dating sucks” state of mind lately. Maybe it’s the winter weather that makes me want to bog down in a sea of fleece blankets, warm tea mug in hand. I’ve been apathetic, because all I can think about is how much work it is to make plans, get dressed, go somewhere, and keep up the effort even with someone who isn’t the one. I started thinking, there’s got to be more.

People who are hyper-focused on being in a relationship will approach dates with tunnel vision. The same can be said for folks who are hyper-focused on only dating for sex, too. But there’s so much more!

I had to remind myself of all the fun times I’ve had on first dates that didn’t “go anywhere.” No sex, not even a kiss, and not even a second date. What ever happened to the joy of meeting people for the sake of meeting people?

1. A sexless first date can make you see a friend in a new light or build a foundation of intimacy.

Fashionable interracial couple drinking wine during date sitting at restaurant having romantic evening and nice conversation raising glasses to love at first sight. Hipster man proposing toast

The first time I went on a date with a friend was kind of odd, which, I guess, is to be expected. I saw it coming. He’d hint at his interest with suggestive comments about my outfits, my smile, not-so-overt innuendos, etc.

But it’s fun to see the different side of someone you’ve always viewed platonically. He held open doors and looked nicer than usual and gave me puppy dog eyes a lot. The charm was turned all the way on, and I thought “okay, I can see why someone would date you.”

It was cute! We didn’t work out romantically for a number of reasons, but it’s good to remember why you’re friends with people to begin with, and it’s good to see someone turn on the charm for you.

At the same time, if your date goes horribly that can be a sign that your friendship isn’t as solid as you think it is.

2. There are no post-sex regrets.

promo shot from film walk of shame

I’m lucky to say (and it’s sad that I feel lucky in this) that I haven’t had too many sexual encounters I’ve regretted. It helps that I generally don’t have sex if I’m really intoxicated.

When you want sex you want it, and I tend to listen to my carnal desires if I don’t think they’ll have unpleasant repercussions. That being said, there have definitely been underwhelming coital encounters that left me thinking, “I could have had a V8.”

I believe that no sex is better than bad sex. At least with a sexless first date, the worst you get out of it is an hour wasted. There’s no lamenting over how you could have gone home and just pulled out your vibrator.

3. You can focus better on who you’re with.

nerdy geeky couple on a date

I know what it’s like to go on a date with only the end goal of smashing in mind. You entertain the person you’re with, have amiable-enough conversation, lest they say something that turns you off completely and ruins any chance of you getting naked for them. No amount of friendly laughter and offhand jokes will hide what you want at the end of the night.

And hey, I’m not knocking this at all. If you’re being safe and smart about casual sex, get your groove on.

But what would it be like to go into a date with no expectations at all?

I heard some good advice once about dating and “meeting people”: focus on friendship first.

Think of a first date as a potential friend. Find out their interests, see if they’re fun to hang out with at a museum, or if they like 90s sitcoms, or what they do outside of their day job.

We don’t go around sleeping with our friends when we first meet them – or at least I certainly don’t. If you do, you might have some things to work on. (Don’t we all?)

The key to an enjoyable first date is the “no expectations” part. I live in a big city with so many interesting, weird, wacky and beautiful people – I wouldn’t do them (or myself) justice if I were only focused on sleeping with them, or making them my significant other.

Wow, I think I’ve actually convinced myself to go on some more dates! After all, the snow is melting, the days are getting longer, the sun is showing itself a bit more. Anything goes in Chicago though – we know it doesn’t really get nice until Memorial Day.

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