How Alcohol Affects Marriage

alcohol use

It is quite common for people in committed relationships to engage in the same leisure activities. Part of what attracts one person to another is having similar interests, such interests when pursued together can serve to strengthen a relationship. Sometimes a couple’s leisure activities can include the consumption of alcohol. Naturally, couples who drink alcohol together and in similar ways can be OK for a relationship, if done in moderation; however, many many marriages have ended on account of one or the other’s drinking habits. Alcohol is an insidious substance that can wreak havoc on a relationship, especially one that is co-dependent in nature.

Research has shown that many “baby boomers” are consuming alcohol at alarming rates. In fact, the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found the rate of binge drinking among people ages 65 and older was 8.2 percent, and the rate of heavy drinking was 2 percent. The researchers estimated that 5.7 million people over the age of 50 will need substance use disorder treatment by 2020.

Alcohol and Marriage 

Given the fact that many older adults are engaging in heavy alcohol use, it would stand to reason that it is having an impact on people’s marriage. A group of researchers set to determine how alcohol affects the quality of marriage among older adults. Interestingly, the research didn’t focus as much on how much spouses were drinking, but rather whether spousal drinking patterns were concordant. The researchers found that the amount one’s spouse drank wasn’t as much as a factor in having a satisfied marriage as was whether or not both partners consumed alcohol the same way, Reuters reports. The findings were published in Journals of Gerontology B: Psychological Sciences.

Study author, Dr. Kira Birditt of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and colleagues came to their findings by analyzing survey responses from 4,864 married participants, according to the article. The findings indicated that in more than half of the couples, both partners consumed alcohol. Wives only reported marital dissatisfaction when only one partner drank alcohol.

“The study shows that it’s not about how much they’re drinking, it’s about whether they drink at all,” said Birditt.


Concerning Alcohol Use

At people approach or reach retirement age, they often find themselves with more time on their hands than they know what to do with. Idle time can lead one spouse or the other to turn to alcohol as a way to fill the day. It is a behavior which can quickly become a slippery slope that potentially leads to an alcohol use disorder. The research showed that 20 percent of men and 6 percent of women had an unhealthy relationship with alcohol which could be characterized as having a drinking problem.

“Problem drinkers are a whole different kettle of fish,” said Dr. Fred Blow, also at the University of Michigan. “Serious heavy drinkers have disruptive relationships with people, particularly their partners. That’s an important issue that should be looked at going forward.” 

At Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat, our Older Adult Addiction Treatment Program is tailored to meet the varying needs and special circumstances the older adult faces. Patients flourish in an intimate, age specific, non-confrontational group of peers.

Please contact Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat 866.273.0868 to begin the journey of recovery.

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