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Relationship With an Alcoholic

Being in a relationship with someone who has an alcohol use disorder (AUD) can feel confusing and isolating. You may have noticed differences in their behavior, they may have become secretive, and the way they act around you may have changed. Over time, these differences will affect your trust in one another.

Like many other people who are in a relationship with someone who abuses alcohol, you may want to do everything you can to support your partner. However, you may feel anxious about addressing the subject, and you may be unsure of how to assist them in beginning the recovery process.

In addition, if your partner, spouse, or family member has an addiction, it might be catalyzing violent and aggressive behavior, which could be taking a toll on your mental health.

The important thing to remember is that support and help are available to assist you through this time. You do not need to go through this alone, and although you will want to support your loved one, you should take care of your own needs to protect your mental health.

How Is an Alcohol Use Disorder Defined?

Alcohol use disorder is the term medical professionals use to describe alcohol abuse, alcohol dependence, and addiction. A milder form of alcohol use disorder generally involves someone putting themself at harm through unsafe drinking habits. Although still dangerous, those who have a mild alcohol use disorder usually have the ability to stop drinking if they wish to.

On the other hand, severe alcohol use disorders are defined as a lack of control regarding consuming alcohol and a total inability to quit due to physical and psychological dependence.

People develop alcohol use disorders for a complex variety of different reasons. Contrary to belief, there is no singular cause for an alcohol use disorder. Instead, several environmental, genetic, and social factors are all at play. In addition, underlying mental health problems cause some to abuse alcohol to cope better.

Does My Partner Have an Alcohol Addiction?

Although it is apparent when some people are living with an alcohol addiction, alcohol abuse can be hard to spot in others. Many people suffering from an alcohol use disorder will often hide their addiction because of the stigma and shame that is unfortunately attached.

Sadly, the more addiction remains stigmatized in our society, the less likely people are to ask for help. For this reason, it is essential to remember that addiction is a medical diagnosis.

In the United States, alcohol use is a common part of the culture. This makes it even harder to spot if someone has an alcohol use disorder. However, there are some signs that your loved one may have developed unhealthy drinking habits. These include:

  • Frequent drinking
  • Heavy drinking
  • Binge drinking
  • Needing more alcohol to feel the desired effect
  • Seeming irritable
  • Experiencing mood swings
  • Fatigue
  • Paranoia
  • Withdrawing from responsibilities
  • Acting defensive
  • Overreacting
  • Seeming secretive
  • Seeming distracted
  • Neglecting their appearance
  • Neglecting personal hygiene
  • Making excuses

What Are Some of the Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms?

Another way to identify whether your partner has an alcohol use disorder is to look out for withdrawal symptoms when they stop drinking for a few hours or days.

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms arise when alcohol is removed from the body due to overactivity in the nervous system. Withdrawal symptoms present differently for each person as they are dependent on various factors.

However, some common withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Shaking and tremors
  • Fast heart rate

Though the symptoms noted above alleviate within a week or two, your loved one must seek medical support if they experience them.

Likewise, you must seek immediate help if your loved one encounters any of the following symptoms:

  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations

In severe withdrawal cases, delirium tremens (DTs) may also emerge. This is a particularly dangerous symptom that can be life-threatening. Symptoms of DTs generally begin two to three days after the last drink, with symptoms including a high temperature, hallucinations, delirium, paranoia, and seizures.

Alcohol addiction is one of the most dangerous drug addictions to physically overcome, so it is vital that your loved one only attempts to detox with the support and guidance of a healthcare professional.

While overcoming alcohol abuse may seem challenging, it is possible with the correct treatment plan and support.

How Does Alcohol Abuse Affect a Spouse or Partner?

Over time, alcohol use disorders and alcohol abuse inevitably impact relationships. For example, alcohol and drug addiction can hinder respect, trust, and openness between people, all of which are often hard to rebuild.

If your partner tends to abuse alcohol frequently, it may result in financial troubles, which can severely damage your relationship due to the stress associated. If your partner prioritizes alcohol, they may lose track of their budgeting or miss shifts at work, which can put a significant strain on your relationship.

Physical and emotional intimacy is essential for a romantic relationship to be healthy. However, drug abuse can destroy this intimacy. You may feel resentful of your partner’s secrecy and feel disrespected, making it hard to feel emotionally vulnerable with them. Likewise, they may feel guarded and defensive due to shame or guilt, and they may also be struggling with a mental health disorder, making intimacy difficult.

Unfortunately, domestic violence can also occur if a partner struggles with alcohol abuse. Domestic violence can be verbal, physical, emotional, or sexual, and it is never acceptable. Seek help immediately if you feel unsafe. There are many confidential numbers you can call.

Although an alcohol abuse disorder can impair relationships, there are different treatment options such as couple’s therapy and family therapy that can help you work through things in a safe, non-judgmental environment once your partner has admitted that they need help.

How Can Alcohol Abuse Affect Other Family Members?

Your loved one’s drinking can affect other family members too. This is because alcohol addiction can make other family members feel worried, unsafe, or anxious about your partner’s alcohol abuse.

If you have children, alcohol addiction can also take a significant toll on their mental health. Children often blame themselves for their parent’s alcohol addiction, and they may find it confusing and difficult to trust others, make friends, or form new relationships.

How To Take Care of Yourself if Your Partner Suffers From Alcohol Abuse

Even though it may feel difficult and unnatural, you must prioritize your mental health if your partner has an alcohol abuse problem. While you may feel so concerned about your partner that your mental health is disregarded, your well-being is just as important. Burnout, for example, will make it more difficult for you to be there for your partner, so taking care of yourself is a must.

Spending time in a relationship with someone struggling with alcohol abuse can slowly wear you down. Even if you feel okay now, it is best to seek help before it gets worse. It is never too early or too late to seek therapy and emotional support.

If you feel unsure about initiating a conversation with your partner regarding their alcohol abuse, speak to a counselor or professional for advice. Seeing a family therapist can help with the healing process, enabling you to talk in a non-judgmental environment.

When the time comes to speak to your partner, remember to only approach them if you feel safe and sure that they are experiencing problems with alcohol abuse. It is also best to plan what to say in a compassionate and caring way. If you are at risk of domestic violence or your partner reacts negatively, seek support immediately.


Alcohol addiction can take its toll on your relationship. It can cause a divide in your romantic relationship, and a partner’s problem drinking can impair your self-confidence.

Be sure to take care of yourself so that you can support your partner in their recovery journey and help them stay on track. Remember, their addiction is not your fault, and you should not go through this alone. Your mental health is a priority, and it is never too early to reach out for support.

If you are worried about your loved one, contact us today for help and support. We can offer you a wealth of information surrounding alcohol addiction treatment and help you understand the recovery process.

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    Marietta, GA 30066

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