Turns Out Marriage Doesn’t Really Drive You to Drink

Last updated on November 4th, 2019

Jim H. has been sober for over five years. Despite being an active participant in recovery, he still feels compelled to drink at times. Seeing alcohol at work events or running into old bar buddies triggers some of the same urges he had at the peak of his addiction. It takes every single ounce of Jim’s self-control to avoid falling back into those old familiar drinking patterns.

So, what’s Jim’s secret? Believe it or not, he believes that, without his marriage to Marcie – his wife of four years – he never could have remained sober.

Don’t Blame it on Marriage

Marriage is often associated with enormous amount of stress – enough to lead some people straight to the bottle. That’s what makes a new study from the University of Missouri all the more interesting.

Researchers found that marriage can actually result in a huge decline of alcohol consumption – even among those who are severe alcoholics.

By analyzing data from an ongoing study of familial alcohol disorders at Arizona State University, the scientists evaluated how alcohol consumption changed among participants between the ages of 18 and 40, as well as whether or not they were ever married.

According to Matthew Lee, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Missouri, marriage helps to combat alcoholism. He also explained that role-incompatibility theory played a direct role in this behavior change.

“The theory suggests that if a person’s existing behavioral pattern is conflicting with the demands of a new role, such as marriage, one way to resolve the incompatibility is to change behavior,” he explained. “We found that marriage not only led to reductions in heavy drinking in general, this effect was much stronger for those who were severe problem drinkers before getting married.”

Specifics of the Study

It’s definitely worth mentioning that the link between lower alcohol consumption and a healthy marriage only applies if both people are on the same page.

Research published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research showed the chance of divorce can triple if one spouse either abstains from or barely drinks alcohol, while the other drinks heavily.

The above data was confirmed in a 2013 study from the University of Buffalo, which found that nearly 50 percent of the couples with one heavily-drinking partner end in divorce. Conversely, the divorce rate among non-drinking participants is around 30 percent.

…nearly 50 percent of the couples with one heavily-drinking partner end in divorce. Conversely, the divorce rate among non-drinking participants is around 30 percent.

Nurturing Your Partnership

As with any marriage, the key to success is communication.

If you’re concerned about a spouses’ drinking, talk openly and honestly with them; let them know you’re willing to either cut back or give up drinking with them.

By taking on alcoholism as a team, your chances of living a successful and sober life increase dramatically.
Additional Reading: For Better or Worse: Fighting Addiction as a Couple

Image Source: iStock

Does your insurance cover addiction treatment?

Use our free and confidential online insurance checker to see if your insurance covers treatment at an American Addiction Center facility.

See if you’re covered