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Sex + Relationships

‘I Drink And My Boyfriend Doesn’t’: Navigating A Relationship When One Of You Is Sober

I think we’ve all heard that relationships require compromise – it’s hardly ground-breaking for me to point that out. However, whenever I imagined what compromising would entail in university relationships, I pictured having to balance deadlines with date nights and friendships with boyfriends. What I wasn’t entirely prepared for when I fell headfirst (the most accurate way to describe it) into a relationship at the beginning of this semester was the fact that I drank – sometimes a lot – and my new boyfriend didn’t. 

To be clear, I did know this before we got into a relationship, so it’s not as if it came as a huge shock. However, the dynamic certainly shifts when you’re in a relationship with someone – suddenly new obstacles and issues pop up that perhaps neither of you had really put a lot of thought into before. What I think I can say now, after a few months of experience, is that the lessons we learnt from it together have only strengthened our relationship. So here are a few issues to consider and takeaways I’ve learnt that I think can be useful for any relationship: 

First off is setting boundaries: crucial in any relationship but even more important when one of you is drinking and the other isn’t. Talking about what you’re comfortable with in terms of how much one of you has drank and how far you’re willing to go. Obviously, consent is an issue here, one that both of you should already have in mind anyway, but this also stems beyond the bedroom to how you act together in public. 

Another key factor that has helped us maintain our relationship is understanding and compromise. My boyfriend understanding why I drink and being okay with the fact I do – and me understanding why he doesn’t and being okay with that – has not only allowed us to function in social situations together, but it has brought us closer, too. I have also found myself drinking less, either because I don’t feel as compelled to or through a conscious decision. This is especially true as, since being in a relationship with someone who doesn’t drink – I have been given multiple opportunities to evaluate why I was drinking in certain situations.

An important thing to remember is to have fun! Making the most out of drinking situations together, such as house parties and going to the pub, can be made enjoyable by checking up on each other throughout the night and just enjoying each other’s company (if you don’t, this may be a red flag). Honestly, my boyfriend makes it easy for me – he likes socialising with people, drunk or stone cold sober, and would never think to stop or judge me for going out and drinking. 

Essentially, communication is key! This is the main takeaway I would give for any relationship, even for those with friends and family. I firmly believe that the majority of arguments stem from miscommunication and a lack of understanding on at least one person’s side. Perhaps the best thing many of us can do for the ones we love is to help them understand how we feel and listen when they tell us how they feel.

Josie Smith

St Andrews '24

Hello! I’m Josie, a third year studying philosophy. I’m particularly interested in writing about health and well-being topics as well as the unique financial and business issues that women face. I feel so excited and grateful to be a part of an editorial that focuses on amplifying and empowering women’s voices.