The Impact of Alcohol on Your Marriage

The Impact of Alcohol on Your Marriage

The Latin proverb and quote, “In vino veritas” (i.e. ‘in wine, truth’) originated a long, long time ago in ancient Greece, and Gaius Plinius Secundus, a.k.a. “Pliny the Elder,” is credited with moving the idea forward to 1st century Rome AD.  Pliny the Elder also had a few other great quotes that have withstood the passage of time, “Home is where the heart is” and “In these matters the only certainty is that nothing is certain.”

But are we really more truthful when we drink wine or any other type of alcohol?

Research has shown that alcohol and neurotransmitters don’t necessarily mix well together at larger amounts and that the frontal lobe – the area of the brain that manages how we evaluate situations and our ourselves and make judgments – becomes compromised when we drink too much.

So, if you think your wife’s sister is really attractive, that might be something you might stupidly say when intoxicated.  Or, alcohol might loosen you up enough to tell your co-workers what you really think about a co-worker or manager that you dislike after a few drinks at a work function.

Sure, the thoughts and statements you might make to your spouse when drunk (and perhaps regrets later when sober) were always there, to begin with, but I don’t think it’s correct to think of alcohol as a truth serum in those moments.

Think about it, as much as alcohol disinhibits you, your capacity to lie doesn’t completely vanish. For instance, don’t a lot of very intoxicated folks lie to law enforcement when asked if they’d been drinking after being pulled over in their vehicles?

As a psychologist, I have met with many couples over the years who enter therapy after too many truthful, alcohol-induced moments.

From Bud Light to the fanciest Champagne around, and everything in between, too much imbibing can lead to ugly arguments and fights, infidelity, financial problems and sometimes even aggression and violence.

In my opinion, it’s not truth a partner or spouse is speaking vis a vis alcohol most of the time.  Rather, alcohol causes you to distorted your thoughts and judgment, which can then lead to harmful, self-destructive statements and actions.  It’s one thing to calmly discuss your fears, anxieties or insecurities around work struggles, money struggles, family struggles, relationship struggles, etc., when sober, but it’s entirely another thing to try to tackle those sorts of difficult topics when drinking.  For a lot of folks, what starts out seemingly innocent and productive often times ends up very badly and with alcohol being the culprit.

So, the next time you are on a date with your husband or wife or you’re together in a setting where alcohol is readily available, I invite you to keep in mind the following:

Drink in moderation.  If you choose to drink, think of alcohol as something that is meant to complement the moment but not something that should dominate it.  Having a glass of wine or two can be enjoyable with your husband or wife, but not much good will come from drinking the entire bottle!

Know your limits.  The Dietary Guidelines for Americans defines moderate drinking as having 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men, but a lot of couples will exceed that number on a night out on the town or during a social occasion.  In my opinion, everyone has a threshold, and it’s important to know what yours is – and to stick to it – when drinking.

As a psychologist, I often recommend that couples hold one another accountable when the temptation to keeping drinking becomes a problem.  If you agreed on one or two beers before the BBQ you’re going to, for example, then exercise the restraint and discipline to not exceed that number when at the BBQ.

Take breaks and do a cleanse. I think it’s good to structure your relationship with alcohol and to be in complete control of that structure.  For some folks, not drinking at all during the week works well, while others can be more liberal with their intake on weeknights.

For individuals who enjoy drinking, I often recommend not drinking every day or night – of note, if this is hard for you to do, you may have a drinking problem.  I also recommend doing a cleanse once a year where you go for an entire month without drinking, just to give your body, mind and soul a break from alcohol.  Taking breaks and cleansing as a couple can be a fun and inspirational thing to do together with your husband or wife.

Don’t drink at all.  While not drinking at all may seem like an unattractive or insurmountable idea or prospect for a lot of folks, some people do much better living an alcohol-free life.  Certainly, if you are an alcoholic, you shouldn’t drink at all, but you don’t need to suffer from alcoholism to decide that drinking is not your thing.

If drinking has negatively impacted your relationship with your significant other repeatedly, perhaps alcohol may be something you need to say goodbye to – individually or as a couple.

I don’t claim to be as intelligent or clever as Pliny the Elder, or any of the Greek or Roman philosophers for that matter, but when it comes drinking and marriage, I don’t think “In vino veritas” (i.e. ‘in wine, truth’) works.  I’m a much bigger fan of the continuation of that phrase for couples, “In aqua sanitas” (i.e. ‘in water there is health’).