Can Couples Who Drink Together, Stay Together?

So does this mean people should avoid boozing it up with their partner? What about couples who just like to have a few drinks now and then without causing a public disturbance? Can couples who drink together, stay together? Well, it depends.

What do studies say?

Not surprisingly, numerous studies have been done examining the effects of drinking on a couple and whether it’s a death knell for relationships. Since alcohol has been linked to very poor decision-making in the past–hence the universally cited excuse “baby, I was drunk”–more than a few researchers have taken a look at the issue.

So far, the consensus seems to be that couples who share a few cocktails together, and do so fairly frequently, are much less likely to split up then couples where one person is a boozer and the other isn’t. After all, what’s worse than being around someone who’s sauced when you’re as sober as a judge?

For example, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health recently studied the drinking habits of nearly 20,000 married couples. What researchers found was that couples made up of one heavy drinker and one light drinker were much more likely to get divorced then relationships with two people who rarely partook in the sauce.

Interestingly enough, marriages where the wife never met a drink she didn’t like and the husband rarely drank ended in divorce 26% of the time! Marriages where the man got tanked frequently and the wife hardly drank, however, ended in divorce only 13% of the time. Go figure.

A study by the University of Buffalo also found that folks in marriages with mates who shared similar drinking habits were more likely to still feel “satisfied” with their relationship, even after the seven-year itch. Marriages where only one person hit the bottle heavily, however, were much more likely to hit the rocks.

Although it stands to reason that lovebirds who have compatible drinking habits must, at least some of the time, drink together, the aforementioned studies didn’t study this directly. A recent study in New Zealand, however, looked at whether couples who tip a few back with each other are, in fact, happier.

What the research found was that relationships with moderate drinkers who took out time to share a few drinks together at least once a week were extremely likely to enjoy each other’s company: As in 91% of the time likely. Couples that never enjoyed a nice bottle of vino or a few brews together, however, were happy just 69% of the time. The study also found that relationships with one heavy drinker weren’t exactly going swimmingly.

So, should we get hammered together all the time?

It’s probably not a good idea. In fact, it’s probably a very bad one. What this research has also discovered is that relationships with two heavy drinkers are also likely to hit the skids. For example, the study in Norway found that marriages with two booze hounds ended in divorce 17% of the time. Relationships where both people only drank occasionally, however, only split up approximately 5% of the time.

If you enjoy having a few or many drinks here and there, you probably have discovered by now that alcohol has a funny way of making people do or say extremely inappropriate things. Things that might not be too healthy for a marriage like, oh, admitting to your spouse that if you “could it all over again” you would have preferred to chase more women and not get married so young. Or, that you had a sexual dream about your partner’s sibling. Good stuff like that.

In addition, since alcohol reduces a person’s ability to consider the repercussions of what they do or say, if you’re hammered around your spouse all the time, chances are you’re going to fight much, much more. A sober you might decide Thanksgiving dinner at the in-laws is not the best time to tell your partner you blame her for your disappointing career. The drunk you, however, may think “why wait?”

Why is my partner such an arrogant jerk when they’re drunk?

Although having a few cocktails can be a great way to lighten the mood and get some laughs going, the more booze a person ingests, the less control they typically have of their behaviour. Alcohol inhibits neurotransmitters in the part of the brain that is responsible for reasoning and making decisions, which is why most people know what “beer goggles” means.

So, if you find that your loaded significant other goes from being the life of the party to kind of a blunt jerk, it’s because they’ve lost the ability to assess whether saying “you should start working out more” might not sit very well.