The effects of intoxication on the marital interactions of treatment-motivated alcoholics and their nonalcoholic spouses were studied in eight couples (two of which had an alcoholic wife). In half of the sessions, the alcoholics were given enough alcohol to reach a blood level of 10 mg/dl. Couples engaged in three 10-min conflict-resolution discussions of varying intensity counterbalanced for alcohol and no-alcohol sessions. Couples expressed significantly more positive verbalizations in the alcohol sessions than in the no-alcohol sessions. This was true especially for the nonalcoholic spouses, who doubled their rate of positive verbal behavior when interacting with an intoxicated partner. Alcoholics spoke more and tended to make more problem-describing statements while intoxicated than while sober. The alcoholics made a greater number of problem-solving statements than did their spouses. Alcoholics were significantly more negative and less positive in nonverbal behaviors than were their spouses, but neither self-report of marital satisfaction nor observations of verbal behavior reflected this. The models of both social-learning theory and systems theory for the relationship of marital factors to the etiology and maintenance of alcoholism are supported.