Monika Scott is a reformed party girl, and Club Soda member, now practising as a hypnotherapist with a focus on addiction and dating confidence (see www.livingjoy.co.uk). She writes about her sober journey at www.recklesslysober.com and recently celebrated her 1st soberversary, and delights in alcohol-free life. This is the first blog in a series from Monika about dating as a mindful drinker, so stand by for further tales!
The top 10 apps for the sober and moderating dater
So, you’ve decided to get back in the ring. But oh, where to start? The web is crammed full of dating sites, many of which are only too happy to take our hard-earned cash without providing much in return. There are sites for those who prefer their boots muddy, others for daters who like people in uniform, and yet others for those who prefer to date people from specific religions. Alas, whilst there are sites in America making inroads into the arena, as of yet there are none specifically for the alcohol-free or moderating person in the UK. Nevertheless, it is clear that many dating sites have by now cottoned on to the fact that just as some people prefer to find a date who doesn’t smoke, others would like to meet a person who does not drink alcohol or drinks only in moderation.
The following is (in no particular order) a tried and tested list of websites and apps who have (in most cases) put their best foot forward:
Guardian Soulmates – for left-leaning love
Guardian Soulmates positions itself as the thinking person’s dating site. As it is linked to the paper it is a good idea to consider whether the potential political leanings of its readership is your cup of tea before joining. In terms of filtering according to their drinking preferences it offers four options: never, occasionally, several times a week, or most days. Unlike some applications, this does not exclude those outside of your preferences from contacting you. This means it is a good idea to decide what to say should you be contacted by somebody who drinks more than what is your preference. Whilst the search function was good for identifying those who never drank or drank on occasion only, I found the site full of profiles of no longer actively paying members. Some of the people I messaged responded (using a free pre-populated message function available on the site) that although they wanted to speak with me they could not do so until they had paid for their membership again. This could be because at £32 for a month’s subscription Guardian Soulmates is at the steeper end of the paid-for dating sites, though as with many of the sites the cost comes down if you are prepared to sign up for a longer period of time, and other discounted offers are frequent. Saying that I didn’t find many new people signing up over the three month period that I was a member for during the summer, and another female alcohol-free friend who identifies as gay had the same experience. But, as luck would have it, the one date my friend went on from this site did result in a relationship that is still going strong five months later. So despite me lacking success stories on this site, you might find it your springboard to love!
match.com – for a fuller inbox
Curiously whilst match.com allows for searching on the basis of smoking preferences, it does not do the same for drinking. For this you have to fill in their not too longwinded questionnaire via affiny.com where you are asked about your own drinking preferences (a choice of not at all, low, moderate, and heavy) and after which you are then able to conduct a search on the same basis. Over 50s have their own site, and, if you are happy to be dating people in their 50s and above you will also be featured on that site, giving you more bang for your buck (so to say). Prices start at £29.99 for a month, although for the cost of two months (at £59.99) you’ll get a six-month membership. When researching this article it was match.com and OKCupid below that were clearly in the lead in terms of activity. It may be the relatively low membership fee that makes this site busy, and it could make it a great place to start your dating adventures!
OKCupid – for the adventurous
I first tried this site a couple of years back but came off it due to the influx of messages from daters who were looking for very, shall I say, ‘different’ things to myself. This has now changed due to their double-take feature. Today you only see messages in your feed from people that you have ‘liked’, and those who wish to approach you despite you not having liked them back end up in your ‘double-take’ folder, which you can peruse at your leisure. This means that the site is now more manageable. It also gives the opportunity to filter on the basis of drinking (and smoking and drug-taking) preferences as follows: never, sometimes, often. There is also a very extensive list of questions that you can choose whether or not to answer, ranging from the, frankly, puzzling ‘Would you rather have a long weekend in Newcastle or Essex?’ to a range of very overt questions about one’s bedroom antics that will allow you to find someone who matches your preferences on that front. Included therein is the undoubtedly useful ‘Would you date someone who doesn’t drink alcohol?’
Conveniently the site allows you to search on the basis of these responses, though for that you need to sign up as an ‘A-lister’, starting at £11.99 per month, and going down to only £6.33 per month if you sign up for 6 months. OKCupid is also the site for those wishing to date outside of gender and sexuality binaries, openly looking for non-monogamous relationships, and for those with preferences beyond the vanilla. The site even gives you a percentage figure of how compatible you are in the various arenas, which is nothing to sniff at (unless that’s your thing).
Bumble – where the woman gets to take the lead
Bumble is great for those of you who are ready to jump on the dating bandwagon without further ado. There are no lengthy questionnaires to fill in, and it is possible to filter (for free) on the basis of two ‘non-negotiables’ from a list of things such as height, star sign, religion, relationship type sought, and, most pertinently, drinking. Despite Bumble actively positioning itself as the moderator’s and alcohol-free person’s dating site of choice through its involvement in events such as Sober Spring, for me the choice of drinking preference was not as detailed as I would have liked, nor as detailed as that of most of the other sites. How would a moderator answer the question ‘How often do you drink?’ when the tick boxes offered are limited to never, socially or frequently?
Nevertheless, when limiting my matches to only those who didn’t drink at all I was surprised to be presented with an endless list of non-drinkers to swipe my way through, though I am in no doubt that this might not be the case when going outside of larger cities such as London or Manchester. When on holiday in Spain I tested the site for the same and found that less than ten non-drinkers were within a 60-mile radius, although this could be explained by how popular (or not) the app is in Spain. When I removed the filter, however, there were, once again, seemingly limitless potential suitors at my fingertips.
Uniquely to Bumble, it is only the women who are given the opportunity to approach those they have matched with, but there is a 24-hour time limit in which first contact must be made before the dreamboat you couldn’t believe you’d matched with disappears back into the ether. By paying for membership (called Boost) you can, however, add another 24 hours of thinking time to give you the chance to come up with the perfect opener whilst sipping on your favourite AF drink. You can then also add more than two qualifiers to your filters, and even reverse that accidental left swipe of the guy or gal that you were busy showing your mate.
Over the years I have met a lot of people through Bumble. It is a fun and busy site with lots of members, however, it is my experience that most of them are on it not for the long term but for something way more fleeting. But, if that’s what you’re looking for then you’ll be sure to find perhaps not love but at least lust.
eharmony – where the moderator gets their moment
eharmony allows for the best drinking style filtering option that I have come across, namely: never, on special occasions, once a week, a few times a week and daily (or no preference). You can also use a sliding scale to indicate how important this filter is to you from ‘not at all’ via ‘somewhat’ to ‘very’. eharmony has for a long time been thought of as the site to find true love, but it seems true love comes at a cost. £35.95 per month, to be exact. But if you expect true love to take a little bit longer to find you, then you can cut this cost to £12.97 per month on a 12-month contract, and an even more wallet friendly £8.97 per month over a commitment of 24 months. Since these costs are upfront one wonders if you might fail to notice just how perfect that first date in your first week as a member could be?
Be prepared to put effort into your profile; this is not a site where you can just upload a photo or two and be on your way. On the flip-side I have many friends who have found longterm partners on this site.
MySingleFriend – where you come with a recommendation
MySingleFriend started off as a great idea. Your friend sees you as a great catch so they write your dating pages for you telling all the world and sundry just how awesome a cook you are, what a great godmother you make and just how funny your best man’s speech was. You’ve had some training; it’s the third time you were best man, after all. Always the best man, never the groom, as they say.
But the site has changed. Now the recommendation by a friend is merely optional, in my opinion removing the unique selling point of this site. Nevertheless, it warrants consideration on the basis of offering the option to filter members on the basis of their drinking preference as follows: never, occasionally, several times per week, most days. As with eharmony above it is also possible to select a point on a sliding scale as to the level of importance that this has for you. You can also filter on the basis of smoking and e-cigarette habits.
Unfortunately during my membership, I found this site quieter than most. At a cost of £32 per month, it has a high joining threshold, and although this goes down to £13.33 per month on a six-month membership, this site is for me now sorely lacking what formerly made it special. I applaud them for including drinking as one of their filters, however.
Tinder – get ready for repetitive strain injury
I add Tinder on to this list purely on the basis that it is a site by now for many almost synonymous with online dating. Sadly the truth is it is not the most user-friendly of sites for those focused on finding an alcohol-free date or a date who is moderating their drinking. Considering that the site doesn’t allow for matching on the basis of drinking preferences you could be swiping away for a long time without getting any indication on how much (or little) somebody drinks.
Something that could be useful, however, is a feature that allows you to put yourself anywhere in the world, meaning that when you are travelling you could already have a date lined up for as soon as you touch down in your new destination. I have seen people who have done just that on their Tinder profile, whilst making it clear that they are only looking for a friend during their brief visit to London, for example. This feature does come at a cost, namely £18.49 per month or £54.99 for 6 months (although other features are included in the membership too). You can register using your Facebook profile on this busy site where it’s easy to start chatting to people straight away, but where you might find things rather superficial in nature.
Every site has its love stories, of course: a friend of mine recently got married to a guy she met on Tinder, though neither of them belong to the AF or moderating camp.
Elite Singles – could less choice make for a more targeted market place
Elite Singles claims that more than 85% of its members have a university degree, and that over 85% are 30 years or over. The minimum term of membership is three months and this comes at the comparatively high price of £49.95 per month. This entry-level membership is for the Premium Light plan which only gives access to messaging and intelligent matchmaking. With an upfront commitment of 6 months you automatically upgrade to the Premium Classic membership which works out at £27.96 per month, giving you access to all profile photos and read receipts, as well as showing you who has visited your profile.
Elite Singles may not offer the abundance of choice of some of the other sites, something which may be driven by the highest membership price that I have come across and the somewhat lengthy sign-up process. This, of course, could mean that only those dedicated to finding a relationship are prepared to follow through with the process. I found filling in the questionnaire rather fun. It consists mostly of picking words from a list that best describe you, which then helps to create a personal psychological profile that is posted in your ‘shopwindow.’ This profile also asks about your drinking habits and what you would accept in your partner. Here the choice is brilliant: never, several times a year, about once a week, a few times a week and every day. You are also able to show how important this is to you on a sliding scale from one to seven. Whilst I have not had a lengthy experience on the site, the support team at Elite Singles have been absolutely wonderful during my research for this article. There seem to be a decent number of alcohol-free members and those moderating their drinking on the site too, and I found people in my own age bracket that were approaching me, something that wasn’t happening so much on many of the other sites (way younger on some and far older on others). In other words, it seemed like this could well be the site to find something serious on.
Grindr – lacking in filters
As I’m not a man seeking to date another man I had to have some outside help on this, and I have been informed that the only filters available are for body types. So, if you’re using Grindr to find true love (which I know a friend managed to find on it!) you might just have to spell out your preferences in other ways.
Happn – fancy bumping into you here
Whenever I mention Happn to people I get met with puzzled faces. This could be because a lot of my friends are annoyingly cozily coupled up, or because Happn isn’t doing as good a job of marketing itself as it should do. Namely, Happn is a fun (and free) app that makes it easy to connect with people that you may have bumped in to on your travels, on account of only showing you people that have been within a short distance of you as you’ve been going about your day. Once a day you get the chance to play a game called CrushTime where you go through a series of four playing cards with potential dates on them, picking the one you think has a crush on you. It makes a change from all the swiping and feels a little less brutal too. You are able to go through the members in that now more customary manner too, but the CrushTime game adds a bit of entertainment to the whole business.
I recently downloaded this app again to check if by chance a man I came across at a meeting was on the site. Had he been on it, I would have been able to reach out to him via the app, despite me chickening out of asking him for his number in real life. Because, you know, that’s not the done thing these days. Saying that, perhaps a market research session wasn’t the right environment for that anyway.
Whilst the site doesn’t allow for searching on the basis of drinking preferences, I have seen many members mention that they don’t drink or drink only on occasion on their short intro. There isn’t space for a lot of drivel on this site, so people tend to go straight to the point with whatever is important to them in a relationship.
I have found a lot of professionals on this site, and people seem to be looking for the real deal.
For my part signing up with the app again a couple of weeks ago led to a date not with Mr Market Research but with a man who’s almost two years sober. And, it happened to be a very enjoyable date indeed.
But, that’s a story for another day, as they say.
My next post on the D-word will be on how to break your drinking habits to your potential date. Do you come out on your profile? Or do you only mention it after you’ve made some inroads in to texting, or, maybe only when you order that Virgin Mojito at the bar? We’ll also include some general tips on how to make your shopwindow stand out now that it is your turn to put your best foot forward.
See you laters, daters!