Why mar­riages end in the drink

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - LIFE - JAMES VIN­CENT

LON­DON: Re­searchers from the Univer­sity of Buf­falo have stud­ied 634 cou­ples through their first nine years of mar­riage, find­ing that the di­vorce rate was sig­nif­i­cantly higher when only one per­son in each cou­ple was a heavy drinker.

Sur­pris­ingly, if both part­ners drank equally heav­ily than their chances of split­ting up were no higher than cou­ples that didn’t drink at all.

“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 Dr Ken­neth Leonard, lead au­thor of the study.

The re­searchers found that dur­ing the nine-year study, cou­ples where only one mem­ber drank heav­ily got di­vorced 50 per­cent of the time. By com­par­i­son, the rate of sep­a­ra­tion for all other cou­ples (when both part­ners drank, or did not drink, equal amounts) was 30 per­cent.

“Heavy drink­ing spouses may be more tol­er­ant of neg­a­tive ex­pe­ri­ences re­lated to al­co­hol due to their own drink­ing habits,” said Leonard.

Al­though he also noted that while heavy drinkers stayed to­gether, their drink­ing would cer­tainly af­fect other as­pects of fam­ily life: “While two heavy drinkers may not di­vorce, they may cre­ate a par­tic­u­larly bad cli­mate for their chil­dren.”

For the pur­pose of the study “heavy drink­ing” was de­fined as drink­ing more than six drinks in a night or drink­ing un­til in­tox­i­cated. The study, which was co- au­thored by Gre­gory Homish and Philip Smith, two PhD stu­dents from the univer­sity, also took into ac­count other fac­tors that could have af­fected the mar­riages, in­clud­ing sub­stance abuse and de­pres­sion.

The re­searchers also found that di­vorce rates were slightly higher when the sole heavy drinker was a woman, but that there was not enough ev­i­dence to con­sti­tute a sig­nif­i­cant find­ing. Leonard sug­gested that this might be be­cause heavy drink­ing by women goes against per­ceived gen­der roles, and might lead to more con­flict.

The find­ings will ap­pear in the next nonth’s is­sue of the Psy­chol­ogy jour­nal and was sup­ported by the US’s Na­tional In­sti­tute on Al­co­hol Abuse and Al­co­holism.

Leonard hopes that the study 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”.

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


SAME WAVE­LENGTH: Re­search in­di­cates that it is the dif­fer­ence be­tween a cou­ple’s drink­ing habits, rather than the drink­ing it­self, that can lead to di­vorce.

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