Dates and drinking often seem to go hand-in-hand.
There you are, out with your brand new BF or your longtime sig-o on a Saturday night, kicking back with a cocktail in hand. Or sipping a glass of wine over dinner. One drink leads to another and … well, you know how it goes. There has to be something you two can do together that doesn’t involve bleary eyes, headaches in the morning and fumbling, drunken sex that you barely remember (even if that’s fun every once in a while)!
Or, maybe your new beau is a recovering alcoholic, which is making you realize just how many typical date ideas revolve around drinking.
There are plenty of dates to be had that don’t require a drop of alcohol to be fun. Good, clean fun. Hard to believe, I know. We rounded up a few ideas if you’re trying to ease up on your booze intake so you can get to know each other on a different level (or, truly stay sober).
1. Walk, hike and wander
Sounds deceptively simple, doesn’t it? Well, try it. Grab your honey by the hand and walk around the block, wander through a park, stroll along a beach if you happen to be near one. Go anywhere, really, but just make sure you’re walking together and your hands are linked. “Non-sexual touching is so important to your emotional and sexual relationship,” says Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D., a couples therapist known as “Dr. Romance” and the author of Dr. Romance’s Guide to Dating In the Digital Age. “Walking, preferably outdoors in a nice setting (but a mall will work) while holding hands does several things at once: It keeps you physically connected. It gives you uninterrupted time to chat and just remind each other you’re friends, which increases your positive connection with each another and counterbalances the day-to-day stress of ordinary life. And it’s great exercise.”
2. Cook together
This is a great project to take on as a couple, from start to finish, from choosing a recipe to try (or several), going grocery shopping for the ingredients, dividing up the steps and then whipping it up and putting it all together. Best of all, you get to sit down and eat the fruits of your labor afterwards. “Cook together, even if it’s just a salad and burgers on the grill,” advises Tessina. “Any shared task with a pleasant outcome is healing and bonding for couples. Developing a partnership attitude is so important to the resilience of your relationship.”
3. Watch a TV series you’ve never seen on Netflix
How cool is it to bond over a new show you both wind up loving, hating or debating over and then seeing it through for a whole season… together? Or you can watch reruns of a show you already count among your favorites. My husband and I have done this with everything from Mad Men to Friends at various times throughout our relationship, and it never gets old. Pop some popcorn, throw some sparkling juice or seltzer with lime into Champagne glasses, curl up on the couch snuggled up under a blanket and hit “play.” “Hunkering down for several episodes of a series back-to-back can feel really festive,” says Tessina.
4. Have a tech-free date night, anywhere
Agree to hang out without any phones, laptops, TV, radio, tablets or any other gadget or form of technology to distract you from the focus of the night: each other. It can be anywhere from the local pizza joint you like to hit once in a while to home in your living room, but you have to stick to it. Of course, if you have kids you’ve left with a sitter, you may need to make an exception for her in case of emergency. But otherwise, stick to it! You’ll be amazed at how great it feels. “Having a ‘Luddite’ evening or afternoon gives you uninterrupted time together,” explains Tessina. “If you’ve been together for a number of years, it might remind you of your early days.”
5. Go drinking… at a coffee shop
There are so many fun ones around these days that can make a really sweet date night (or day) spot, from Starbucks to the local independent cafe on the corner. Try to find one with live music on the weekends. Order some frothy, warm (or iced, depending on the season) drinks and date-night types of treats, like s’mores if they have them, chocolate anything or a cheese plate. Get comfy in an overstuffed chair and have a tete-a-tete with your guy (or girl). “Go to coffee shops, where you can indulge in your favorite drinks without alcohol, look stunning and strike up a conversation,” suggests Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and couples therapist in Southern California and the author of Now You Want Me, Now You Don’t!.
6. Sit somewhere scenic and talk about everything except work and kids
This can be a tall order for the married-with-kids set, but it’s necessary. Find a pretty spot at the park, along a stream or river, overlooking the ocean if you’re nearby, or even among the flowers in your backyard and just… talk. Talk about your childhoods, favorite memories, philosophies, definitions of the meaning of life. But keep the focus on the two of you, without bringing work and the children into it. “Talk about friends, family, your histories, hobbies,” suggests Tessina. “You can learn a lot about your partner and the relationship by talking like this. It’s enjoyable and it won’t be seen as a ‘dreaded relationship talk.'”
7. Take a hike or hop on a bike
Doing something outdoorsy, adventurous and active like hiking or biking together can be the best date ever. You’re getting the blood pumping and the endorphins flowing, you’re embarking on a journey — literally — together and you often get a nice reward at the end, whether it’s because your excursion leads to a beautiful view as the grand finale or just simply because you feel a sense of accomplishment that you did it. Raymond calls activities like those “togetherness sports,” which are perfect “if your purpose is to really get to know your date, develop a rapport and get comfortable.”
8. Picnic in your backyard — or your living room
Pack a picnic of all your favorite foods, like a few good cheeses and a loaf of crusty French bread; hard-boiled eggs; mac and cheese, thinly sliced ham or turkey; hummus and pita chips; watermelon, pineapple and berries; and dark flavored chocolate bars for dessert. To drink? Bring a bottle of sparkling juice of your choice and fancy wine or Champagne glasses. Spread a blanket out on your living room floor or the grass outside, share food, clink glasses and have a ball rediscovering just why you fell in love in the first place.