A glass of wine with dinner or shots all weekend? A few beers after work or champagne only on special occasions? Your answer—and your partner’s answer—may predict how compatible you are long-term.
Recently, researchers in Norway collected data from almost 20,000 married couples about their drinking habits. Not surprisingly, the researchers found that heavy drinking correlated with higher divorce rates—but it depended on who was doing the drinking, too. Their findings are summarized below.
- Couples who both reported being light drinkers divorced just 5.8 percent of the time.
- In couples in which both husband and wife were heavy drinkers, the divorce rate was 17.2 percent.
- In couples in which the husband was a heavy drinker and the wife was a light drinker, the divorce rate was 13.1 percent.
- But in couples in which the wife was a heavy drinker and the husband was a light drinker, the divorce rate shot up to 26.8 percent.
The study doesn’t compare these numbers to divorce rates in Norway overall, which tops out at about 46 percent in a marriage lasting 60 years. It was 45 percent for a 40-year marriage, 36 percent for a 20-year marriage, and 21 percent for a 10-year marriage, though the study didn’t specify which marriage lengths they looked at.
Still, it’s hard to ignore that a women’s heavy drinking is correlated with divorce at more than double the rate as does a man’s heavy drinking. Lead author of the study Fartein Ask Torvik speculated on the reason behind that, saying that heavy drinking “may be judged as incompatible with female roles,” threatening marriage stability. He also speculated that heavy drinking may affect women more strongly, impairing them more than it does men.
Of course, regardless of gender, drinking to the point of impairment on a regular basis threatens the stability of any relationship, from marriage to friendships to your work relationships.
“Couples who intend to marry should be aware of the drinking pattern of their partner, since it may become a problem in the future,” Norwegian Institute of Public Health director Ellinor F. Major advised in a statement. The best approach? Husbands and wives should strive for matching amounts of light or moderate drinking.