This question is typed into search engines day after day. By women and men alike. Is it true that your partner drinks too much? Is it true that you don’t know what to do? Is it true that you are now sober – but you used to drink with your partner?
These are the stories that make relationships so challenging. In my life, my husband drinks too much on the weekends. I call that binge drinking. For me, it is a dilemma because he knocks back the alcohol yet does not change much. He just staggers off to bed, rather tipsy. He sits and drinks, I work in my office.
Any Addictive Behaviours Challenge Partnerships
My partner exercises too much, what should I do? How does that sound? Or: my partner works too much, what should I do? These are all addictive behaviours that challenge marriage or partnerships. The individuals in the union are just that, individuals. With their own lives, passions, interests, work, and leisure activities.
Usually, partners come together at least once a day to share and do something together. Or once a week. But a partnership is about sharing and caring. So, what happens then when one partner drinks too much?
This would be OK if drinking was not something that is addictive and unnatural. If your partner hikes too much or frowns too much, so be it. But drinking is another story. The substance is the issue. The substance creates a false sense of joy, yet it poisons the body.
And the substance creates all the impacts. The physical, emotional, spiritual and mental impacts. On you, the family, and the lives you all lead. Let’s look at a few definitions to find out where we can go from here.
What is a Relationship?
Most definitions mention that a relationship is a ‘close connection between two people, especially one involving romantic or sexual feelings.’ A relationship in general is the way people or groups of people feel and behave towards each other. This includes families, work colleagues, friends and lovers.
In the world today, people recognised that a good partner is passionate, loving, kind, honest, patient loyal, and faithful. In the perfect world, yes! Perfect or not, there are things we can do to build and maintain a healthy relationship:
- Keep a strong emotional connection going – be involved in each other’s feelings
- Disagree freely and openly and with respect
- Have your own private lives where you do your own thing and see your own friends
- Communicate well, frankly, and truthfully
- Spend quality time together
- Hug and smile a lot
- Listen carefully and deeply
- Give and take, know what the other needs and wants
- Resolve conflict fairly and lovingly
- Life is up and down, never perfect – get help if you need it.
The Elephant in the Room
So where is this taking me? To the point where the alcohol, the drinking, enters the room. There is something amiss with your partner. He/she is drinking too much, and this is causing a disconnect. Addiction is the opposite of connection. What are the impacts on the relationship?
Think back to when you were a drinker – if you were. How did your own drinking impact your partner or family? It is the effects on others that mean changes should be made. And, of course, health and wellness issues. Drinking causes so many health issues which you can learn about in this podcast on the Tribe Sober website.
Many people drink due to low self-esteem which I covered in a previous blog. The drinker drinks due to a lack of self-belief. Ironically, it is just that sense of low self-esteem that will take its toll on the partner. The partner now starts to lose his/her own sense of self-belief as the sober one in the relationship.
If your partner is drinking too much, they may be addicted to alcohol (which they have chosen above you). They may be hiding from the things that cause them hurt, pain, shame, guilt, and distress. They are caught in a bubble of mind tricks and false beliefs. Where does that leave you?
“Why do you drink?” you can ask a drinker. Many people will tell you that they enjoy it. Really? I want to know WHY they enjoy it. I used to enjoy that sense of relaxation and disconnect when I drank my wine. I felt free of all my worries, sure. BUT the next day, my worries were back AND I had a hangover. Know the story?
Take Notice about the Disconnection
If your partner’s drinking is causing a disconnect in your relationship, look up. If you stopped drinking but your partner still drinks, and some, then look up. At what point do we step in and say, “Enough is enough?” At what point do you, as the sober partner, try to assist the one who is drinking? Or do you let them sail their own boat into the wind?
When the ‘too much drinking’ turns into manipulation, lying, blaming, hiding, and stashing the booze, you know there is a problem. Addiction is sneaky. Your partner will try to tell you he/she is ok. Hiding the truth of the situation. You know this. If you used to drink, you know this. If you did not drink before, then notice this.
You may feel your emotions getting very heated. You may feel your own anger surfacing, with the blame and shame. You are in the wrong and accused by your partner of being horrid and argumentative. But in truth, you are being a worried partner. And you will feel disappointment, shock, and empathy too.
Your heart will break a lot when he/she fights with you and gets drunk. Be careful of feeling anything like guilt. This is not about you – this is about the one who is drinking. It is not your fault. What happens if you find yourself feeling guilty because your partner drinks too much? What about looking at the situation with new eyes?
Have you ever considered joining an AL-ANON meeting? Al-Anon is a support group for partners and families of drinkers or other addicts. It is a way to share and grieve and be strong, as part of a caring community.
We can find understanding and support when we share our common experience with each other. Some of us are here because a spouse or partner has struggled with alcoholism. For others, the problem drinker is a parent, child, or grandchild… Alcoholism has similar effects on us all, even though our relationships to the alcoholic may be different.
Talking Instead of Forcing
Sometimes there are spaces that open, and you can chat about your partner’s drinking. If there are promises that are never kept or the promises are constantly broken, then help is needed. But no one can force an addict to get help. It must come from them. On the other hand, I remember when my sister hit rock bottom and her friends bundled her into the car and drove her to rehab! So, when the time comes, you will know.
The first step is to sort your own life out. Ensure your days are full and content. If the drinking bothers you, get out of the room. Find something to occupy you in another space and keep creating and doing what makes your own heart sing. I have found peace in my own office at home: I work flexible hours so do work at night when my husband is drinking. And during the weekends. I also listen to relaxing videos and sound bites about Buddhism and being a kinder being, more present to my own needs and those of my kids and family and friends.
Secure your own self-respect. Stand firm. If your partner drinks at the pub every night and does not share parenting or household duties, this is an issue. It is probably wise to get a neutral opinion from a counselor or expert in relationships to assist you. A drinker’s denial is so hard to sidestep! It is not worth fighting about, rather get out and go somewhere else.
If your partner has a problem with alcohol, the truth of the matter is that nothing you can do or say will help your husband or partner get sober for good. There are certain things you can do to help though. These include stopping enabling, start setting boundaries, learn to stay in your own lane, and detach with love.
How do you know that your partner is drinking too much? Every individual can handle a different amount of alcohol. Men can handle more alcohol than women. Every country has safety limits. In South Africa, 1 metric tot is 8,4 g of ethyl alcohol. The average beer contains between 13 – 16 grams of ethyl alcohol. One beer is, therefore, the ± equivalent of a double e.g. brandy. Usually, on any bottle, the % of alcohol is indicated. 10% would imply 10 grams/alcohol per 100 ml of wine.
My partner drinks too much, what should I do? Get help, for you and for him/her.
Follow these useful guidelines:
- Try to talk about it. If your partner denies the issue or disagrees with you, maybe try to meet them halfway in a compromise. Ask them to cut back on their drinking or invite them elsewhere on a Friday night. Move the goalposts, try something new.
- Talk to friends to get different viewpoints.
- Attend an Al-Anon meeting to meet similar people.
- Find peace in your own life UNLESS your drinking partner is violent or disagreeable.
- Read up on your situation:
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