Do Couples Who Get Drunk Together Really Stay Together?

University of Michigan researchers suggests booze may serve as a kind of glue in keeping couples together. Ljupco Smokovski/Shutterstock

Love has always been its own unique intoxicant.

It’s often compared to a drug. It makes people do things they never thought they would do. It occasionally causes us to write bad poetry and assures us that we have an angelic voice despite what the jeering karaoke crowd may think.

That’s the feverish and surreal sensation that we get at the dawn of this most celebrated sensation — we’re stoned out of our minds on love.

But, as soaring divorce rates around the world suggest, love is not without its hangover.

The trick isn’t so much to fall in love, but rather to stay in love. Or at least, to stabilize that ridiculous high into something closer to comfortable mutual affection.

In that case, researchers have suggested, you should try another intoxicant: Good old-fashioned booze.

A study published in The Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Series, suggests couples who drink together, stay together.

This is a special glue we're talking about

While much research ink has been spilled on the effects of alcohol on the body — yes, it’s pretty much all bad — relatively few studies focus on how drinking might actually be a glue that keeps older couples together.

For the study, published last year, researchers at the University of Michigan surveyed 2,767 couples, who have been an item for an average of 33 years. They were all over the age of 50 and most of them were on their first marriage.

After a few questions about their drinking habits — how often and how much — respondents were asked if they found their spouse “irritating, critical or too demanding.”

The result? Far fewer couples who drank together reported negative attitudes toward their marriage.

Drinking, it seemed, made everything better.

But that only held true if both partners indulged. The study found that when one partner drank while the other abstained, marital dissatisfaction spiked.

“Wives who reported drinking alcohol reported decreased negative marital quality over time when husbands also reported drinking and increased negative marital quality over time when husbands reported not drinking,” the study noted in its abstract.

And, perhaps even more telling, the results were similar for couples who drank together — and for couples who abstained together.

Catching a recurring theme here? Yes, that would be together.

So, it's not all about the drink

The 10-year study’s conclusion might be about as academically daring as being told that couples who have dinner together stay together — if not, of course, for that glaring headline.

Can couples really hang in there for the long haul if they get drunk together?

“We’re not suggesting that people should drink more or change the way they drink,” Kira Birditt, a sociologist and co-author of the study, told Reuters.

“We’re not sure why this is happening, but it could be that couples that do more leisure time activities together have better marital quality.”

So no, don’t fire your therapist or even burn those self-help books. You can still get drunk of course. Or not.

Young couple holding drinks, sticking tongues out
Couples who spend more time doing anything together stay together. Even drinking. View Apart/Shutterstock

We drink for so many reasons. A French philosopher even famously admitted to drinking for the thirst to come. But drinking to keep love alive might be an even worse reason.

There are countless studies showing the corrosive effects of long-term drinking not just on the body, but also on relationships. And that's to say nothing of the very compelling links drawn between alcoholism and spousal abuse.

But time? Marriages invariably find themselves on the rocks when that glass is empty.

Which is why finding more time to spend with your partner — whether parked on a couch or a barstool — is the real ticket to making this buzz last a lifetime.