The Unexpected Relationship Habit Of Happy Couples

Photographed by Alice Gao.
It's hard to beat great drinks with great people. And, according to new research, drinking with your partner can actually be a sign of a healthy, satisfied relationship.

For the study, published online last month in The Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences, researchers looked at data from 4,864 married people between 2008 and 2012. All of the participants were at least 52 years old and had been with their spouses for an average of 33 years. Specifically, the researchers were interested in how much alcohol the participants drank, whether or not they drank with their partners, and the overall quality of their marriage.

Results showed that, as other studies have suggested, husbands tended to drink more than wives. But drinking at all predicted how satisfied a participant was with their marriage, particularly if both partners drank. In particular, participants who drank with their spouse reported a lower incidence of certain kinds of negativity in their relationship (e.g. receiving excess criticism from or often being let down by a spouse). On the other hand, participants who didn't drink and had partners who did reported worse relationship quality — and that effect was even stronger for women.

However, we're pretty confident that it's not the actual drinking that's making couples happier. Instead, as the authors suggest, it's more likely that when couples are on the same page about drinking, they're in sync in other relationship-affirming ways, too. "[Couples who drink together] may spend more time together and may engage in other leisure activities together," the authors write. "[Couples with only one partner who drinks] may use more destructive conflict strategies (e.g. yelling and insults) or more negative regulation strategies (e.g. threats and punishment) to attempt to reduce partner drinking."

So, while you and your partner shouldn't feel pressured to finish the bottle of wine with dinner in order to have a happier relationship, you should feel good about the fact that you're enjoying that vino together. If you two can make it through the inevitable hangover, you can make it through anything.
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