The news: The secret to a successful relationship? Shared interests, mutual respect, compatible aspirations and quite possibly splitting a joint now and then.
No, really. That last part is the finding of a recent study published in Psychology of Addictive Behaviors that found smoking a little weed together now and then might actually do something for your marriage. Married men and women who frequently smoke weed report much less spousal abuse than others, to the extent that the researchers concluded use was predictive of lower levels of aggression towards intimate partners for about a year.
The study: University of Buffalo researchers studied data from 634 couples over nine years of marriage beginning in 1996. Every couple answered questionnaires on a number of marital habits and issues, including drug and alcohol abuse and whether or not the relationship involved physical violence.
Couples in which both partners regularly partook of marijuana (three times a month or more) reported the least intimate partner violence, including violence initiated by either the husband or the wife. The more they smoked, the less violence there was.
Other, small-scale studies have differed on their conclusions on marijuana's relationship to spousal violence, but as the Washingon Post's Christopher Ingraham notes, this newer study is "one of the few to use data collected over the course of decades to examine the question, putting it on solid methodological ground compared to previous work."
This doesn't mean that marijuana is directly causing the lower levels of violence; perhaps the marijuana-sharing couples are more likely to be aligned in other ways in the first place. Two other theories proposed by the authors dwelled on the effects of weed itself. Marijuana users "exhibit blunted emotional reaction to threat stimuli," meaning they might be slower to judge a situation as warranting physical violence. Or marijuana may "increase positive effect," with occasional indulgences proving enjoyable and improving shared quality of life.
"It is possible, for example, that — similar to a drinking partnership — couples who use marijuana together may share similar values and social circles," UB Research Institute on Addictions lead scientist Kenneth Leonard told The Independent. "... and it is this similarity that is responsible for reducing the likelihood of conflict."
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Why you should care: More research is needed on marijuana, and perhaps it can be rapidly acquired now that places such as Washington and Colorado have legalized weed on the state level and many more are considering medical marijuana laws or decriminalization. As more research is done that challenges the uncompromising view on drugs dominant for the past few decades, the authors suggest that more thoroughly understanding marijuana is a necessity in light of "the trend toward marijuana decriminalization in the United States and potentially more positive attitudes toward its use."
Ultimately, that more-thorough understanding might have some surprising findings — like that some couples can responsibly use weed to relax and enjoy each others' company, just like they do with alcohol. A nice French wine has always been romantic, why not an occasional joint?