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Relationships

Can Marijuana Improve the Quality of Your Relationship?

A new study finds heightened intimacy among couples who use marijuana together.

Freestocks / Pixnio
Source: Freestocks / Pixnio

Is occasional substance use good or bad for the health of your relationship?

Not surprisingly, this question has been the source of controversy in academic circles and beyond. Some contend that substance use is associated with lower relationship satisfaction and higher rates of divorce and aggression. Others suggest that the effects of substance use on relationship health are benign at worst, and may even benefit couples in the long run. One study, for instance, found that concordant alcohol use among couples promoted positive relationship functioning.

But where does marijuana fit into this evolving debate? Well, new research published in the journal Cannabis offers evidence that occasional to frequent marijuana use can result in heightened relationship intimacy.

To arrive at this conclusion, researchers at the University of Buffalo and the University of Houston asked 183 heterosexual couples to participate in a 30-day diary study. Participants were recruited from the Northeast region of the United States and qualified for the study if they were regular cannabis users (defined as using marijuana two or more times per week).

During the 30-day test period, researchers asked participants to keep track of all the times they used marijuana, as well as all intimacy events, via a mobile app. Intimacy events were reported each morning with the following question: “At any time yesterday, did you have an interaction or meaningful conversation with your partner that involved intimacy, love, caring, or support?”

The researchers then analyzed the data to see whether intimacy events coincided with marijuana use. Here's a summary of what they found:

  • Intimacy Events
    • Participants, on average, reported experiencing an intimacy event one out of every two days during the 30-day test period.
    • Intimacy events were more likely to occur after 5 p.m. than before 5 p.m.
    • Women reported significantly more intimacy events than men.
  • Marijuana Use
    • Participants, on average, reported using marijuana one out of every two days during the 30-day test period.
    • Men reported significantly more marijuana use than women.
  • Linking Intimacy to Marijuana Use Episodes
    • Intimacy events were significantly more likely to occur within two hours of a marijuana use episode. This was true if both partners, or just one partner, engaged in marijuana use.
  • Participants, on average, reported experiencing an intimacy event one out of every two days during the 30-day test period.
  • Intimacy events were more likely to occur after 5 p.m. than before 5 p.m.
  • Women reported significantly more intimacy events than men.
  • Participants, on average, reported using marijuana one out of every two days during the 30-day test period.
  • Men reported significantly more marijuana use than women.
  • Intimacy events were significantly more likely to occur within two hours of a marijuana use episode. This was true if both partners, or just one partner, engaged in marijuana use.

Taken together, these findings suggest that concordant or solo marijuana use can positively impact relationship intimacy. The authors write, "Using two different methods of analysis, we found robust support for the positive effects of using marijuana at the same time as or in the presence of one’s partner on subsequent experiences of intimacy. Findings were identical for both male and female intimate partners."

And unlike previous research on alcohol where both partners had to drink together to reap the relationship benefits, it seems that the same benefits can be achieved with marijuana even if just one partner engages in the activity.

So, while there's always the possibility of too much of a good thing, this study marks another potential benefit of marijuana. However, it's important to keep in mind that correlation does not imply causation. Further research must be conducted to fully understand how marijuana use impacts couples' intimacy.

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References

Testa, M., Wang, W., Derrick, J. L., & Leonard, K. E. (2019). Marijuana Use Episodes and Partner Intimacy Experiences: A Daily Report Study. Cannabis (Research Society on Marijuana), 2(1), 19-28.

Cunradi, C. B., Todd, M., & Mair, C. (2015). Marijuana use, and smoking and intimate partner violence: Results from the California community health study of couples. Journal of D r u g E d u c a t i o n , 4 5 (2), 73-95. doi:10.1177/0047237915608450

Marshal, M. P. (2003). For better or for worse? The effects of alcohol use on marital functioning. C l i n i c a l P s y c h o l o g y R e v i e w , 2 3 (7), 959-997. doi:10.1016/j.cpr.2003.09.002

Yamaguchi, K., & Kandel, D. B. (1985). On the resolution of role incompatibility: A life event history analysis of family roles and marijuana use. Ameri c a n J o u r n a l o f S o c i o l o g y , 9 0 (6), 1284-1325. doi:10.1086/228211

Levitt, A., & Cooper, M. L. (2010). Daily alcohol use and romantic relationship functioning: Evidence of bidirectional, gender-, and context-specific effects. Personality and Social P s y c h o l o g y B u l l e t i n , 3 6 (12), 1706-1722. doi:10.1177/0146167210388420

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