drinking coupleIt seems to be important for marital stability that either:

  1. Both partners in a marriage abstain from alcohol, or
  2. Both partners are similar in terms of their drinking behaviors. 1

There may be a higher risk of divorce for the husband who is a light drinker with a heavy-drinking wife, while there may be a lower risk of divorce if both partners either abstain from alcohol altogether, both are heavy drinkers, or husband drinks a moderate amount and wife drinks a lot. 2

Some interesting points from the study:

“Compared to discordant drinkers, concordant drinkers are more likely to have similar attitudes toward alcohol, spend more time together, and fight less over alcohol.”

“The lowered risk of divorce among concordant abstainers may have the same explanations as suggested for heavy drinkers, that is, compatibility and relative satisfaction. In addition, several religious faiths promote abstention from alcohol while opposing divorce (Michalak et al., 2007; Spein et al., 2011). Moreover, because abstainers have smaller social networks than social drinkers (Graham, 1998), the partners may be more interdependent.”

These results seem consistent with an earlier study, which found that it’s not so much the AMOUNT of alcohol you consume, but how much you’re consuming in comparison to your spouse.

Questions: Other research has shown that it’s not so much the “big differences” per se that cause problems, but how a couple handles them. Should disaffected or ex-Mormons married to an orthodox spouse consider ongoing abstention from alcohol? Putting the issue of religion or the Word of Wisdom aside, is it a selfish act for one spouse to begin drinking, when it appears that discordant drinking practices are potentially harmful to a marriage?


1. Reference for the study: Torvik, F. A., Røysamb, E., Gustavson, K., Idstad, M., & Tambs, K. (2013). Discordant and concordant alcohol use in spouses as predictors of marital dissolution in the general population: Results from the Hunt study. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 37, 877-884. doi: 10.1111/acer.12029

2. Definitions used in the study:

  • Heavy drinker: During the past 2 weeks, drank more than 10 times, on 5 or more days, while getting drunk at least once, or having periods of drinking too much during one’s life in general.
  • Moderate drinker: During the past 2 weeks, drank more than 10 times, on 3.5 days, while not getting drunk.
  • Light drinker: During the past 2 weeks, drank on 1 day, did not get drunk, and have not had period in life of drinking too much.