Do Only Couples Who Drink Together, Stay Together?

Do Only Couples Who Drink Together, Stay Together?

Here's something to toast to for date night: you're less likely to break up if you're both drinkers.

A new study conducted by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health claims that couples who drink together are more likely to stay together. More specifically, a married couple is less likely to divorce if they both drink the same amount, albeit moderately.

This probably doesn't seem like big news. Drinking is a norm in the dating scene, whether it's meeting on your first date over drinks at the bar, a glass of wine with dinner, or out for beers with your group of mutual friends. This difference is that if one partner drinks more than the other, it means bad news for your relationship. After looking at nearly 20,000 married couples, researchers found that the highest divorce rate (over 25%), happened in couples where the husband was a light drinker and the wife was a heavy drinker. However, when the roles were reversed, the divorce rate was reduced to 13.1%.

Why the big difference?

"Heavy drinking among women is also less acceptable than among men in our society," Co-author Ellinor Major explained. "A wife's heavy drinking probably also interferes more with general family life — that is, the caring role of the mother, upbringing of children, etc. Perhaps the husband is more apt to the leave the spouse than is the wife when major problems occur."

But what does this mean for couples who disagree on drinking? Are the findings from this study the kiss of death for your relationship?

YourTango expert Dr. John McMahon doesn't believe that's necessarily the case. Although it can cause a rift in your relationship, it's an issue that can be managed. He says that people choose not to drink for a variety of reasons, whether it's an allergy, long term illness, religion or personal reasons (such as a history of alcoholism in your family, or you yourself are the recovering alcoholic). 

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"How much drinking/non-drinking impacts on the relationship depends on the reasons for not drinking," McMahon says. "The attitude may differ according to whether the partner was the one who endured the alcoholic's drinking and is still there in sobriety or whether this is a new partner met during recovery."

Living with a difference in drinking philosophies? Here are a few dos and don'ts as advised by Dr. McMahon.

Do talk about it!
McMahon says that you should sit down as a couple and discuss both of your expectations and preferences regarding drinking, like how often and how much you drink is acceptable. Two glasses of wine to your partner, may be one too many to you.

Do respect your drinking (or non-drinking) stances.
"Do respect each other’s position about not-drinking," McMahon says. "Try to avoid guilt trips."Don't take your partner for granted. As a former alcoholic himself, McMahon says that "if you are the alcoholic remember that your family supported you despite the problems, cherish them."

Don't blame your partner for your drinking.
In line with openly discussing your viewpoints about drinking, you should never impose yourself on your partner, especially as a recovering alcoholic. "Alcoholics, remember that you had the problem — not your family," McMahon says. "Do not impose change (eg. 12-step philosophy) on them."

What do you think of the study? Are you in a relationship where you differ on drinking viewpoints? How do you manage to not make it an issue?