The Couple that (Drinks/Abstains) Together…?

by: shenpa warrior

September 11, 2013

drinking coupleIt seems to be important for marital stability that either:

  1. Both partners in a marriage abstain from alcohol, or
  2. Both partners are similar in terms of their drinking behaviors. 1

There may be a higher risk of divorce for the husband who is a light drinker with a heavy-drinking wife, while there may be a lower risk of divorce if both partners either abstain from alcohol altogether, both are heavy drinkers, or husband drinks a moderate amount and wife drinks a lot. 2

Some interesting points from the study:

“Compared to discordant drinkers, concordant drinkers are more likely to have similar attitudes toward alcohol, spend more time together, and fight less over alcohol.”

“The lowered risk of divorce among concordant abstainers may have the same explanations as suggested for heavy drinkers, that is, compatibility and relative satisfaction. In addition, several religious faiths promote abstention from alcohol while opposing divorce (Michalak et al., 2007; Spein et al., 2011). Moreover, because abstainers have smaller social networks than social drinkers (Graham, 1998), the partners may be more interdependent.”

These results seem consistent with an earlier study, which found that it’s not so much the AMOUNT of alcohol you consume, but how much you’re consuming in comparison to your spouse.

Questions: Other research has shown that it’s not so much the “big differences” per se that cause problems, but how a couple handles them. Should disaffected or ex-Mormons married to an orthodox spouse consider ongoing abstention from alcohol? Putting the issue of religion or the Word of Wisdom aside, is it a selfish act for one spouse to begin drinking, when it appears that discordant drinking practices are potentially harmful to a marriage?


1. Reference for the study: Torvik, F. A., Røysamb, E., Gustavson, K., Idstad, M., & Tambs, K. (2013). Discordant and concordant alcohol use in spouses as predictors of marital dissolution in the general population: Results from the Hunt study. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 37, 877-884. doi: 10.1111/acer.12029

2. Definitions used in the study:

  • Heavy drinker: During the past 2 weeks, drank more than 10 times, on 5 or more days, while getting drunk at least once, or having periods of drinking too much during one’s life in general.
  • Moderate drinker: During the past 2 weeks, drank more than 10 times, on 3.5 days, while not getting drunk.
  • Light drinker: During the past 2 weeks, drank on 1 day, did not get drunk, and have not had period in life of drinking too much.

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12 Responses to The Couple that (Drinks/Abstains) Together…?

  1. Hedgehog on September 11, 2013 at 3:52 AM

    “Should disaffected or ex-Mormons married to an orthodox spouse consider ongoing abstention from alcohol?”
    I looks like it would be a good idea, if the marriage is important to them.

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  2. hawkgrrrl on September 11, 2013 at 7:48 AM

    I wonder how many of the issues in mixed faith marriage are really about drinking behaviors. Before my parents joined the church, my father was probably a moderate to heavy drinker by these standards. My mother was a light drinker. It was a definite source of contention in their marriage. I think it was one reason she was attracted to the church, because she agreed that drinking too much was a bad thing.

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  3. Seeking Goodness (@seekgood) on September 11, 2013 at 9:30 AM

    I definitely think in a mixed-faith marriage, BOTH members need to be considerate of each other. The disaffected spouse should put their spouse’s wishes as a priority. The still-faithful spouse should try to see things from the other perspective.
    We’re both disaffected in my marriage, though I hit that step first. We tried our first-ever sip of alcohol together, as 28-year-olds trying a home-made daiquiri for New Years almost a year after we stopped going to church. Turns out I just don’t like alcohol. I’ve tried many different drinks and different levels of inebriation and I can’t get past the taste.
    My husband, on the other hand, likes it. I think he is the target audience: he is tightly-wound and reserved and frequently just needs something to help him relax in the evenings. He might have a drink a couple times a week if he needs help winding down. I, on the other hand, am already lazy and uninhibited so I don’t really need alcohol;)

    Getting mildly drunk together- at home, with only each other for company- was kind of fun. I’ve discovered since that being sober while husband is mildly intoxicated is not quite as fun. Oh, it’s not awful, either- I just have to be in the mood for it.
    I have no doubt my husband would give up drinking altogether for me if I asked. Because I know he would be willing to give it up for me, it makes me more willing to see things from his perspective and not make a fuss over it. I see how it helps him relax (something that has always been a struggle) and I’m actually glad for it.
    And he asks me regularly if he is drinking too much or if it bothers me. I’ve let him know when it does, and he respects that and cuts back. Of course, my qualms aren’t moral, since we’ve both left our faith, just practical.

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  4. Andrew S on September 11, 2013 at 9:43 AM

    Just from looking at how many newly disaffected people act on the internet, I am actually inclined to believe that disaffected folks often don’t have the best practices for dealing with their disaffection in a pro-social way (to say nothing of the fact that the church isn’t really a comfortable place with disaffection to begin with)…so drinking would probably be another issue on top of others.

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  5. Jeff Spector on September 11, 2013 at 9:59 AM

    A mixed anything marriage can be a challenge. An addicted video gamer or TV watcher or Family history nut is just as bad as anything else. the drinking things is a bit different because of its potential effect on personality and mood.

    Seems to me, the last thing anyone should do is start time of not. But then again, I have watched a number of family members die as a result of their drinking problems.

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  6. RickH on September 11, 2013 at 12:54 PM

    My wife & I aren’t too disaffected – we still attend each week, though deep down we hope each general conference will be the one when they announce the Word of Wisdom becomes “by greeting only” again (not holding our breath).

    BUT… for me, I don’t have much of a desire to drink with anyone but my wife. So I think it would work for us.

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  7. RickH on September 11, 2013 at 12:56 PM

    Andrew, I think you’re on to something. One reason I don’t expect to (ever) go out drinking is that I don’t know how I would handle it. A young adult getting blitzed and acting out is bad enough. But a 37-year old man? No thanks. (Plus, I suspect most of my friends who do drink would relish the opportunity to make me do something tremendously stupid on my first time out.)

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  8. Andrew S on September 11, 2013 at 4:15 PM

    That’s another thing i would mention…in the LDS church, we don’t really teach moderation very well. It’s very “all or nothing.” (I mean, cue the posts on the “Not Even Once” club.)

    And I understand that like: “CRACK COCAINE: not even once” is probably a good course of action to take.

    But on FB, I just read someone write that there can be no such thing as socially responsible drinking.

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  9. hawkgrrrl on September 11, 2013 at 7:50 PM

    Andrew S – you are definitely onto something with that comment. Another example is the definition of “pornography.” Apparently, some folks in Utah county are laboring under the misapprehension that a billboard for Victoria’s Secret is pornography. I can only imagine if they ever saw actual pornography!

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  10. Jenn on September 11, 2013 at 8:05 PM

    Yes, my husband and I were very surprised how anti-climatic drinking was. Like…. this is it? This is what we’ve been so afraid of? My husband literally thought that once you had any alcohol in your system, you’d just crave more/be less able to stop.
    You have to drink a LOT to get drunk. It is very possible- easy, even- for most people to moderate. Unfortunately, Mormons (and American youth in general) have never SEEN what responsible drinking looks like, and think the only options are all or nothing.

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  11. IDIAT on September 12, 2013 at 4:26 PM

    My mother was Methodist non-drinker and father was a Baptist heavy drinker most of his adult life. Caused great contention between them. I was teenage weekend drinker before I joined the church at 18. From my early life experience along with my interactions with family and nonmember friends, you are missing absolutely nothing by not drinking. It doesn’t make a social gathering more fun, doesn’t make a person smarter or more Christlike. Nothing but a waste of time and money with the very real potential of leading to other major problems.

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  12. hawkgrrrl on September 12, 2013 at 4:55 PM

    My primary objection to drinking remains as it has always been: Too. Many. Calories! I suspect this study would be similar to other “lifestyle” type issues where couples possessing a similar attitude and behavior would matter. For instance, I wonder how much discord there is between spouses where one likes adventure while the other wants to live quietly at home, or where one is a deep thinker and the other is a flibberdegibbet (Mr. & Mrs Bennett). There is probably something to respect being dependent on similarity of mind. Frankly, a tipsy person may be amusing but probably doesn’t increase their credibility. I’m thinking of Drunk History in saying that (an ingenious show).

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