Married To An Alcoholic: How Do I Handle My Spouse?


Being married to an alcoholic is a daunting situation. Whether the problem has started before or during the marriage, countless issues can arise if one of the spouses has alcoholism.

This guide shows the impacts of living with someone struggling with alcoholism, how to approach the issue, and when to seek professional advice.

What Are the Impacts of Living With an Alcoholic?

Living with a spouse who suffers from Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) can cause a lot of mental, physical, and financial stress, especially if there are children involved and responsibilities to take care of.

You or other family members may experience:


Spouses may blame themselves when their significant other struggles with alcoholism, especially if the problem starts after marriage. That happens because they may assume that something in their marriage caused the drinking problem.

You may also accidentally develop enabling behavior with your spouse, allowing them to drink to keep them happy or avoid conflicts.

A typical example of this situation is a person letting their alcoholic spouse drink at home instead of at a bar to minimize the chances of fights or driving accidents.

Reduced Income

If the affected spouse has a job, they will likely experience reduced work performance. In 2019, 26 studies were conducted on 132 associations. 77% of said associations mentioned that impaired work performance was associated with high levels of alcohol consumption.

This usually comes with a financial impact that can be even more significant if the affected spouse is the only working spouse and if there are children involved, threatening the financial stability of the whole family.

Neglected Responsibilities

Excessive alcohol consumption can go beyond work, affecting other daily duties of the struggling spouse. Tasks that are often divided between both spouses, like taking the kids to school, cleaning, and running different errands, will be all thrown on the healthy spouse.

This can create a lot of pressure and tension between partners, as the non-alcoholic partner will often crack under the pressure.

Legal Problems

Excessive drinking, including binge drinking, increases the likelihood of falling into legal trouble.

An intoxicated person will have little control over their actions, leading to issues like driving under the influence, assault, domestic violence, and being involved in fights for no reason.

Unhealthy Environment for Raising Children

An alcoholic parent isn’t the most responsible one. This can negatively affect the mentality of children, as they often look up to their parents.

A 2016 study concluded that, while concrete scientific evidence is yet to be gathered, there’s consistent literature that adult children of alcoholics are more likely to drink, and develop an AUD, due to their parent’s drinking behavior.

How to Talk to an Alcoholic Partner?

The following pointers should maximize your chances of managing the situation when talking to an alcoholic partner:

Research Alcohol Addiction

Gather as much knowledge as possible about alcohol use disorders so you can get an understanding of what you’re walking into.

This knowledge will help you understand the behavior and possible reactions of someone living with alcoholism. It can also aid in recognizing any attempts that your alcoholic partner may use to divert your attention from the problem.

Approach Them at a Proper Time

There’s no point in addressing the situation when your partner is under the influence. They won’t listen, you may get emotional, and the situation may escalate because of alcohol’s effect on emotions.

Approach your partner with a calm and compassionate tone of voice only when they’re sober.

Be Compassionate

People who drink tend not to understand the size of the problem they’re subjecting themselves and their families to. Additionally, the emotional, sometimes aggressive responses they get from their spouses usually don’t help make them comprehend the situation any better.

When confronting your partner, you should control your emotions and demonstrate the issue’s impact without aggravating them.

Sentences like “I’m worried about you” and “I don’t want to see you get hurt” can help. Avoid using sentences that start with “You” which can hurt them or insinuate that the situation is entirely their choice.

Mention Getting Help

If your spouse is constantly feeling guilty about drinking, you may try to talk your way into their minds by mentioning that alcohol abuse is a disorder that requires seeking help from a mental health professional.

You should also mention that you love them and are ready to help them through recovery. Your partner will be more likely to listen if they feel you’re on their side.

When to Seek Help for an Alcoholic Partner?

There are five stages to alcohol addiction. The first three stages are often when you can handle the situation with your spouse without external help.

However, the last two stages fall under the category of alcohol dependency and addiction; your partner is physically unable to stop drinking at this point, even if they mentally want to.

That’s when professional help is highly recommended. Assistance is often provided in alcohol treatment centers, which provide inpatient and outpatient addiction treatment, behavioral management, and rehabilitation services.

Online alcohol treatment is also available for people requiring privacy and a cost-effective treatment option. However, the struggling person will need a supporting family to help, as their home essentially becomes their treatment center.

Should I Leave My Alcoholic Partner?

Staying with or leaving your alcoholic partner is your decision, but it shouldn’t be based on emotions alone. Here are some helpful pointers to consider while deciding what to do.

Stay If

  • Your partner is genuinely committed to recovery, even if they’re currently not making the best progress.
  • You can establish clear boundaries regarding your partner’s drinking, protecting yourself from emotional and physical intimate partner violence.
  • You have a strong support system to keep you going, which can include therapy, support groups, and healthy relationships.
  • You can maintain self-care, healthy activities, and personal growth independent of your partner’s recovery.
  • You can communicate clearly with your partner despite their drinking problem.

Warning Signs

  • Your partner is unwilling to seek help or admit that their drinking habits are problematic.
  • Your physical and mental health is severely impacted by your partner’s actions, resulting in anxiety and depression.
  • You or your children feel unsafe because of your spouse’s actions.
  • You’re constantly suffering from repeated promises and manipulation.

Note: Please understand that these pointers aren’t guidelines. Substance abuse cases are different, and people can rebound back from the worst cases of addiction. If you think something can be done, you should try your best to do it.

Resources to Help With an Alcoholic Spouse

Here are some sources you can use for help:

  • CuredNation: CuredNation prides itself on complete privacy to help people recover from alcohol and drug abuse  in the comfort and safety of their homes.
  • SAMHSA’s National Helpline: SAMHSA’s helpline is free and available 24/7. It provides information about addiction and referrals to treatment facilities in English and Spanish.
  • Alcoholics Anonymous (AA): AA has been helping people recover from alcoholism for over 80 years. Their treatment process is based on one alcoholic helping another.


Will My Alcoholic Spouse Get Better?

In most cases, yes. According to population-based surveys, the majority of people who abuse alcohol can overcome alcoholism over time.

How Common Is Alcohol Addiction?

Approximately one-third of the population meets the criteria of AUD, making it a common phenomenon.

What Is the Percentage of Marriages That End in Divorce Because of Alcohol?

Approximately 48.3% of marriages end when one of the spouses has a lifetime AUD. However, the percentage is significantly less when the disorder is recent.

Final Words

Living with an alcoholic is difficult and stressful, but it’s not the end of the world. Arming yourself with information about alcohol addiction will help you approach the situation appropriately.

If external help is needed, many offline and online resources are available to help. If you or your loved one prefers complete privacy while having treatment at home, book an appointment with CuredNation to take the next step in recovery.


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