Could Different Drinking Habits Put Your Marriage at Risk?

They say that opposites attract, but when it comes to differences in your drinking habits, this may not be a good thing. This is according to a study published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, which found that spouses who have very different drinking habits could have a rocky marriage, and when one of you drinks more than the other, your risk of divorce increases.

According to corresponding author for the study and researcher at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Fartein Ask Torvik, ‘The risk of divorce is lowered if the spouses drink approximately the same amount of alcohol. This is not only true for those who drink excessively; there is also a reduced risk of divorce if both spouses abstain totally from alcohol.’

He added that divorced people drink more than married people: ‘To some extent, this is due to increased drinking after a divorce, but people who drink heavily also have a higher risk of experiencing a divorce, so heavy drinking likely interferes fundamentally with the quality of marriage.’

However, heavy drinking among women appears to be more strongly associated with divorce than heavy drinking among men. According to Ellinor Major, director of the institute’s division of mental health, this may be because heavy drinking among women is viewed as less acceptable than among men, and so affects the emotional wellbeing of the family more heavily: ‘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.’

Using data compiled on almost 20,000 married couples between 1984 and 1986, the researchers examined information on alcohol use and mental wellness and calculated the participants’ risk for divorce within 15 years, using ‘time-to-event’ analysis. They found that compared to couples who both drink lightly, a couple’s risk for divorce could triple when the husband’s level of drinking is low but the wife is a heavy drinker, and when both spouses drink heavily, the risk for divorce also goes up.

Major concluded by saying that you should how and when your partner drinks before you get married: ‘Someone with a light or moderate alcohol use who has a spouse who drinks heavily should encourage that spouse to change their drinking pattern into light or moderate level if the main concern is a lasting marriage of good quality. Good advice probably would be to encourage a similar pattern of moderate or light drinking in both spouses.’



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