Are you married to - or living with - an alcoholic?

Part 1, Part 2

This is what you should know!

Are you married to an alcoholic, or are you living with a partner who has an alcohol problem?

Are you increasingly worried about your partner's drinking?

If so, I really hope the information here will help you to get a better insight into the relationship dynamics, and perhaps to make some important decisions.

I can only imagine how desperate you’re feeling. And there’s little else I can do for you, other than to give you the information to help you feel strong. I want you to believe in yourself - I know you can tackle the problems. Doubtless you’ve been through tough times before. You can do this too!

Let’s start by taking a look at the warning signs of alcoholism - from your perspective. Then we’ll look the issue of codependency and at ways to help you cope.

Good to know...

  • Part 2 has a free download of the complete article
  • To connect with a licensed therapist - see blue box further down this page

Are you really living with an alcoholic spouse or partner?

If so, I imagine that all too often you've felt hurt, frustrated, angry, worried, sad and disappointed. I suspect there’ve been times when you’ve felt embarrassed and ashamed. If you have children, you’ve no doubt worried about the impact of your partner’s drinking on them too. You may have even wondered whether it’s you who has the problem. Your partner is likely to have tried to make you believe that his or her alcohol intake is no more than normal, and that you’re being stingy.

Now you’re looking for some confirmation of your suspicions - you want to know you can trust your own judgment. You want to know that it’s not you, and if there’s anything you can do to help stop the slide into the ‘abyss’.

Let’s start, then, with the warning signs from your perspective...

Image quote: There is much you can do when you're married to an alcoholic. But... it requires you to create and focus on your own life.

10 Warning signs that your partner is a problem drinker

  1. You’re now finding yourself trying to avoid going to functions together. You suffer from anticipatory anxiety - you worry about how much your partner is likely to drink. You no longer want to feel let down, embarrassed and ashamed on account of your partner’s behaviour. You prefer to go on your own, or not at all.
  2. You're becoming more and more concerned about the financial impact of his or her excessive drinking. The relative weight - or perhaps in later stages, all -  of the costs of household bills and food falls increasing on your shoulders.
  3. You feel increasingly exposed to angry outbursts, hurtful remarks and mood swings. Your partner is becoming progressively abusive.
  4. You’re worried about the potential or real impact of your partner choosing alcohol over safety and sense. Maybe your husband, wife or partner has no qualms about getting behind the wheel of a car after having a drink. Or maybe he or she is in charge of the children whilst under the influence. You’re aware that your partner is at risk of making bad decisions in general.
  5. You’re increasingly feeling on your own, as your spouse or partner appears to look  for opportunities to drink on his or her own. He or she no longer seems interested in spending time with you or going on family outings.
  6. You’re likely to feel abandoned and bereft of any loving attention as your partner appears to become increasingly turned inward, and focused on ways to ‘top up’.
  7. You’re likely to have trouble trusting your partner as their behaviour becomes more  troublesome at home, on social occasions and at work.
  8. You're finding hidden stashes of alcohol.
  9. You may find it more difficult to find your partner attractive. He or she no longer seems to care for how they look and personal hygiene too has become  a problem. 
  10. It's becoming more and more challenging to have a relationship with him or her. You no longer recognise the person you once loved, and perhaps married.

I can so understand that you keep hoping that things will improve. That if only you cared more, loved more, shouted, cried more or told them how you feel yet again - they would moderate their drinking.

Unfortunately all of that would put you at greater risk of longer-term psychological problems. And it wouldn’t make the slightest bit of difference. Any attempt at a change of behaviour would almost be guaranteed to be a temporary one. I suspect you’re already aware of that.

The most important decision you can make

Image quote: Overthinking is counter-productive!

There’s only one thing that‘s likely to bring about any change. It’s if you make a really important and significant decision. You decide that from now on, you’re going to take responsibility only for your own thoughts, feelings and behaviour. It’s the only way that can make dealing with an alcoholic ‘manageable’.

This change in your behaviour may prompt a change in your partner’s, either for better or for worse. Nevertheless, you’re going to be focusing on yourself. You’re going to get back in the driving seat of your life and create  the life you want. It may even mean instigating a breakup - even if it’s a temporary one. And it’s the very best thing you can do for your spouse or partner!

There’s nothing else you can do about your alcoholic spouse

It’s okay, though, to confront your partner with how you’re feeling, and let them know that from now on you’ll be focusing on you. That may include telling them you’re considering ending the relationship. Not to try to shock him or her and manipulate them into taking action - but to make it clear that you may have to split up to simply give yourself a chance to heal.

You may find my Relationship Test helpful in actually making that decision - even if you’re not ready to take action right now.

Does the very idea of making a life for yourself, including a separation, fill you with horror? If so, there may be something else going on...

Codependency and symptoms of alcoholism

The Mirriam-Webster dictionary defines ‘codependency’ as:

“A psychological condition in which someone is in an unhappy and unhealthy relationship that involves living with and providing care for another person (such as a drug addict or an alcoholic)”

For sure codependency is a problem in many such relationships - to a greater or lesser extent.

However, I have a real problem with the blanket statement that if one is an alcoholic, the other is co-dependent!

What does a codependent relationship look like?

In Part 2 you'll discover ...

  • 23 Signs of a codependent relationship
  • 15 Self-help strategies for when you're living with an alcoholic

Part 1, Part 2

Do you want to save your relationship? Or are you keen to improve it...

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Elly Prior

Hello you! :-)

It's me - Elly Prior, I'm the Founder and Author of this site. I'm a 'real' person! I'm hoping to make a positive difference, small or large, to every person who visits my site.

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Images courtesy of: Symphony of Love