How many times have you filled your partner’s wine glass without asking? Or maybe they regularly have a large glass of red or a beer waiting for you when you get home from work?
You could be encouraging each other to drink more than you would really like. Working together, you can cut back on your alcohol intake.
When you live with your partner it’s easy to adopt each other’s habits, without even realising. Health psychologist Martin Hagger says it’s important to look for the ‘triggers’ that bring on your habits: “The obvious one for drinking is having a hard day at work. Many people associate alcohol with pleasure and relaxation.”
Triggers can be as simple as time and place. “You get home from work and it’s 6.30pm. It’s time to relax and eat, and that’s when your thoughts might turn to that first drink.”
As your behaviours become shared habits, such as splitting a bottle of wine in front of your favourite TV programme, they become harder to change. “You reinforce each other’s behaviour,” says Hagger. “One of you might say you don’t feel like wine that evening, but if the other persuades you with a gentle ‘go on’, your resistance can easily cave in.”
“If you’re going to cut down on your drinking, it’s important that both partners really buy into the change,” says Hagger. “There’s less likely to be friction or resistance if you decide to do this together.”
“One of the reasons we automatically say ‘yes’ to another drink, even though we’d intended to stop for the evening, is we don’t have a concrete plan or an alternative course of action,” says Hagger.
With your partner, think about situations when you might be tempted to drink more than the alcohol unit guidelines of no more than 14 units a week for both men and women. Talk about how you can avoid those situations, and what you can do instead. Maybe you always get through a bottle of wine when you have your weekly takeaway. If you know you’re going to order one, decide together to avoid the off licence on the way home from work.
If you’ve formed habits that involve drinking, you’ll need some alternative things to do to help you cut down. If that time happens to be when you both settle in front of the TV for the evening, try extending your meal with a healthy dessert or a hot drink. Or get into the habit of heading out to do something together after dinner, even if it’s just a walk.
Making changes to your routine can be a great way to discover new, shared interests.
If one of you is starting to lapse, that’s when the other’s support is more important than ever. Language you use to discuss changes to your drinking can make a big difference – encourage your partner to stick to their goals, rather than demanding they do so. Instead of ‘You must do this’ or ‘You need to do that’, try highlighting the advantages of drinking less. Point out what you’re both gaining by making changes.
Instead of drinking every time you eat together, save the wine for a special candlelit dinner. When you do drink, don’t feel you have to finish the bottle. We have some top tips on things you can do with the last bit of left-over wine instead of drinking it for the sake of it.
Take it in turns to bring home a treat instead of a bottle of wine – some nice chocolate, or ingredients for that special dinner you can cook together.
Working together towards a goal, and supporting your partner to achieve something in itself, is something really positive.
Make an effort to notice how you feel. Alcohol is a depressant. It’s overall effect is to suppress the hormones that make you feel happy. So without it you find yourself feeling brighter. Maybe you’re fresher in the morning too after a better night’s sleep, or are generally healthier and more energetic. Feeling less tired can help keep petty arguments at bay.
Tell each other about the positive changes you’re seeing, such as weight loss. This will help you stick to your goals.