10 Signs of Dating an Alcoholic and What to Do If You Are

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Alcohol abuse is not only harmful to the person dealing with it but also to the people around them, like the person they’re dating.

Alcohol addiction affects the social, psychological, and even physical aspects of a relationship, causing unnecessary heartache and even risk of trauma.

Unfortunately, alcohol use disorders are difficult to spot, especially in the early stages of dating.

That said, if you suspect you’re dating an alcoholic, here are some of the warning signs you should look for and the steps you can take to help your partner and keep yourself safe.

10 Signs You’re Dating Someone With Alcohol Use Disorder

No matter where your partner is in the five stages of alcohol addiction, they will exhibit several signs of substance use disorder.

Note that it can be challenging to spot these signs in people considered high-functioning alcoholics since they can still do daily tasks. But they will still demonstrate some of the following signs if you observe well.

1. Their Interests and Activities Involve Drinking

Is your partner prioritizing alcohol over other hobbies, activities, and interests? People struggling with alcoholism prefer spending time drinking than anything else.

If you notice that your dates have been mostly about going to bars, drinking with others, or attending events where alcohol is available, it could be a sign of alcoholism.

2. They Drink Alone Regularly and Heavily

One of the obvious signs of a person with excessive drinking is regularly binge drinking on their own. Many people dealing with alcohol abuse drink alone due to the strong cravings and inability to control themselves.

If you notice your partner drinking regularly, several times a day or week, it’s valid to think they’re dealing with an unhealthy relationship to alcohol.

3. They Developed a High Alcohol Tolerance

If you notice your partner doesn’t get drunk after drinking lots of alcohol, this can be a potential sign that they abuse alcohol.

People with liquor problems drink more alcohol to achieve the desired effects (the “buzz”) quicker or even at all. However, increased alcohol consumption leads to higher tolerance, making this a dangerous cycle.

This sign can be difficult to spot since it’s a change only a partner or cohabitant can notice.

4. Drinking Interferes With Their Daily Life

While dating an alcoholic person, you may learn how they’re coping with their habit in different aspects of their life.

If you see them getting sick due to intoxication, being unable to do their household responsibilities, or having difficulty staying sober at work, this can be grounds for a diagnosis.

Once alcoholism interferes with one’s daily life, they should receive immediate professional support and care to keep themselves, and the people around them, safe.

5. They Exhibit Physical and Behavioral Signs of Alcohol Use Disorder

Observe your partner and see if they exhibit the common physical signs and behaviors of a person dealing with alcohol abuse. These include:

  • Bloodshot or glossy-looking eyes
  • Pale skin
  • Heavy sweating
  • Unsteady gait
  • Slurred speech
  • Shaking or trembling
  • Sleeping a lot
  • Being secretive about their whereabouts or activities

6. Their Behavior and Personality Change After Drinking

Is your partner calm and kind when sober but suddenly becomes irritable or aggressive after drinking? Extreme mood and behavioral changes could be a sign of alcoholism.

Unfortunately, unpredictable behaviors can affect your relationship negatively and endanger the person’s well-being, as well as yours and others. If this is normal for your partner, it indicates they need help.

7. Their Drinking Endangers Their Safety

Alcohol can lead people to make poor choices, especially regarding their safety.

Examples of behaviors or situations showing your partner’s drinking problem include driving under the influence on more than one occasion, operating machinery while intoxicated, having unprotected sex, and swimming after drinking.

If your partner often disregards their safety while inebriated, it’s time to get them help.

8. They Find It Difficult to Stop Drinking

Your partner may already be trying to cut back their alcohol intake but find it difficult to reduce or stop their drinking.

For example, they can’t resist not drinking if they see others are drinking, or they may promise to have only one glass or bottle but end up drinking more.

Besides these, they may also show withdrawal symptoms from periods without drinking alcohol. These symptoms include:

  • Nausea
  • Shakiness and sweating
  • Irritability
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Restlessness
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Hallucinations

9. They Deny Their Obvious Drinking Habits

If you or others have confronted your partner about their alcohol addiction, they will likely deny it. It’s especially common for a functional alcoholic person to deny alcoholism since they manage their life, work, and relationships well.

When you confront them, remember to be careful with your words, express your genuine concern, offer options, and know when to stop.

10. They Have a Family History of Alcohol Use Disorder

People with parents or family members with a history of alcohol abuse have a high risk of developing alcohol addiction or engaging in other types of substance use.

If you can or want to, check your partner’s background to see and confirm if there’s any indication of alcohol abuse in their family.

What to Do If You’re Dating an Alcoholic

If you’re dating an alcoholic person, here’s how you can cope with the situation or deal with your partner.

Express Your Concerns

When your partner is sober, share your observations and concerns about their excessive alcohol consumption. Talk to them calmly and without judgment, and allow them to process the conversation.

Set Boundaries

The key to a healthy relationship is to set and maintain clear boundaries. In your case, the boundaries will prevent you from enabling your partner’s alcohol use and protect both of you.

Examples of boundaries include not lending them money to buy alcohol, not drinking with them, and leaving when they get aggressive due to drinking.

Learn to Manage Stress and Negative Emotions

Learn and practice healthy coping mechanisms to know your triggers, reflect on your feelings, and regulate your emotions. These coping skills and strategies include journaling, exercise, meditating, breathing exercises, positive thinking, and seeking support.

Talk to a Trusted Friend or Family Member

Remember that you’re not alone. If you feel isolated, reach out to trusted friends and family members to share your situation and seek comfort. You can also ask for help or intervention with your partner’s alcohol use.

Seek Help from a Therapist or Support Group

If you experience extreme stress due to your partner’s drinking, take care of your own mental health by joining support groups or group therapy.

This support group for family members and partners of people with alcohol use disorder will increase your support system and help you cope.

When to Stop Dating an Alcoholic

How do you know if it’s time to end your relationship with your alcoholic partner? Consider the following situations.

They’re Influencing You to Drink More

One study suggests that a heavy drinker can negatively affect their partner’s drinking habit. If you find yourself drinking more with your partner, it could be a sign that they’re influencing your drinking.

Once you establish a drinking pattern together, it could stick during your relationship and affect both of you.

You’re Developing Codependency

Codependency happens when you prioritize your partner’s well-being over yours due to their alcohol addiction. There’s nothing wrong with supporting your partner, but not knowing your limits can trap you in an unhealthy relationship and may also result in mental health concerns.

You Feel Unhealthy and Unsafe

Does your partner get uncontrollable, aggressive, or violent when drunk? Any action compromising your safety, comfort, and mental and physical health is a warning sign.

It’s recommended to end the relationship if you experience any of the following:

  • Physical, sexual, or emotional domestic violence
  • Increased relationship conflict
  • Low self-esteem
  • Social isolation
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Financial difficulties due to partner’s alcohol spending

How to Help Your Partner Deal with Alcohol Abuse

If you’re dating an alcoholic, here are treatment options you can recommend.

  • Refer Them to a Doctor: Ideally, your partner should first consult with a physician. The doctor will evaluate their condition and recommend appropriate treatments and medications to help your partner recover.
  • Seek a Licensed Therapist: Therapy will help people with alcohol addiction learn coping skills and strategies to reduce or stop drinking.
  • Try Online Consultation: Your partner may also seek professional help online if you’re concerned with privacy, location, or accessability. Try online therapy and consultation with platforms specializing in addiction treatment, like Curednation. You can book an appointment easily via your smartphone or computer.
  • Recommend a Treatment Program: Refer your partner to short or long-term programs that help with alcoholism. The best alcohol addiction treatment centers include Hazelden Betty Ford, Oro House Recovery Centers, and Cliffside Malibu.
  • Let Them Join a Support Group: Help your partner find encouragement from peers through support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, SMART Recovery, Moderation Management, and Women for Sobriety.

Should You Still Date a Person With Alcohol Addiction?

There’s no right or wrong way to answer this question, as it depends on you. However, it’s important to ask yourself how your partner’s alcoholism impacts you and your relationship.

Is your partner’s alcohol addiction affecting your relationship, safety, and mental health? If yes, consider ending the relationship while you can. This is especially important if they refuse to acknowledge their problem and get help.

It’s a difficult decision for some, but remember, it’s better to stop dating them now than end up having to divorce an alcoholic spouse later.

Meanwhile, if your partner has the resolve to change and you want to help them get better, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to stay.

Overall, dating an alcoholic person can be challenging. Make sure to set boundaries, practice self-care, and get support from family and friends to protect your own well-being.

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