Dear Dr. Jenn - Alcohol is a Relationship Buzzkill

Dear Dr. Jenn~

My boyfriend and I have a great relationship and usually get along really well. But recently when we’re out drinking, things get really ugly and we end up in huge fights. I know we love each other a lot, but is this a sign that we’re not compatible? What should we do?


Alcohol is a Relationship Buzzkill Alcohol Buzzkill,

This is a great question and a frequent problem I hear about in relationships. Alcohol is a double-edged sword—so much fun and a wonderful social lubricant, yet it can bring out the worst in us. I’m going to approach this question from three perspectives.

First, many assume that alcohol is a truth serum and what surfaces while under the influence reveals the “true self.” This is not necessarily true. The interaction between alcohol and the brain is much more complicated than that. So don’t presume that what is said while drunk reveals the truth and means you don’t love each other.

That being said, it is common to have unmet needs and unstated resentments in relationships. These can be triggered while drinking because people use the lowered inhibitions to speak their minds. Therefore, it’s important to create an ongoing safe space in your relationship to voice resentments. This needs to be done in a responsible way that doesn’t involve drinking or defensiveness.

Finally, an obvious and critical suggestion is to cut down on your alcohol consumption. Or at least have a glass of water every so often to slow yourself down. Since this is a known weakness in your relationship, change it or you might lose your boyfriend. If one or both of you become a real ass when drunk, then it’s time to grow up and own it. I think talking this through and making a few shifts in your relationship can ensure this doesn’t become an on-going problem.

Good luck,

Dr. Jenn

(This was originally posted as part of the Pacific San Diego Magazine's Love & Sex Blogger series.)

~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus, San Diego, CA -- Sex Therapist, Marriage Counselor, Sexologist, College Sexual Health Speaker