Are You the Wife of an Alcoholic? Managing Life with an Addicted Spouse


Excessive drinking has a profound impact on relationships. Your spouse’s drinking problem might not seem that serious until it does some serious damage.

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) can impact the physical and mental health not only of the alcoholic husband but also of other family members. That’s because substance use disorders increase the risk of domestic violence cases, mental illness, and financial problems.

To better handle such a situation, it’s important to acknowledge that assuming the role of the “fixer” without seeking professional help can get overwhelming.

Follow along as we shed more light on the impact of living with an alcoholic spouse, coping strategies to deal with your partner’s drinking habits, and when it’s safer to walk away from your relationship.

Early Signs of Alcohol Use Disorder

When it comes to drinking, sometimes it’s tricky to decide on how much is too much and when a person should moderate their alcohol use. Here are some early signs to look out for when you suspect that your partner might have a drinking problem:

  • They use drinking as a stress relief mechanism.
  • Once they start drinking, they find it hard to stop.
  • Drinking affects their everyday functioning and puts them in dangerous situations like driving under the influence.
  • Their efforts to quit alcohol on their own aren’t coming to fruition.
  • They’re unable to care for themselves or maintain functional relationships.

The Impact of Living with an Alcoholic Partner

Having a family member with a drinking problem can be challenging on a number of fronts. You might be faced with pushback and denial at first as your spouse refuses to see how problematic their alcohol use is. The living situation of the entire family can be impacted by the spouse’s alcohol consumption on the financial, emotional, and physical levels.

Here are some of the ways substance use disorder can shift family dynamics:

Emotional Abuse

As the wife of an alcoholic, you can end in the pitfall of self-blame for your significant other’s behavior. Don’t try to cover up for your partner and believe it’s your responsibility to pick up the pieces.

You should prioritize your emotional well being and seek support, as the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) recognizes anxiety and depression as serious repercussions for living with an alcoholic spouse.

Physical Abuse

In addition to the impact of emotional stressors on physical wellbeing, the wife of an alcoholic is also at a higher risk for intimate partner violence.

It’s important to emphasize that alcohol won’t turn your once loving husband to the opposite. Alcohol only facilitates abusive behavior and makes the existing issue worse.

People might be afraid to leave abusive relationships for the fear of violence escalation. Don’t hesitate to seek help when needed. You can reach out to the National Domestic Violence Hotline for confidential, 24/7 social support services.

How to Cope with an Alcoholic Spouse

The mental health impact of living with an alcoholic spouse can’t be overstated. Here are some of the ways that can help you cope with a partner suffering from alcohol use disorder:

Set Boundaries

Although you can’t control your spouse’s drunk behavior, you can set healthy boundaries for what’s acceptable to you and when they’re crossing the line. Communicate your limits, like setting a rule for no drinking at home or after a certain time.

Find Support Groups

There are a number of support groups like Al Anon for spouses dealing with an alcoholic partner. Having a community that you can reach out to for resources and support can alleviate your stress. You don’t have to deal with alcohol addiction on your own, and you can learn a lot from people’s shared experiences.

How to Help Your Alcoholic Partner

Getting your partner to seek alcohol addiction treatment is easier said than done. It’s unrealistic to think that you can single-handedly make your partner stop drinking. Your role is to offer support and empower them to seek help and address their drinking habit.

Here are some of the ways you can help your alcoholic spouse:

  • Educate yourself on alcohol use disorders and tackle the situation with empathy and understanding.
  • The National Health Institute emphasizes the importance of positive communication with your partner when they’re not under the influence. This creates a shared sense of responsibility to address their drinking problem.
  • Consider an alcohol intervention to incentivize your partner to rethink their relationship to alcoholic beverages.

When to Leave Your Alcoholic Spouse?

Deciding to walk away from a marriage or a relationship is difficult. Your well being and the safety of your family should be the core decisive factors when deciding to leave your alcoholic spouse.

Here are some red flags for when you should consider such a move sooner rather than later:

  • Your partner refuses to stop drinking and dismisses the idea of seeking treatment.
  • Being with your spouse affects your mental or physical health.
  • The substance abuse enables intimate partner violence and impacts your safety.
  • The financial burden brought in by alcohol abuse is too much for you to handle on your own.
  • You reach the point of no return when you feel you no longer can trust your partner.

Final Thoughts

Your spouse’s behaviors while under the influence of alcohol can pose a risk to your physical and mental wellbeing. It can also create a negative environment where your children struggle to thrive.

It’s important to identify alcoholism early on, learn how you can support your significant other, and understand when it’s better for both of you to end the relationship.


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