By Cassie Shortsleeve
Is a bottle of vino keeping your marital bliss at bay? New research published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research found that the more you drink, the more likely you are to get divorced.
Researchers studied almost 20,000 married couples, asking them about alcohol use and mental distress—how stressed, anxious, lonely, or restless they felt—and followed up with the couples 15 years later.
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Interestingly, while couples in which the husband and wife both drank were at an increased risk for divorce, they weren’t the worst off. Divorce rates skyrocketed when one partner drank heavily. In fact, they tripled if the wife was a heavy drinker (drinking more than 10 times in 2 weeks), and were 1.5 times higher if the man was a heavy drinker, compared to if both people were light drinkers.
But is the booze solely to blame? Yes, heavy drinking disrupts your daily life—from your day-to-day tasks to how you communicate with your partner. But the fact that divorce rates were worst when one partner drank a lot suggests that differing behavior is to blame, too.
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Not seeing eye-to-eye on something (like drinking or how much you’re spending each week) is associated with incompatibility—the second most common reason for divorce, according to recent Penn State research. And the researchers say that “concordant drinkers”—people who drink similar amounts—are more likely to have similar views on booze, meaning they may spend more time together and fight less than those who drink different amounts.
Know this: if you feel like there’s an elephant in the room, the worst thing you can do is silently stew, says Iris Krasnow, a professor at American University and the bestselling author of The Secret Lives of Wives. “Anger only forms a bigger wedge between a couple. And when you’re not talking, you’re not touching, and that’s a disaster,” she adds.
Your move: put each other on your to-do lists—it’s something people forget all the time, Krasnow says. When it comes to difficult conversations, restrain from saying “you should do this,” she says. Instead, say something like, “I want us to find a way to work through this.” She’ll be more likely to see you as an ally instead of an enemy.