When the going gets tough in your relationship, what do you do?
Some people are great communicators – when a problem comes up they get it off their chest by talking to their partner. Other people find they need time to think things through on their own.
For others, alcohol can be a way to cope with personal problems – or at least forget about them for a while. And though it’s unlikely a drink or two will solve anyone’s problems, a little alcohol doesn’t have to be a big deal.
But for some people, it can become one. Using booze to cope with conflict can spell disaster down the road. When does drinking lead to alcohol problems in a relationship?
A group of US researchers who study when and why lovers turn to alcohol had a hunch. They figured drinking problems could be related to an unhealthy kind of self-esteem, where people only feel good about themselves when they feel good about their relationship. They can’t see themselves separately from their role in a love duo. So for these people, even the smallest ups and downs really affect how they see themselves as a person.
To test out whether people who lack this particular kind of self-esteem are more likely to have alcohol problems, the researchers found 78 straight couples committed to their sweethearts. Both partners filled out surveys that showed whether their self-esteem depended on their partner and whether that had anything to do with alcohol.
Drinking to deal with stress
Guys and girls were just as likely to have relationship-dependent self-esteem, the study found. But when it came to dealing with difficult times, men whose identities were linked to their partner were more likely to turn to the bottle. And this was what led to problem drinking, the results showed.
Society may teach women to deal with relationship stress by internalising it, say the researchers. Men, on the other hand, might learn to look outside of themselves to cope. In fact, other studies have shown that it’s more common for men to drink alcohol to deal with stress.
If this sounds familiar, the good news is there’s a healthy solution, though it may be easier said than done. It’s important not to let your self-esteem depend on external things, whether it’s an exam you failed, or problems with your parents – or a fight with your partner. People with a strong sense of who they are, regardless of others, find it easier to cope with the ups and downs that come with every relationship.
Source: Relationships can drive some to drink: Relationship-contingent self-esteem and drinking problems, Lindsey M. Rodriguez, C. Raymond Knee and Clayton Neighbors
Do you or your partner hit the bottle when your relationship hits a rough patch? Leave a comment below or on Facebook.