Divorce and Alcohol: Can Drinking Save Your Marriage?

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Divorce on Thursday, December 5, 2013.

It sounds like I’ve asked a ridiculous question. After all, published research suggests a correlation that the more you drink the more likely you are to get divorce. However, researchers at the University at Buffalo have put a new spin on the old notion that drinking and marriages do not mix.

Scientists at the University of Buffalo’s Research Institute on Addictions (RIA) followed 634 couples from the time of their weddings through the first nine years of marriage. What the researchers found was that couples where only one spouse was a heavy drinker had a much higher divorce rate than other couples.

However when both spouses were heavy drinkers, the divorce rate was the same as for couples who were not heavy drinkers at all. And that’s the surprising outcome:

50% of couples in which one partner was imbibing significantly more than their spouse ended up divorcing. However, that number dropped to 30% for couples who possessed similar drinking habits, regardless of if they were heavy or light drinkers.

The researchers also found that there was a higher divorce rate when the heavy drinker was the wife, rather than the husband. However, this statistical difference was not significant.

What researchers have concluded is that heavy drinking spouses may be more tolerant of negative experiences related to alcohol due to their own drinking habits.

Our results indicate that it is the difference between the couple’s drinking habits, rather than the drinking itself, that leads to marital dissatisfaction, separation and divorce said Kenneth Leonard, PhD, RIA director and lead author of the study.

Make no mistake, heavy drinking can ruin your life. From a divorce perspective, it is interesting that divorce rates are worst for marriages in which one spouse drinks heavy and the other does not. The research may mean that differing behavior is to blame, not alcohol.

This study makes sense. When couples don’t see eye-to-eye on something, they may be incompatible on other issues. But spouses who drink similar amounts may have similar views on drinking, may spend more time together, and probably don’t fight as much as those who have different drinking habits.

The report from the University of Buffalo can be read here.