Is Alcohol Hurting Your Relationship? 

Photo by Michael Mroczek- Unsplash

Some of you won’t want to read this, but it might be time to face some hard truths, especially if you have a nagging feeling that alcohol might be hurting your relationship.

Alcohol abuse can affect your relationship in a number of ways:

  • Intoxication within four hours prior doubles the likelihood of verbal aggression and triples the potential for physical altercations.  
  • Substance abuse often leads to financial issues, mood changes, poor sexual functioning and intimacy, health issues, job interference and legal problems.
  • Couples are more likely to divorce and/or experience dissatisfaction when one person drinks or drugs more heavily than their partner.

Take This Quiz to See if Alcohol Is Hurting Your Relationship

One of us drinks more heavily than the other.
We have nasty fights when one or both of us are drinking.
We fight about how much one of us abuses alcohol.
I am getting increasingly resentful about my partner's use of alcohol.
I worry about my partner's health due to alcohol use.
I have had to lie to my partner's boss, family or friends about problems with his/her alcohol use.
I find myself disgusted or embarrassed with my partner when s/he is intoxicated.
My partner has expressed concerns about my alcohol use.
My partner appears more distant or upset with me when I'm drinking heavily.
I'm concerned my drinking is affecting my relationship.

If any or many of the above is true, perhaps it’s time to consider what you might lose if something doesn’t change soon.

Change is hard.  

If you want your partner to stop or reduce drinking, it can be hard to know how to demand or encourage change. If you are the one drinking too much, you might not know if you can stop or you may just not really want to.  Again you have to evaluate the risk of losing your relationship, your home, your health and the life you’ve built together.  What’s alcohol worth to you?

Steps You can Take If Alcohol Is Hurting Your Relationship

1.  Acknowledge the impact of alcohol on your relationship.

Alcohol may have affected your relationship in a number of ways.  One, if you used to party a lot together earlier in your relationship and one of you uses much less, there can be a loss in the bonding experience of getting drunk together.  Two, alcohol often robs you of real presence and intimacy with each other as well as time lost from hangovers, bad moods and passing out.  Three, you may be noticing a financial and health impact.  And four, you or your partner may be making bad decisions like inappropriate flirting, driving while intoxicating or spending money frivolously.  Take a moment to get real about what alcohol is costing your health, your relationship and your finances.  

2.  Get education and support from AA and Al-Anon.

If over time you start to realize your partner has a significant problem with alcohol use, it’s helpful to get your own counseling and/or attend AA based groups like Al-Anon to see how you may play a role in your partner’s addictive behaviors and also how to cope with and confront your partner’s behaviors.  Check out the following resources:

3.   Identify any small changes that might make a big difference.   

In some cases, finding a compromise toward moderation is most helpful.   For example, you may not mind so much that s/he drinks with friends as long as s/he spends time with you in a present, loving way just as frequently.  Ask your partner to be willing to eliminate the kinds of alcohol that make him/her more irritable, moody or causes the worst hangovers.  In other words, focus on any compromises that will help increase intimacy and security and decrease judgement and resentment.    

4. Find a shared, healthy or fun activity to do regularly together that doesn’t have anything to do with drinking. 

Some people drink more when they're bored or have gotten into the habit that fun is paired with drinking.  Really work hard at finding a shared interest together that doesn't involve drinking. Take up golf or join a bowling team.  Tackle all the cool hiking spots.  Volunteer;  join a book club or racing club.  Be committed to getting out of your ruts. 

5. Know your boundaries. 

If you absolutely know that you cannot live with someone who drinks excessively, you have to own that.  This means that you must be willing to say: “It’s the alcohol or me.”   You can say, “I will help you with it and we can go to counseling and/or treatment together but I will absolutely not put up with this.”  Yes, it’s an ultimatum.  And, no, your partner will not like it; s/he may even resist or be unable or unwilling to meet your demands.  You may have to end the relationship.  If you don’t set this limit, you are choosing a life of resentment, a loss of your full relationship potential and making you and your partner feel worse about him or herself over time.

If you are the one who's drinking too much, you also have to know your boundaries. What are you willing to change? It's not fair to your partner to keep making empty promises if at the end of the day you're not ready or willing to make significant changes in your drinking habits.  

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