Booze? Yes, I’m fully aware that my body ages rapidly and excess always precipitates a social hand-grenade moment – but, boy, does that first G&T feel right. And the prospect of a harsh winter ahead means I won’t be downgrading my units any time soon.
But the older I get, the more I see the effect of alcohol on relationships – mine and those of others. A 2013 study found that alcohol was a factor in 60% of couples breaking up – 60%! Among my own friends, this is increasingly becoming a point of contention rather than just a laugh.
In my youth, excess was the norm. In college, I would regularly absorb all of my allotted weekly units in one night. We would have prinks (pre-drinks) to avoid the relatively exorbitant cost of purchasing them from the Student Union. And the night would often end with one of us in the bathroom praying to the porcelain god.
Even when we entered the working world, we didn’t cut down on our alcohol consumption much. At the glossy magazine where I worked, there were endless parties with unlimited drinks. The day after a night of excess, we took turns regularly to take a refreshing nap in the fashionable closet. Twenty minutes lying on a Max Mara coat with a Prada bag for a cushion made the day survivable.
It didn’t impact my relationship because my boyfriend did the same thing (drank a lot, didn’t sleep on designer coats) and other than work we had minimal responsibilities. Then the children arrived. My friends and I agreed that it suddenly wasn’t much fun when your partner was so hungover that he or she was useless the next day. Not taking their turn to watch Teletubbies at 6 a.m. or passing through the park at 8:45 a.m. all the resentment built. After having kids, I found myself playing the role of fun police — begging my ex-husband not to stay out too long or drink too much.
Authoritarian or just?
I once poured wine into a measuring cup to prove that he was underestimating his unit consumption. I grew more and more frustrated that on a night out he couldn’t just have two drinks and then pull himself out and go home. Why is it necessary to go to three, four or five? It has become a bone of contention.
I remembered this when I heard Adrian Chiles on the radio talking about the same thing. He wrote a book about it called The good drinker. To have drank a lot in his lifetime – up to 100 drinks a week – he says he only really enjoyed 30%: “I’m sure I could have had such a good time drinking a lot less.
‘Yes yes!’ I shouted over the radio.
When I first started dating, I barely thought about the drinking style of a future beau. But when dating evolved into “seeing someone,” it slowly became apparent, after a few months, if a man had an unhealthy relationship with alcohol.
A guy I was dating emptied most of a bottle of whiskey in one night and rendered himself incapacitated the next day. He was home alone at the time.
It was a red flag.
A green flag is if someone is nice when they are tipsy. Alcohol makes my boyfriend affectionate rather than argumentative, which becomes a big problem.
When I think back to the start of our relationship, it was a drunken boys’ night out and the flurry of texts he sent in the taxi home, which meant I knew he liked me – without inhibitions, no cool game.
He woke up with anxiety, I woke up with a smile on my face.
But in conclusion, I think the key to a happy partnership is being pretty much on the same page when it comes to drinking. You could be a pair of high-functioning alcoholics or a couple who just have one drink on Christmas and it can work. But if one of you is a heavy drinker and the other a teetotaler, that must create a conflict.
As for me and the boyfriend? Well, I cleared myself up. Nowadays, the measuring cup is only used for peas in the microwave.
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