Oh, alcohol. You’ve never been much of a do-gooder. Sometimes, you’ll get ambitious and pitch in for the health of diabetics—maybe prevent a little heart disease—but mostly, you make stuff like this happen.
But today you may have found an unusual niche: keeping relationships together. (Kind of.)
A study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin has found that as long as couples keep up with each other—and stay away from binge drinking—they’re more likely to report being content in their relationships.
Said lead researcher Ash Levitt:
It turns out that drinking together rather than apart is clearly good for relationships. Individuals who drink with their partner report feeling increased intimacy and decreased relationship problems the next day, compared to individuals who drink apart from their partner or do not drink at all.
The study surveyed 69 straight couples—all either married or in long-term relationships—and asked them to document their behavior and drinking habits over the course of three weeks.
Using computerized or online daily diary methods to compile day-to-day variations in thoughts and behaviors provided us with very accurate sequences of events. This reliable record of effects for each gender, the nature of the drinking, and the processes occurring between the partners provided information about factors that may make or break relationships over time.
The results showed a number of things. First, the positive effects of alcohol were limited to light drinking—about one to three drinks—and that the best practice was for drinkers to pace themselves to each other, drinking the same relative amount.
Also, the ties between drinking and relationships were stronger and more numerous for women than for men. If a female participant reported feeling disconnected or displeased with her partner, the study found that they were more likely to drink significantly more on days following the negativity.
Researchers are hopeful, deeming their work a “reliable record of effects for each gender, the nature of the drinking, and the processes occurring between the partners provided information about factors that may make or break relationships over time.”
“We really can’t make the blanket statements about drinking and romantic relationships that people have come to expect,” said Levitt. He’s right. Due to a very small test group (and very little diversity among test subjects), we’re pretty skeptical. We’re all for drinking with the person you love, but it’s a steep logical jump to say that alcohol is a cure-all for relationship woes.