Drinking may improve your relationship, but not your health

If Netflix and chill is your go-to activity for bonding with your partner, there’s good news and bad news. The good news: you may feel closer to each other. The bad news: it can harm your health.

A new one study from the University of Zurich found that couples who share bad behavior, such as drinking, smoking and binge watching TV, felt closer to each other the next day compared to couples who engaged in healthy activities.

The study is an example of symptom-system fit theory, which suggests that “problematic behaviors are maintained in the social system (for example, the couple’s relationship) in which they occur because they help promote positive relationships that function in short time.”

“The heart of a close relationship is two people creating their own little world together,” explained Dr. Alexandra Solomon, therapist, author and podcast host Love again. “The couple system becomes a kind of microculture and has rituals, traditions and language that create the core of ‘we.’ The relationship itself is almost a third entity. Nothing creates a more powerful sense of ‘we’ than things that are illegal or secret, or things that we do together, but the rest of the world probably shouldn’t know about.”

The researchers analyzed data from three daily life studies of unhealthy behavior in couples. First, they found that couples “were more likely to report high intimacy and relationship satisfaction on days they smoked together.”

In a second study, participants used an activity monitoring device and researchers learned that those who showed more frequent sedentary behavior “were associated with increased intimacy and relationship satisfaction in sedentary couples with overweight.” or obesity.” However, a third study, in which participants recorded the food they ate each day, found no differences in daily intimacy and relationship satisfaction on days when couples reported more or less shared unhealthy food consumption.

“There is an element of pleasure associated with going out together or escaping together,” says Solomon, who was not part of the study. “If we see that as the core of the ritual, I think that couples can work together to find out what other ways are available to make the experience of pleasure or leave the rest of the world.”

To do that, Solomon encourages couples to spend time discussing what they are seeking in the first place in problematic behaviors, whether it is an escape, pleasure or avoiding roles and responsibilities by being more nature play. Once they know the source of their behavior, they can work together to find new, healthier activities that can fill the void, such as exploring new elements of their erotic connection or new physical adventureslike rock climbing, hiking or taking a ballroom dance class.

“From there, it creates a wide open space of possibility,” he said. “They can work together, which is the heart of intimacy, to do something fun and different that serves them better.”

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