How to Deal With an Alcoholic Spouse

How to Deal With an Alcoholic Spouse 1

If you are trying to deal with an alcoholic spouse, it's likely that you have experienced many challenges and an array of emotions. Maybe you are feeling angry, frustrated, or sad about the current situation you are living in. Perhaps you are exhausted from worrying about your partner's health and are stuck with what your next steps should be. If your significant other is living with an alcohol use disorder, it can begin to take its toll on your physical and mental health. However, there are some things that you can do to positively contribute toward your partner's recovery while ensuring you are also looking after yourself.

This article will delve into the possible effects of living with an alcoholic partner, how to support them, tips on strategic ways to engage in active conversations about their drinking, and things you can do to help yourself along the way.

Effects of Living With an Alcoholic Spouse

Alcohol use disorder is a disease that is recognized by the inability to control or stop drinking despite negative consequences to one's life. Unfortunately, the impact of alcohol abuse does not only affect the individual living with the medical condition but their loved ones, family members, and those surrounding them.

Research has found that living with an alcoholic partner can affect your emotional and physical well-being. The stress of trying to deal with your loved one's drinking can increase your risk of developing your own mental health disorders as well as:

  • Depression or anxiety symptoms

  • Neglecting personal, family, or work obligations

  • Trouble sleeping

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder or trauma responses

  • Financial difficulties

Living with someone who has an alcohol use disorder increases your chances of experiencing abuse. Excessive alcohol consumption often plays a key role in intimate partner violence, including both physical and verbal abuse. Although alcohol is not the cause of domestic violence, it is a compounding factor that can eventually trigger abuse.

Research has found that intimate partner violence was two to four times more likely to occur in relationships where men had an alcohol use disorder. You don't have to accept unacceptable behavior, even if seems like something small, these instances can worsen over time. Remember, abuse is never acceptable.

How to Help an Alcoholic Loved One

How to Deal With an Alcoholic Spouse 2

Knowing how to help a partner who has an alcohol use disorder can be emotionally and physically draining, and outside support is often needed to help manage the stresses. It's important to remember that you alone are not the cause or cure of your partner's alcohol dependency. We have put together some recommendations on how to help and support a partner's alcohol abuse.

Know when to take a step back and let a crisis happen: It's natural to want to step in and help a loved one when there is an issue or incident, but by allowing things to reach a crisis point and for natural consequences to happen, they are able to recognize the effects of their drinking and their need to change.

Understand they need outside help: A substance use disorder is a progressive disease and often when left untreated, will develop and worsen. It is not your responsibility alone to cure your loved one's alcoholism and often professional treatment is needed in order for them to have a successful recovery.

Try not to enable their behavior: Enabling someone with an alcohol dependency is pretty easy, we are often simply trying to help by making excuses for their behavior or by covering up the extent of their drinking problem. However, this allows the individual to avoid dealing with the consequences of their actions. Through enabling behavior we are allowing our partners to stay on their destructive paths.

How to Look After Yourself

When trying to deal with a partner's drinking, it's common to lose sight of yourself and the others in your household. Try to maintain a routine of normality for you and other family members, such as eating meals at the same time or upholding bedtimes. Your priority should be focusing on yourself and other family members who are likely to be affected by your partner.

Don't take things personally. It's important to remind yourself that your partner's alcohol problem is not your fault and whether you were in their life or not, they would still be battling their alcohol dependency. Broken promises are not uncommon among people with unhealthy drinking patterns. When someone becomes addicted to alcohol, their brain chemistry can change which means they are not always entirely in control of their own decision making

If you have been living with an alcoholic spouse and covering up for their drinking for a long time it can seem scary to ask for help. But it's important that you are also getting the support you need. Maybe it is time to seek help from a mental health professional with who you are able to discuss what you are going through and your levels of stress. Alternatively, a support group is helpful for encouragement and support from people who are experiencing similar situations. AI-anon is a group that supports families of individuals who abuse alcohol.

My Husband Won't Stop Drinking - What Should I Do to Help Him?

Dealing with an alcoholic husband is not easy, as often unsafe and problematic drinking habits can result in unsafe and problematic situations within the household. Dealing with a husband's drinking can feel overwhelming and many people with an alcoholic partner experience depression or anxiety.

It can be uncomfortable to talk to your alcoholic husband about the consequences it is having for you and the family, but by avoiding the topic you are enabling your partner's drinking. Other ways to help your alcoholic partner include:

  • Keep communication open and honest

  • Educate yourself about alcohol addiction

  • Don't be judgemental

  • Stay focused on the situation that is currently happening

  • Have reasonable expectations

How to Talk to Someone About Drinking Too Much

Speaking to your partner about their alcohol abuse can be scary. So below are some tips to enable you to start an effective conversation with confidence:

  • Research and understand alcohol addiction

  • Have the conversation when they are sober

  • Discuss what you both believe to be contributing causes to your spouse's drinking

  • Let them know how their drinking problem is impacting you and your family

  • Don't judge shout or blame

  • Choose a time when there are no distractions and ensure you have lots of time to discuss

  • Talk about specific examples of problematic behavior

  • Do not offer ultimatums

  • Be present

How to Get Your Spouse to Stop Drinking

There is only so much you can do to persuade your alcoholic partner to stop drinking. Ultimately, the decision to change has to come from them.


If you have not tried to stage an intervention before, it may be the turning point for your partner. By gathering people who care for your partner, you can collectively share how their drinking has influenced and impacted your lives. An intervention should be planned and carried out in a gentle manner with compassion and care. Interventions can be difficult to navigate so it is always best to seek guidance from a professional on the most effective way to do so.

Seek Professional Medical Advice

There are many alcohol addiction treatment options that may benefit you and your partner. You can only research and suggest different options, however, this is a basis for your partner to then take the next steps. Encourage them to take small steps, like speaking to a professional about the different options available.

If you are still worrying about how to support your partner, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) have created a number of documents to help you in supporting your family members.

Alcohol Addiction Treatment at Vita Recovery

We understand that asking for help and support for alcohol use disorders is a big and difficult step to take. Here, at Vita Recovery, we aim to make your transition to substance abuse treatment as smooth and easy as possible. We know that each individual is different and therefore work with our clients to create individual treatment plans that address all emotional, psychological, medical, and social needs.

Our drug abuse and alcohol addiction treatment programs are based on empirically derived treatment interventions and industry research to ensure all individuals get the best possible clinical and medical care. We utilize a number of methods to respond to individual needs, such as:

  • Solution-oriented therapy

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy

  • Motivational enhancement therapy

  • 12 step principles

We found that what makes us unique from other rehabilitation centers is our values. We take a compassionate and innovative approach to treatment. To find out how we can help you and your loved ones, contact us today.

Why Choose Vita Recovery?

125+ Years of Combined Medical & Clinical Experience
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    Each patient is assigned an individual treatment plan that addresses all the medical, psychological, emotional, and social needs of our patients.

  • Innovative and Modern Approach

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  • Personalized Service for Patients

    Treatment at Vita is customized for each patient. We understand that everyone is unique and so are their needs.

  • World Class Facility

    When you walk into Vita Recovery, you'll feel like you're at a 5-star, luxury facility. We mix modern with comfortability for our patients.