For many couples, cracking open a bottle of wine at the end of the working day and unwinding is one of life's simple pleasures.

Now research shows that it may be one of the secrets to a successful marriage - for couples who drink together stay together.

Husbands and wives who have the same drinking habits tend to be happier than those where only one partner consumes alcohol, a study found. Women in particular became dissatisfied if their man did not join them for a drink, while the amount consumed was less important among older couples.

Study author Dr Kira Birditt, of the University of Michigan, said: "We're not sure why this is happening, but it could be that couples that do more leisure time activities together have better marital quality."

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The ten-year study examined 2,767 married couples over 50 in the US. It found that in most cases both spouses drank, but men were more likely to drink than their wives.

Wives who drank while their husbands did not were more likely to feel dissatisfied with their
marriage. The study found that partners have an influence on each other's habits, especially retired couples who spend more time together.

Dr Birditt said that if one spouse is forced to stop drinking, their partner should consider doing the same.