Alcohol and Relationships: A Recipe for Fighting or a Chance for Intimacy?

advice: relationship john gray

Let’s talk about alcohol and relationships. On the one hand, drinking can be fun, help you feel uninhibited, playful, and even romantic! On the other, it can also heighten emotions and create unnecessary arguments.

If you’ve ever experienced more fighting in your relationship after you and your partner have had a few drinks, stick around.

In this post, I’ll cover why alcohol may generate additional conflict, what to do if you think drinking is causing fights in your relationship, and how to approach your partner to avoid further arguments and enjoy greater intimacy.

Hi John,

We've discovered our biggest fights happen after my partner has had a couple of beers.

I'm wondering if his drinking makes him more defensive and aggressive.

How can I talk to him about this?

– Charlotte


Fighting, Alcohol, and Relationships: It All Starts with You


First of all, whenever someone asks me “How can I talk to him about this?” regarding any topic (not just alcohol and relationships) what I really hear is: "What can I do to change him?"

If you’re approaching any conversation with your partner looking to change him, I’d ask you to first reevaluate what you want to get out of it.

Because the secret, always, of making your relationship better is making the change within yourself in how you communicate.

Instead of thinking about changing your partner, you want to look at what you can change.

So I’m sure you’re really asking “How can I make it better?”

And I know, in this case, you want to reduce the intensity and amount of big fights you’re having.

If that’s the new question, let’s start by looking at what alcohol actually does, biologically and hormonally, to a man.


The Hormonal Impact of Alcohol


You likely notice a shift in your partner when he drinks alcohol.

There is a biological and hormonal reason for him becoming more emotional, defensive, or aggressive under the influence. This is why, when it comes to alcohol and relationships, it’s complicated!

Most people don’t realize this, but when you drink alcohol, it actually increases estrogen.

Typically, men like a little estrogen because it makes us feel relaxed and comfortable.

But, estrogen is the female dominant hormone.

Women need 10 times more estrogen than men to feel their best and healthiest.

Men, on the other hand, need about 10 times more testosterone than women to feel calm, confident, healthy, and capable.

For men, these healthy high levels of testosterone are crucial to feel good because testosterone is what keeps their cortisol (stress hormone) levels in check.

But too much estrogen lowers testosterone levels in men and is detrimental to a man’s health and emotional well-being.

In fact, men tend to become aggressive when their estrogen levels surge too high.

When a man is stressed, tired, or even depressed, it’s generally because his testosterone levels are too low.

And if his estrogen is too high, he will be more emotional and prone to feelings of anger, defensiveness, and aggression.

This is why your man needs his “me-time” or in MarsVenus lingo “Cave Time” to rebuild his testosterone back up after it’s been depleted by stress. It’s also why the estrogen boost from alcohol may make him angry, defensive, or aggressive.


When a man exhibits symptoms of:

  • Apathy
  • Grumpiness
  • Anger and irritability
  • Moodiness
  • Anxiety
  • Despair
  • Aggression


These are all signs that a man needs to temporarily detach from his female side and take some time to return to his male side and rebuild his testosterone levels.

Keep in mind: Things like intimacy, bonding, and talking about his feelings or the relationship with you will only stimulate more estrogen and make the problem worse when what he needs is to boost up his testosterone.

You can revisit those conversations at another time and I’ll share when the perfect time is in just a minute. But first...

What Will Help Him Build Testosterone?


Here are some examples of common testosterone-boosting activities:

  • Driving a car
  • Making decisions
  • Being efficient
  • Learning and developing skills
  • Making money
  • Taking risks
  • Sports
  • Physical intimacy
  • Physical exercise (like running)
  • Listening
  • Researching
  • Joking or making light of problems with other men


I go into this in more detail in my book Beyond Mars and Venus, if you want to learn more.

So what can you do as his partner, to support him in feeling his best and support the relationship in experiencing less stress?

First, understanding the hormonal reason he may be reaching for a drink in the first place.


Why Men Drink


The estrogen that alcohol provides takes the edge off so he can forget the problems at work and do something in his cave to feel better.

Any of those activities listed above would help him come back to being his best self, and then he’d be available for a more productive conversation rather than a fight.

Once he feels better, he can then emerge from his cave, enjoy intimacy and bonding with you, and do so without sacrificing his hormonal needs.

If he's drinking in a social situation, it may help him become more uninhibited and joke with other men in a way that helps boost his testosterone.

But keep in mind that no matter the situation, when a man drinks his estrogen is always going to go up.

How much his estrogen levels rise depends on how much he drinks and how he is as an individual because alcohol will have different effects on different men.

Remember, because his estrogen levels rise, he may become more talkative, emotional, open, and able to express himself more.

This may make it seem like a great time to have a deeper conversation with him, but don’t be fooled!


When to Have the Conversation


Just because alcohol makes your man more emotional and open doesn’t mean that when he is drinking is a good time to have a conversation with him. Alcohol and relationships might seem like a match made in heaven but in reality, you want to tread carefully.


If, after he’s had alcohol, you point out:

...he's going to be more emotional and therefore more defensive because his estrogen is up and his testosterone is down.

And if he feels challenged, criticized, or senses that you're trying to change him, he will be more likely to react from this emotional place.

But if you wait until his testosterone levels are back up, he’s more likely to be in a space where he can calmly hear you out.

That will be a much more productive conversation for both of you.

The times when he’s having a drink should be time for him to relax.

It’s the ideal time for you to leave him in his cave or, if he's drinking in a social setting, leave him to be uninhibited and playful, and not talk about vulnerable, sensitive, intimate, relationship-oriented things.

Choose a time to talk about serious things during the daylight, when he's not drinking, and you'll avoid many of those fights.

Approached in this way, honoring the hormones connected to alcohol and relationships, choosing to communicate in a new way around it, it can indeed become a path to more intimacy.


Grow in love,


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