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Couples who Drink Together Tend to Stay Together

Update Date: Nov 23, 2013 11:50 AM EST

A majority of people have heard the phrase "opposites attract." This concept states that people who are different can be compatible. Despite how popular this saying is, some studies have found that a relationship might not last as long if the people do not have anything in common. In a new study, researchers found that couples who choose to drink together or abstain from drinking tend to stay together.

For this study, researchers from the University of Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions (RIA) in upstate New York recruited 634 couples. The couples were followed from their wedding date and through to the first nine years of marriage. The researchers found that throughout the time span, couples that were made up of one heavy drinker had a higher divorce rate. The researchers found that divorce rates increased when the heavy drinker was the wife as opposed to the husband. The team cautioned that this particular finding was not statistically significant. Around half of the couples with one heavy drinker ended up getting divorced. For couples that either drank together or did not drink as frequently had a divorce rate of 30 percent.

"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. "This research provides solid evidence to bolster the commonplace notion that heavy drinking by one partner can lead to divorce. Although some people might think that's a likely outcome, there was surprisingly little data to back up that claim until now."

For the study, the researchers had defined heavy drinking as having six or more drinks at a time or drinking to the point of intoxication. Even though the researchers could not identify what caused the relationships they found, they reasoned that if both partners were heavy drinkers, they would be more tolerant of each other's intoxicated behaviors. If one spouse did not drink, he or she might resent having to take care of his/her partner or deal with the partner's drunken actions.

"While two heavy drinkers may not divorce, they may create a particularly bad climate for their children," Leonard said according to Daily Mail. "Ultimately, we hope our findings will be helpful to marriage therapists and mental health practitioners who can explore whether a difference in drinking habits is causing conflicts between couples seeking help."

The study was published in Psychology of Addictive Behaviors.

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