Alcohol can have a devastating effect on a marriage - about half of all couples living with alcohol abuse end in divorce. Married couples where only one person drinks are more likely to end in divorce than when both partners are heavy drinkers, who may be able to share in their negative experiences related to alcohol.
However, if you're committed to the marriage and want to support your husband, there are some options to explore. Professional support and recovery groups can help you to heal your relationship and guide your husband to sobriety.
How Does Alcohol Abuse Affect Relationships?
If your husband’s alcohol intake is damaging your marriage, you’re not alone. Research shows that drug and alcohol abuse increases relationship dissatisfaction, instability, divorce rates, and verbal and physical aggression in relationships.
Addiction and alcohol misuse manifest differently in each individual, and not everyone’s marriage is affected in the same way. However, there are some common ways your partner’s drinking may damage your relationship and the family unit. These include:
- Neglecting Home Responsibilities - When someone develops an addiction to alcohol, it becomes the priority in their life. They may start neglecting everyday tasks, responsibilities, and the duties of family life because of their drinking. They may also spend a lot of time recovering from heavy drinking sessions.
- Lying and Secrecy - Your partner may try to hide their alcohol consumption from those around them. This may involve lying about where they have been or are going, hiding empty alcohol bottles in the house, avoiding you when they're drunk, or trying to leave the house unnoticed.
- Acting Aggressively - Alcohol can lower a person’s inhibitions and lead to more aggressive behavior. If your husband is frequently under the influence, they may be more prone to act with verbal or physical aggression and anger.
- Financial Difficulties - Sustaining alcohol dependency or addiction is expensive and can put a strain on the family’s finances. This may be particularly noticeable if you share a bank account or collectivize expenses.
- Impaired Family Life - Alcohol abuse, even if your husband is the only person who drinks, can create a particularly bad climate for children. Research shows that children who grow up in a home where one parent abuses alcohol are more likely to develop substance abuse and mental health problems themselves.
How Can I Support My Husband?
If you are worried about your husband’s drinking habits, there are a few things you can explore. While it is not your responsibility to “fix” your husband, you can support them in making the changes they need to stop drinking and break free from alcohol abuse.
Opening a Conversation
One of the first steps you can take is to open a conversation with your partner about their drinking. While this can be scary, it allows you to show your concern and opens the door to discuss things like professional support.
It’s a good idea to do some preparation for the conversation beforehand - you may like to contact an addiction specialist for advice. You should also:
- Learn about alcohol abuse and addiction to better understand your husband’s experience
- Speak to your husband at a calm time when he is sober
- Think about the reasons your husband may drink
- Stay empathetic throughout the conversation
- Calmly explain the consequences their drinking is having on you
- Avoid being judgmental
- Ensure your own drinking habits are healthy
Accessing Professional Support
The best way to help your husband quit drinking is by encouraging them to seek professional help. Alcohol use disorder is a mental health condition characterized by physical changes in the brain that impair control over alcohol use. Quitting drinking usually involves more than just willpower - long-lasting recovery requires addressing the underlying causes of addiction and developing the skills and coping mechanisms to overcome addictive behavior.
The good news is that addiction is treatable and no matter how severe the problem, anyone can benefit from substance abuse treatment. Treatment programs usually offer a range of treatment options, tailored to each client's needs. They may include:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
- Group therapy
- Couples therapy
- Complementary therapies like creative art therapy
- Experiential therapy
- Yoga and mindfulness
- Life skills development
There are a few things you can do to support your husband in accessing treatment. You may like to:
- Research different treatment options - you can visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration for free advice and resources or call treatment centers directly
- Offer to accompany your husband to a consultation
- Learn about and discuss the benefits of addiction treatment
Attending Couples Therapy
If your relationship is struggling as a result of your husband’s drinking problem, you may want to try couples therapy. During couples therapy, you and your husband work with a licensed therapist over a series of sessions.
Couples therapy can help you and your partner in several ways, including:
- Ending alcohol abuse
- Learning how to support your partner in the recovery process
- Developing patterns of behavior that facilitate long-lasting abstinence
- Resolving conflicts between you and your partner
- Developing conflict resolution skills for the future
Many couples find themselves in a destructive cycle, where excessive drinking leads to relationship problems, which in turn drive further alcohol abuse. Couples therapy aims to reverse the pattern and enable a constructive cycle where a healthy relationship supports addiction recovery, further improving the relationship.
Couples therapy takes many forms, but it often involves a recovery contract that both partners sign at the start of the treatment program. The recovery contract sets out the responsibilities and obligations of each partner, such as maintaining sobriety or attending recovery meetings. Usually, the sober partner must mark off the completion of tasks at the end of each day.
Looking After Yourself
Maintaining a close relationship with someone with a drinking problem can be exhausting. You may find yourself feeling frustrated, hopeless, and worn out. For some people, the best option is to leave the relationship, particularly if you are experiencing emotional or physical abuse. If you do decide to stay, it's important to look after yourself too.
Make sure you practice good self-care routines to take care of your mental and physical well-being. Self-care practices include:
- Eating healthy, balanced meals
- Taking regular exercise
- Sleeping well
- Spending time with friends
- Relaxation techniques like yoga and meditation
If you are struggling with difficult feelings or emotional turmoil, it's a good idea to speak to someone about your experience. You may like to confide in a friend, or family member, or seek professional therapy yourself. Remember that what you are going through is hard and don't hesitate to ask for help.
Al-Anon and Other Support Groups
You could also attend support groups like Al-Anon that are specifically for the family and partners of substance users. Support groups are a place to share advice, learn from others, and find comfort in your shared experience. Al-Anon meetings are self-organized, free, and accessible to all.
Domestic Violence Hotline
If you are experiencing verbal, physical, or emotional abuse, there is support available. Everyone deserves a relationship free from domestic violence and there is never a reason that you should have to tolerate abuse from a partner. You can contact the Domestic Violence Hotline at 1.800.799.SAFE (7233) for free and confidential advice.
Contact Us Today
If your husband is struggling with alcohol addiction or abuse, contact Cornerstone Recovery today. We offer an expert-led, evidence-based treatment program to support clients to long-lasting sobriety. Our compassionate staff can offer confidential advice on the best way forward for you and your husband and open the door to the family life you long for.