Drinking with your partner could mean an evening in with a takeaway and the telly, or a night out at a nice restaurant. Drink too much however, and you could find your night ruined by an argument that neither of you really want. Late-night disagreements may often be resolved in the morning, but they can grow into relationship-threatening resentments.
Alcohol works on the brain to lower our inhibitions which may make you feel more confident and less anxious. But those lower inhibitions can also make you accidentally say or do something that you may come to regret.
The flipside to the temporary relaxed stat that alcohol can create are the aggressive moods that may start to appear after you've drunk too much. Scientists have linked aggression to the consumption of too much alcohol1 – so it's not surprising that you're more likely to argue after drinking. Worryingly, they have also identified a strong link between alcohol and domestic violence2.
Relate relationship counsellor Christine Northam says that arguing a lot when you're drunk could reveal underlying problems with your relationship. She believes that alcohol is often used as an excuse for bad behaviour. About a third of the couples Christine sees end up in counselling because one of them, or both, drink too much.
"The younger couples I see work really hard in the week and then drink to excess at the weekend," says Christine, "and that can cause arguments. In the questionnaire people fill out before they see me, one of the questions is 'How much alcohol do you drink?' Often I'll ask people in counselling 'Do you drink much?' and they say 'No'. But looking at their survey results reveals otherwise."
If alcohol is affecting your relationship, the next day or when you are both sober is the best time to talk. Author and behavioural expert Judi James, says that if you think your partner is drinking too much, it's important not to criticise them.
"Instead you might want to say: 'Why don't we try to cut down together?' Then you can both motivate one another and will have a responsibility to each other," advises Judi. "Or you might want to ask your partner when they're sober, 'Shall I stop you when you've had too much to drink?"
1. Go alcohol-free The best nights out, or evenings in, don't have to include booze. You can bond over a romantic movie or sip delicious alcohol-free cocktails at the bar.
2. Stay within the low risk guidelines If you do decide to drink alcohol try and stay within the UK Chief Medical Officers' (CMO) low risk drinking guidelines by not regularly drinking more than 14 units a week.
3. Snack smarter Food slows down the rate your body absorbs alcohol. So if you do choose to drink, eat regularly before and during drinking to help you stay sober.
4. Talk it out sober If something is worrying you, don't wait until you've had too much to drink to talk about it. Instead, try and discuss any problems with your partner over a coffee.
5. Choose the soft option Alternate soft drinks with alcohol to help stay in control of what you're drinking.