After spending the last two and a half years in a pandemic, most of us have created new norms for our relationships, families, and lifestyles. When the pandemic began, many people changed their drinking habits. Sometimes this was for the better and sometimes for the worst. A drink after work turned into having a drink at lunchtime. Unwinding with a glass of wine or a single beer may have turned into a few glasses of wine or a six-pack of beer. The pandemic gave both time and opportunity for people to increase their alcohol consumption. We’ve experienced the stress of potential or actual illness, worked from home, and homeschooled kids. Suffice it to say; there have been added stressors in many of our lives. In addition to these added stressors, most people have lost their decompressor of socialization. The isolation from our friends, family, or even co-workers, contributed to the increased drinking during the pandemic. 

In the past, your drinking habits may not have been an issue. Yet, returning to the office or participating in more regular social activities may inspire you to re-evaluate how you want alcohol to appear in your life. You may be asking yourself and your partner about your drinking habits. What’s suitable for each of us? What’s best for a healthy relationship? Let’s dig into what’s “normal” when it comes to drinking and how you can talk about alcohol consumption with your partner.  

When it comes to drinking, what’s “normal?” 

The Champagne Problems podcast discusses the gray area of drinking habits. During certain episodes of this podcast, it mentions what is the “norm”. i.e., What is the norm versus what is excessive? How do you know if you are drinking too much? The podcast discusses NIAA guidelines that help people understand what is considered normal drinking versus excessive drinking.  

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA): NIAAA defines heavy drinking as follows:

  • For men, consuming more than 4 drinks on any day or more than 14 drinks per week.
  • For women, consuming more than 3 drinks on any day or more than 7 drinks per week.

Based on these statistics, we may conclude that we consume more alcohol than we desire in our life. If you fall within the heavy drinking category, either with or without your spouse, you may want to ask yourself (or your partner) some of the following questions. These questions can assist you in determining how you want alcohol to appear in your life. 

Drinking Real Talk: 11 Questions to Discuss with Your Partner

The questions below will help you begin the conversation with your partner about whether you want to get dry, stay drinking, or find a happy medium. The past few years of the pandemic have shown us that increased stress, increased isolation, decreased social interaction, freedom of time, and fewer decompression activities can lead to increased alcohol use for many couples. 

Prepare yourself and your partner for success by setting yourselves up for a productive conversation surrounding these topics. During this stress-reducing conversation, minimize your distractions, focus on each other, maybe take some notes and allow yourselves to be in a comfortable settling. 

  1. Has either of you had times when you ended up drinking more or longer than you intended?
  2. Has either of you, more than once, wanted to cut down or stop drinking but couldn’t?
  3. Have you or your partner felt a strong desire to drink in the past year?
  4. Have you or your partner spent a lot of time drinking? Or have either of you gotten sick after drinking?
  5. Have you or your partner found that drinking interfered with taking care of your home or family or caused problems at work or school?
  6. Have you or your partner continued to drink even though it caused trouble with your family or friends? 
  7. Has either of you given up or cut back on activities that were important to you to drink?
  8. Has either of you gotten into situations while drinking that increased your chances of getting hurt?
  9. Have you or your partner continued to drink even though it made you depressed or anxious? 
  10. Have you or your partner had to drink much more than you once did to get the desired effect? 
  11. Have you or your partner found that when the effects of alcohol were wearing off, you had withdrawal symptoms, such as trouble sleeping, shakiness, restlessness, nausea, sweating, a racing heart, or a seizure?

After you and your partner answer the above questions, you can decide what best suits your marriage or lifestyle. Which of the questions do you align with your partner? Are you seeing any patterns or reoccurring patterns that seem to strain your relationship? You can continue making a plan to adjust, reduce or eliminate drinking in your life. 

Make a Plan: Adjust, Reduce, or Eliminate Drinking in Your Relationship

Step 1

  • Assess and discuss your current relationship with alcohol with your partner.
  • How often are we drinking? How much are we drinking? Why are we drinking?
  • How do we feel before we drink, and how do we feel after we drink? 
  • Is our drinking affecting our relationship positively or negatively? 

Step 2

  • How do we want alcohol to show up in our lives?
  • How many times a week or day, if any, do we want to be drinking?
  • When would we prefer to drink as a couple? Together or solo? 
  • Are our current drinking habits not feeling good anymore?

Step 3

  • Make a plan to cut out or cut back on alcohol based on your reflections on the questions above. 
  • Support each other with the decisions you have come up with individually.
  • Begin creating new habits, such as starting a new hobby, to structure your new lifestyle and drinking habits accordingly.  

When to Seek Professional Help

If you want to explore sobriety, reaching out to Alcoholics Anonymous or attending a meeting for Al-Anon, would be an appropriate next step. If you are exploring the gray area of drinking and alcohol, your personal therapist may be able to help. If you struggle to speak to your partner about your drinking habits, talking to a couples counselor may help.