Does Drinking Together Make for a Better Marriage?

Grab a glass of wine – and your spouse! That’s right! A study published in the Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Series found a possible connection between couples who drink together and happier marriages.

According to the study authors, past research shows the alcohol use has “powerful effects” on the marriages of young couples who drink together. Sure, it’s all well and fine to grab a bottle of pinot (or two), and down it with your honey when you’re 23. But, what about as we age?

The study looked at whether (or not) regular alcohol consumption affected the marriages of the 4,864 participants. And, what of the results? Without all the fancy research-y lingo, the basic take-away (according to the journal article) is that couples who both drink reported a decrease in “negative marital quality.” This was particularly true for wives. But, mainly for wives of equal drinkers.

Of the participants, researchers found that husbands were more likely to drink than wives. It’s tempting to think that a boozy husband equals a dissatisfied wife. While in everyday life this might be the case, in the context of this study it was the opposite. When hubby didn’t drink, and the wife did, the quality of the marriage wasn’t as good.

Okay, okay, okay. Let’s hold on just a moment before we crack open a bottle in an effort to improve our marriages. The study didn’t say that get drunk together was the only predictor of a happy marriage. Those couples who didn’t drink at all faired just as well.

Now, you might be wondering, “So, how much did these couples drink? Was it just a drink a day or were these avid alcohol-lovers binging regularly?” Apparently, according to the study, it’s not necessarily the quantity consumed. The key to the study was, again, whether or not the couples did or did not drink at all.

If you’re about to drop everything and run out for a bottle of — well, anything – stop! This study in no way suggests that couples should take up drinking as a way to save an on-the-rocks marriage. Dr. Kira Birditt of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and one of the study researchers, told Reuters, “We’re not suggesting that people should drink more or change the way they drink.”

As it turns out, it might not exactly be the alcohol itself that’s making the difference between being satisfied with your partner and being in an unhappy marriage. Dr. Birditt added, “We’re not sure why this is happening, but it could be that couples that do more leisure time activities together have better marital quality.”

Makes sense, right? You both enjoy a good bottle of red while watching the sun set – you’re happily spending time together. But, let’s say you don’t (that is, you don’t enjoy bottles of wine, but possibly sunsets). What happens now? As long as you’re not downing the drinks while your beloved is staring at the TV, you might not be out of luck. Maybe the two of you are art enthusiasts. Maybe you’re super into Jason Bourne movies. Maybe you both have a secret passion for making 1970s-style macramé plant hangers. It doesn’t seem to matter what you’re doing, as long as you are both enjoying it together.

Along with relationship benefits of drinking together (or not drinking together), the study also revealed that 20 percent of the male participants were heavy drinkers, while only 6 percent of the females were. Problem drinking (in other words drinking to the point where it seriously disrupts the person’s life) was in no way associated with a better marriage. Dr. Fred Blow (also a researcher at the University of Michigan, but not associated with this study) told Reuters, “Serious heavy drinkers have disruptive relationships with people, particularly their partners. That’s an important issue that should be looked at going forward.”

So, does drinking (of course, in moderation) make couples happier? As long as it’s only a leisure-time activity – at least, according to this particular study.

Avatar of Belinda Jennings

Belinda's a passionate advocate for community and connection. As the founder of the Mum Central Network she’s committed to celebrating the journey that is Australian parenthood. Mum to two cheeky boys, and wife to her superstar husband, they live a busy but crazy lifestyle in Adelaide. Great conversation, close friends and good chocolate are her chosen weapons for daily survival. Oh, and bubbles. Champagne is key.

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