Caffeine goes with coffee like sugar goes with chocolate: generally, though not always, hand in hand. This becomes problematic when one half of a marriage depends on caffeine for a morning jolt, while the other half is driven to distraction by even 50 milligrams (the approximate amount contained in half a cup of coffee) of the drug. Caffeine, after all, affects people in different ways—some metabolize it slowly, some quickly. Which category a person falls into is determined by enzymes in the liver, which in turn are determined by genetics.
Since many are unaware of the science behind the effects of caffeine (and their genetic origins), blaming one’s partner for an inability to handle the caffeine well is a predictable response. Since caffeine generally 1) leads to increased blood pressure and restlessness 2) often takes a full 24 hours to leave our system, one or both partners could easily be struggling with maintaining equanimity.
On the other side of the coin, a partner who has some level of dependency on caffeine is unlikely to fare well in a house that has switched to decaf. Besides the reduced energy influx, caffeine withdrawal is marked by a host of symptoms—headaches, sinus pain, irritability, even nausea—that seem tailor-made to lead to arguments.
While it’s easy to see how caffeine can lead to a household divided—one solution is to make two different kinds of coffee, a task made easy by single-serve brewers!
The Bright Side
Happily, coffee can be (and more often is) a balm to marriage. It’s an activity that millions engage in everyday, separately and together, leading to conversation, connection, reconciliation, inspiration and romantic feelings. The “coffee date” is a classic outing many couples engage in regularly, married or not.
It can also reinforce spouses’ resolve to meet challenges together. “Making the coffee” in the morning is an act that jumpstarts (and maintains) everyday life in countless homes; particularly for parents of small children, caffeine is often seen as the only recourse to falling asleep on one’s feet, and coffee becomes a way for couples to bond, if only for a few stolen moments, and face the daily struggle together. Besides basic wakefulness, caffeine also provides extra stamina and strength to complete tasks and power through what needs to be done.
Best of all, spouses can enjoy the journey of discovering all coffee can be, from bean to brew. It’s a ubiquitous-yet-complex drink that offers something for everyone, whether it’s delving into espresso-making at home; fun projects with latté art; the joy of cooking (and baking) with coffee; taking a barista course as a couple; or learning about flavor pairings.