Love brewed in the devil’s drink

Dating under the influence can lead to flings or serious relationships

In Summary

• Bars and clubs are notorious territories for flirting, which can lead to sex or more

• Question is whether the lovers will feel the same way about each other when sober

Revellers dance to the tunes at Club Lambada, Mtwapa
Revellers dance to the tunes at Club Lambada, Mtwapa
Image: FILE

A matatu tout recently tickled a courtroom when, while testifying in his defence, he told the judge that getting high on alcohol helped him see his wife as a beautiful woman.

Wycliffe Orinda, charged with creating a disturbance at his estranged wife's workplace, told Milimani chief magistrate Martha Mutuku that consuming bhang and alcohol gave him the courage to seduce his wife in the first place.

Tout Wycliffe Orinda at the Milimani law courts
Tout Wycliffe Orinda at the Milimani law courts
Image: FILE

“My wife is older than me. I would never have had the courage to approach her if I wasn't high," Orinda said. "After we got married, I continued getting high so that as we went out on dates, I would see her as a beautiful woman," he said to the amazement of the court.

Orinda's hilarious testimony highlights the extent to which alcohol and drug consumption not only affect romantic relationships but contribute to the start of those relationships. It is well known that alcohol and drug consumption lead to casual flings, popularly known as one-night stands, but long-term relationships have popped up from the influence of the bottle.

“I met my current girlfriend in a bar after the girl I was waiting for failed to show up," says Edward Mwasi, a Nairobi resident. "As I was having drinks, I saw this good-looking lady seated at the counter. I went up to her and we started talking. We exchanged numbers as we were leaving. Mercy and I have been dating ever since,” he explains. That was three years ago.

We had drinks together and had such a great time, we did not notice the night racing on. We were still there at midnight. I invited her to my place
Brian Koech


Mercy was in the bar that day with her girlfriends and did not dream she would be talking to a man. “The bar was crowded as it was a Friday night. I did not feel like dancing and I was just seated when Edward came to where I was,” she says. Mercy is happy that she met Edward and though they are not yet married, they are seriously considering it and talking about having children.

Edward was at first apprehensive about pursuing a relationship with someone he met in a bar. It is not an ideal place to meet someone for a long-term relationship. Indeed, most relationship advice typically warns people against hooking up in bars. “I was not looking for a relationship,” says Edward, “but I guess my circumstances at that time were just right for it. I was disappointed by my failed date and was looking for company to console myself.”

Brian Koech got into a romantic relationship with a workmate not through the office but the bar. Brian recalls how it all started. “I knew Jessica from our front office desk, but it never occurred to me that anything could happen between us. One Friday evening, I was at a bar in Upper Hill and who do I see? Jessica,” he recalls.

“We had drinks together and had such a great time, we did not notice the night racing on. We were still there at midnight. I invited her to my place as it was nearer to where we were compared to where she lived.” The rest, as they say, is a story for another day. Since then, Brian and Jessica have been in an on-off relationship.

Religious counsellor Margaret Musau believes that meeting a romantic partner in the bar is not a bad thing. “You can find your partner anywhere and start a very beautiful family, the only difference is that you met in a bar. God is God to all people for He is our Father,” she says. “God says all things are possible and a romantic relationship that starts in a bar can be successful.”


In Kenya, bars are not regarded as the ideal place to meet a marriage partner. The general assumption is that people go to bars to get drunk and they might not be in the right frame of mind to choose wisely. Besides, as Wycliffe Orinda told the magistrate’s court in Milimani, being high on alcohol can make anybody look attractive (no offence intended to his wife).

Alcohol diminishes an individual's inhibitions by boosting self-confidence, a mental state known as Dutch courage. The increased sense of confidence makes it easier to approach strangers. Some people indeed go to bars specifically to interact with strangers.

Stories are rife of revellers who met someone who seemed nice, only to end up getting drugged and robbed by the "beautiful" stranger. There are cases of men who could not believe their luck when a girl they met in a bar agreed to go home with them, only to wake up on the floor the next day, their entire house robbed of every valuable item.

In these days of electronic banking, people have been drugged and forced to reveal their mobile money and ATM PINs. The situation is worse for women because getting drugged increases the possibility of sexual assault. That genre of horror stories discourages most people from pursuing long-term romance from the bar.

For Anne Wangari, a night out with the girls turned out to be a passionate escapade with a man she had never met before. “There was this intern at work who seemed to know all the hot entertainment joints in Nairobi. One evening, she convinced a group of us to go out with her,” Wangari says. The group of women went to a popular restaurant in Nairobi CBD. The music, the dancing, the flashing lights and the drinks soon got the better of them.

Wangari met a man on the dance floor and they started talking. One thing led to another and Wangari agreed to go with her newfound companion to his house. She left the man's house the next morning. Afterwards, the man kept calling her and even visiting at Wangari's workplace. "The man was interested in getting into a relationship with me but I was going through a separation with my husband at the time, and I did not feel like jumping into another relationship," Wangari explains.

Revellers silhouetted by smoke during the Pilsner Ice parties at Club Rio, Mombasa
Revellers silhouetted by smoke during the Pilsner Ice parties at Club Rio, Mombasa
Image: FILE


For some other people, bars are a hunting ground in the search for prey. James Wesonga, whose job requires him to travel across the country, has girlfriends in all major towns of Kenya thanks to encounters in bars. "Nowadays, I don't get lonely when I am out of town," he says. Whichever town he goes to, he has a girlfriend he can call for a night out together. Wesonga affords his escapades because he gets travelling allowances every time he is outside his usual work station.

Musau the religious counsellor advises people intending to get into serious relationships to grow out of the drinking habit to build a future together. “You met in a bar because you were not saved in Jesus Christ. You have to move on to embrace salvation, stand together and change your lifestyle so you can become one and build your future,” she says. “To build your future, you must control your mind and emerge from drunkenness." 

Coming back to the question of whether it is possible to build a serious relationship from a bar encounter, the answer is both yes and no. A viable relationship can emerge when the couple talks about their future without the influence of alcohol.

Both parties should see each other when sober and decide whether or not to move forward together. If a relationship is not possible, it could be best to simply end up as drinking buddies and nothing more than that.

Edited by T Jalio