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When Your Partner is an Alcoholic

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When you’ve known your partner to be someone who enjoys a few drinks now and then, even in your company, it can be difficult to face that there might be an underlying problem.

Identifying whether or not your loved one has crossed the line and ventured into alcohol abuse can be the most challenging thing you face in a relationship – but it’s also a necessary battle. Read on to learn about the warning signs of alcoholism and how to cope with an alcoholic relationship:

Recognizing Warning Signs

There are several signs you should watch out for if you suspect that your partner is an alcoholic. Healthline lists these symptoms, which includes a strong desire to drink, not being able to stop drinking, high tolerance for alcohol, lying about drinking and trying to drink without others knowing. An infographic here on Recovery Connection gives a more in-depth view on alcoholism in relationships by listing down specific questions to ask yourself. For instance, is your relationship suffering due to your partner’s drinking habits? Can your partner walk away from an unfinished drink? Does he or she often blackout when drinking? These are all key points you should consider when thinking about your relationship.

Physical symptoms are observable when your partner doesn’t have access to alcohol, as withdrawal signs like nausea and shaking become apparent. Additionally, alcoholism can have dire consequences on someone’s mental state. If your partner starts to experience anxiety or depression, these are most likely related to his or her drinking habits. In fact, the American Psychological Association reveals that there is a direct link between alcoholism and depression, with the presence of one disorder increasing the risk of the other. This is bad news for the 18 million Americans who abuse alcohol, or are chronic alcoholics, as one’s mental state can greatly affect their quality of life and how they function both at home and at work. Maryville University highlight newfound connections between mental health and the ability to fulfill workplace objectives, showing how a poor state of mind can affect an individual’s career. This overlaps with an alcoholic’s tendency to neglect responsibilities in favor of drinking. Poor performance at work and self-destructive behavior are key symptoms of this.

Things to Remind Yourself

Once you’ve recognized these symptoms, it’s critical that you and your partner seek help from a professional. As you navigate the winding road to recovery, prepare for new problems to arise. Here are some important things to keep in mind during this time in your relationship:

Be firm with your boundaries

Expect an alcoholic to make a lot of promises about his or her actions, and expect your partner to break several of these promises over the course of their recovery. While it may be tempting to give in to their repeated apologies and promises of never drinking too much again, being firm with your boundaries will help both you and your partner in the long run. Whether it’s not allowing them to be around you when they’re drunk, to kicking them out if they endanger you or someone else — draw the line and respect it.

Don’t get tricked into arguing

Alcoholics can come up with illogical excuses about their abuse. When your partner sees that you are actively pushing them to change, it may cause an argumentative and manipulative side to come out. Don’t get tricked into arguing with them in this state, as it will only result in frustration and anger. Instead, opt to walk away and completely shut them down when they try to bait you into these fights. Most importantly, learn to spot physical and emotional abuse and immediately call for help when they occur.

You can’t fix your partner

It’s common for the non-alcoholic partner to feel some sort of guilt or responsibility for the alcoholic’s actions. After all, you must be doing something wrong if their condition doesn’t improve or gets worse. When you catch yourself thinking these thoughts, try your best to snap out of the self-blame. Remember that it is not your fault that your partner drinks and acts the way he or she does. Alcoholics are going to drink no matter what those around them do or say and it’s not up to you to stop or control these actions.

Avoid turning into an enabler

While you can’t fix your partner’s abuse, a key part of their recovery is your refusal to be an enabler. Don’t mistake enabling for loving or caring. For example, driving them home and putting them to bed after another night of heavy drinking prevents them from facing the consequences of their actions. Avoid turning into an enabler by allowing your partner to feel all the hurt their alcoholism brings, as opposed to just receiving all the pain yourself out of a warped version of love.

All in all, being in a relationship with an alcoholic partner is a uniquely trying experience that can leave both parties mentally and physically damaged. If you find yourself in this situation, it can often feel like there’s no escape or end to the abuse — remind yourself the opposite is true. You have no obligation to stay with or fix an alcoholic partner, and it is perfectly fine to prioritize yourself, your children, and your loved ones. By seeking support from your family, friends, and a professional, you can successfully break away from a relationship with an alcoholic. When your own painful recovery begins, hold onto the fact that the hardest part is over, and the real healing can finally begin.

  • Avatar
    Isabelle Lyons

    Counselor

    Isabelle Lyons is a counselor and mental health advocate who is dedicated to helping victims of abuse. She spends most of her free time researching and writing about the mental effects of abusive relationships. When she's not working on a new piece, you'll find her meditating at the local park with her labrador, Yogi.

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