How to Live with an Alcoholic: Dealing with an Alcoholic Spouse

Last Updated: August 7, 2019

Living With an Alcoholic

Living with an alcoholic is not easy. Usually, the alcoholics’ partners don’t know how to manage to live with an alcoholic spouse. They love their spouses or feel an obligation to support them. Just as they did, when they joined in marriage. Often people stay and suffer silently, hoping for the problem to go away somehow. Unfortunately, that doesn’t lead anywhere. If you do not act, nothing will change, or it will get worse for you and everyone in the family.

The issue is that drugs and alcohol can completely change a person. It all depends on the circumstances.

If the addict recognizes the problem, accepts your aid and deliberately tries to overcome the addiction – they certainly deserve help and support.

But if a person becomes dangerous or violent and does not care about the effect of alcoholism on her or his loved ones – that is another story. That might not be the addiction speaking, but the person. You cannot hold alcohol accountable for everything. Even addicted persons have their sober periods when they can be their true selves. It is in these periods that you need to listen and talk to your partner. Is he or she sensible of the danger or impact of his/her behavior? Does he/she really want to master alcohol addiction and have a fruitful life?

Because you ARE worthy of a better existence than living with an alcoholic, if the alcoholic partner agrees with your views – it is a very encouraging sign. If both of you honestly believe that assistance is needed and possible, you can get it and figure things out. You and your partner have to be conscious that it is not only about her or his alcohol addiction. It is about every person that has to support it: the spouse, family, children, friends, even co-workers, and neighbors. Everyone eventually learns how to deal with an alcoholic.

The problem is that alcohol and drugs can completely change someone. It all depends on the situation.

If the alcoholic acknowledges the problem, asks for help and actively tries to overcome the addiction – of course they deserve support and help.

But if someone becomes violent or dangerous and doesn’t care about the impact of alcoholism on his or her loved ones – that is a different story. That might not be the alcohol speaking, but the person. There are different types of alcoholics, and you cannot blame alcohol for everything. Even addicted people have their sober moments when they can be themselves. It is in these moments that you need to talk and listen to your spouse. Is he or she aware of the impact or danger or his/her behavior? Does he/she truly want to overcome alcohol addiction and have a better life?

Because you DO deserve a better life than living with an alcoholic. If the alcoholic spouse agrees with you – it is a very promising sign. If both of you truly believe that help is needed and possible, you can get the help and work things out. You and your spouse need to be aware that it is not only about his or her alcohol addiction. It is about everyone that has to deal with it: the spouse, children, family, friends. Even neighbors and co-workers.

How to Live With an Alcoholic Partner

There are some ways you can live with an alcoholic partner:

  • Don’t hold yourself accountable.
  • Don’t lie about your spouse’s alcohol issues.
  • Don’t try to control or cure it.
  • Don’t allow abusive behaviors.
  • Don’t do anything that will enable your spouse to drink.

Get assistance and education

You can do two things:

  • Get external assistance. Maybe you are embarrassed by your household situation and sad for your spouse. It is easy to understand that living with an alcoholic is difficult, but shame and sadness will not change anything. Especially since the professionals are not there to judge. Not only are they used in these situations, but they are there to help people get out of them.
  • Educate yourself. Find resources to educate yourself about dealing with an alcoholic. Find books to read, attend meetings, or conferences related to alcoholism and participate. There is a lot of information on the internet too, but be sure you select reliable sources. Learn how to identify and how to deal with alcoholic behaviors
  • Meet people with similar mindsets. Visit Al-Anon Family Groups. These types of support groups are aimed at people whose friends or family members are alcoholics. It is a great way to meet people in situations similar to yours, to share your experiences and volunteer advice for each other.


Let’s state it again: you and yours are worthy of more than living with an alcoholic in a toxic environment. That is not the reason of family or marriage. If there is no benevolence from the addict, there is nothing more you can do. You cannot change a person different against their will. If someone is a threat to your physical well-being, you and especially your children should relocate to a safe environment.

You might ponder: what if my partner gets aggressive while involved in binge drinking but regrets it in their sober moments?

Well, moving out of the household does not necessarily mean burning all the bridges. If the individual is dangerous to you and shows no tendency to cooperate, then it is a matter of protection to move. Even though leaving is a difficult step, it’s necessary when dealing with an alcoholic wife or husband.

The fact is, most alcoholics are better suited to handle their life than they (and you) think, especially when speaking about the functional alcoholism. Living in a household where their sober partner takes over all duties keeps the alcoholic in a passive stance. Most of the time, this becomes a vicious circle, where the alcoholic’s spouse begins to keep control and take responsibility for the alcoholic boyfriend or girlfriend. That might seem like caring for them, but in fact, it puts the addict in a position of powerlessness. He or she might simply blame the alcohol for their shortage of willpower.

Should I leave my alcoholic partner?

Living with an addict on the final stages of alcoholism and be dangerous. If an alcoholic is a danger to you and your children’s safety, it is firmly advised that you relocate to a safe environment. By doing this, you are helping them take responsibility for their actions as well, and alert your spouse that they need to change. If you’re wondering how to approach an alcoholic that has violent tendencies, this is the way to do it.

Sometimes the first solution to break that vicious circle is to leave the household. Don’t be afraid: it does not imply abandoning the spouse. However, it means that the addict now has the best chance to relearn living on her/his own. The idea is to make the alcoholic person comprehend that you fully intend to live your own, independent adult life. Naturally, you can check in on him/her and help in various ways.

Similar to any addiction recovery, this process will take some time – maybe months or even years. It now depends on the alcoholic’s character, personality, and choices. You will also have to learn how to help an alcoholic that doesn’t want help to speed up things

Living With An Alcoholic Partner – What Not To Do

Every individual and every case are unique, so there is no general directive on how to deal with living with an alcoholic loved one. It is a lengthy process, and you will have to learn to adapt to different changes. You will need to alter your attitude and perspective.


What Not To Do

Here are some actions you should do, and some that you should AVOID doing. Read them several times if needed, or print them out.

Don’t beat yourself up

Alcoholics generally try to blame their drinking on circumstances or other people. Since you are the closest, you will probably get the most attacks. Whenever your addicted partner tries to blame you as the reason he/she drinks – don’t believe it. Each person has problems, but not everyone becomes an alcoholic. And this happens because alcoholism is an addiction. Your alcohol-dependent partner probably regrets his/her drinking too and might try to find any excuse for it. Just to make them feel better. This is why many women have problems learning how to deal with husband addiction.

Keep in mind that unless you are actively forcing someone to drink, YOU ARE NOT ACCOUNTABLE FOR THEIR DRINKING.

Do not cover for it

You might feel embarrassed about your spouse or your situation. You might not know how to deal with an alcoholic son. But lying about or hiding your spouse’s alcohol problem is not making it better. It is assisting the denial. It is your life, be true to it. Masking it from the outside world won’t do anything but help you create a safe environment for the alcoholic to continue indulging in drinks. To a certain extent, this makes you seem approving of the drinking. It’s important that you realize lying is not a solution when you’re learning how to deal with alcoholic husband or wife.

Do not try to contain or to cure it

You or other family members or friends might be tempted to try every single thing you can to stop your partner from drinking. You might throw out or keep the alcohol out of sight to remove the possible alcohol relapse triggers, or you discipline him/her for drinking.

But negative stimulants or punishments will not determine the alcoholic to stop. Worse, he/she will probably feel humiliated, frustrated, resentful, angry, and lonely. They will find themselves feeling even worse, and that gives them another reason to drink.

You also need to understand that alcohol withdrawal effects can be very dangerous, so you should never try to put your alcoholic partner through detoxification by yourself. That needs to happen in a medical setting.

Alcoholism is a major disease, and you cannot contain it if your partner doesn’t want to. Get professional assistance instead. But ultimately, the alcoholic will decide whether he/she accepts the help or not.

Do not consent inadmissible behavior

People do and say random things under the influence of alcohol. However, that should not be an excuse for it. When you are living with an alcoholic, you need to clearly express yourself if behavior was inadmissible for you. Offensive behavior is not acceptable sober, nor is it tolerable when being intoxicated. Be unyielding about that. Otherwise, you will find yourself in a toxic and abusive relationship.

Do not enable the drinking

You might be wondering: how can I enable my spouse’s drinking if I’m the one suffering from it? Well, when you’re living with an alcoholic, there are some ways you can do it without knowing.

  • Negating the problem. If you refuse to talk about having a problem with your partner’s drinking, or if you accept his/her unacceptable behavior, you tacitly approve of it.
  • Masking it from others. Lying for an addict makes you an accomplice in his/her eyes. It also delivers a message of approving and understanding, as weird as it sounds. Unfortunately, this often happens when someone is living with a recovering alcoholic.
  • Lending a hand. Do not purchase alcohol or have drinks with alcoholics. Don’t take responsibility for their behavior. If they do something bad because of drinking, allow them to manage it themselves when they sober up. Otherwise, you eliminate their opportunities to accept full responsibility for their drinking.

And What Should You Do With An Alcoholic Partner?


What To Do

Care for yourself

You should care for yourself. It is uncertain how much you can help with your partner’s alcohol recovery. You already discovered that your husband is alcoholic, you might have even offered help and was refused. So focus on what you can do for yourself instead.

Don’t let someone’s problem dictate your life, even if it’s your partner. Pay attention to your own mental and physical well-being. Besides, you might encourage your wife or husband to act similarly.

And if it gets unsafe, if your drinking wife or husband physically or emotionally abuses you or your children – it’s high time you left. Consider your children’s and your safety first.

What are the support groups for partners of alcoholics?

There are support groups for families or friends of alcoholics. They are called Al-Anon Groups. By joining these groups, you will encounter people who are having similar struggles with their alcoholic family members. You will obtain the support you need to help you cope with your problems.

Live in the present

You married a wonderful person, and you keep remembering the golden days instead of realizing that you’re living with an alcoholic. But that doesn’t do anything but distract you from real life. You have a real problem here and now. Don’t reject the beautiful memories, but don’t allow them to distract you from reality.

Likewise, there is no point in complaining about poor choices and disappointments. Pay attention to what you can do NOW. You can still manage life after leaving an alcoholic.

Get help quickly

You can offer your alcoholic partner help, like finding treatment programs in the alcohol treatment center. But if your spouse does not accept yours or anyone else’s help – do something for yourself.

Support groups for friends and families of alcoholics exist; they are called AI-Anon Groups. You will encounter people that accept and support you. You will find out that you can survive your problems and that you don’t have to keep living with an alcoholic without help.

There is a wide range of alcoholism treatment methods as well. There is always a choice between inpatient or outpatient rehabs, individual or group counseling, holistic and traditional methods.


Marixie Ann Manarang-Obsioma

Content Writer

Marixie Ann Manarang-Obsioma is a licensed Medical Technologist (Medical Laboratory Science) and an undergraduate of Doctor of Medicine (MD). She took her Bachelor’s Degree in Medical Technology at Angeles University Foundation and graduated with flying colors.

The combination of having a good medical background, being a mom, and wanting to help people, especially the elderly has cultivated her passion for working in remote areas with love and compassion.
Marixie likes to travel, read, and watch movies.

Medical review by Brian Obodeze

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  • This is a good read when you are hiding in the attic from your spouse who is looking to cause more pain in the relationship because he is drunk again. Mental emotional and physical abuse are the setting of the night .so I hide
    • OMG… I am so sorry you have to live this way !!! You hide from him due to his Alcoholic Hyde Changing !!! When he is not with you he is Dr. Jekyll to everyone else. Once he is in your presence he turns into Hyde !! I know, I have been there too ! Please stay with Family or Friends when he gets like this !! Do you go to Al Anon? If you do not yet, I suggest you give it a try.. Someone there may be able to direct you to get help for yourself so you can make a clean exit from this madman !! Loretta be good to yourself ! You deserve better than hiding in the Attic ! Call the above number 1-866-520-2708 they can assist you !
  • I have love my brothers so much! One is alcoholic and other was drugs addicted and there no joy in them when I’m in Joy Spirit!
  • My shifts are usually long. Today being a holiday I had a short shift. I have been looking for things to do to keep from going “home” where he is. I just want him to leave me alone. I’m tired of the abuse. He says I’m abusing him by not feeding his alcohol and nicotine addiction. It’s scary. He tells his family his problem is my fault.
    • To Wandering but not lost, He sounds like he is a Narcissist ! If you are married just like I am to an Alcoholic, we tend to enable them and not realize it !! Alcoholics’ whether they are Men or Women tend to look for those of us that are kind, giving & loving. They use us to take care of their needs and have no empathy towards our own. I have been there too not wanting to face him when he comes home drunk !! I have been interviewing Attorneys’ in my area. I will not stop until I find the right one ! It’s time for Me to kick him to the curb where he belongs ! How about You ?
  • My boyfriend is fine with a few drinks but drinks too much and becomes verbally abusive . I don’t make enough to live on my own. I hate living in his world. He isolates me from friends and I never know what mood he will be in. He has PTSD and was in the military so at the same time I make excuses because he is a good man deep down and takes care of me. I’m stuck. I love him but I can’t live like this and I feel like if I’m not there to help him he won’t have anything good in his life.
    • (Jamie You Are Not Married Yet !!!!!!!) You have chosen this site because you feel trapped . Do what you have to do to become more independent !!! I had no idea mine was an alcoholic until I found a bottle of Rum in his closet 3 yrs after we were married. (On the Road to DIVORCE now !) I wish P would have given me signs like your boy friend had before we got married !! (I would have hit the ground running away !!!) It is a Hell Ride ! (Meaning YOU will do everything for the Alcoholic and in turn (THEY )will do nothing for You but verbal & physical abuse you!) My spouse would go to the ATM Machine constantly withdrawing money from our joint account to feed his addiction. #1 Priority :Bacardi Rum and his rump on a bar stool 7 days a week ! If you marry this boyfriend you will end up going to Al Anon ! You are already mentally, physically & emotionally drained already because You wrote, “I can’t live like this !” He is giving you signs already of what he is like!!!! You cannot change him !! Believe me they get worse as days, months, and years go by ! (You are only stuck if you want to be.) “YOU are WORTH IT” to be with a Kind, Loving & Gentle Man !! Please look for that kind of Man !! Don’t end up like all of us in “Al Anon” that are bitter, older and now with regrets “BECAUSE WE STAYED THINKING THEY WILL CHANGE !!!”
  • My uncle has been an alcoholic for years but it has gotten worse year by year and he causes so many fights with our family and lost his job as a parametric because of drinking. And I just don’t know what to do because no one else has taken any actions.
  • The worst part is the anger. The more they hate themselves, and they do, the more they blame you! The abuse is horrible to say the least. Binge drinking for sometimes weeks at a time. And the worst are the enablers. She is down to just a few friends after being one of the most popular people I have ever know. Now she get with the two or three drinking friends she has left and they become the mens hatters club. Ones husband just left her the other is threatening to leave her husband. When they drink together they reinforce the belief that they don’t have a problem, and that its is everyone else’s fault. 15 years of ruined b-days, Christmas’s, Thanksgiving, drunk at kids sporting events, other parents telling me that they will not allow her to drive their kids, voluntary breathalyzer in her car,DUI’s, and accidents. This just part of it. In my opinion it’s the worst possible thing that can happen to a person and a family.
  • My circumstances are slightly different!, I’m terrified something horrible will happen to my wife if I’m not there to look after her when she’s been drinking how could I live with my self if I abandon her to this horrible illness
  • I have been enabling my wife to drink. By buying the alcohol. I dont want to anymore but if I dont then that opens a shitstorm of things. Recently I have been yelled at more than talked to and I dont know what to do. For small things, things that dont make sense or she thinks I do things on purpose to affect her! She is ruining her life and doesnt care. She threatens my job so I feel controlled now and cant leave. I love her and want to be with her but not like this. She is great when she is sober and happy, but these days she is just upset and angry. I know some of it is between us but there are a lot of other factors in play. So I dont want to blame her or myself completely. What do I do? I will be crucified if I ask for any help so I am doing this Anonymously
    • She has a choice to drink, you have a choice to stay with her. Get everything ready to leave her wait till she is sober. Tell her you love her, and you respect her choice to drink it’s her right to do what she wants, but you also have a choice not to be with her any longer. She make lot of excuses and say she can do this or that you have no right to complain about it. Just reply your not complaining your making a choice to no longer live with someone who chooses to drink heavily. You might be surprised my guess is you have enabled her by not leaving. She has to be the one to decide not to drink any longer you have no say in it. Your only choice to stay or leave her.
  • Wife been a heavy drinker for last 30 years we met 15 years ago. Last year she ended up in the hospital with DT’s after heavy drinking over the weekend had an issue at work. I was shocked to find the Rehab industry is all about making money. I called a few to find out some information all they wanted was my insurance once they found out how much they could extract they kept calling me. I told them she went to AA cost nothing. Rehabs buy tract homes and pack them with people mostly operated by people who were past drug abusers not qualified professionals. It’s no wonder people are right back at it when they get out of rehab the entire system is a joke. If your taking care of a drunk divorce them if they won’t quit. Drinking doing drugs is their choice but you have a choice to stay with them or not.
  • It’s a progressive problem, gets worse as time goes on. When a person parties in their 20’s, it’s one thing, but add 25 more years and watch out! Non-stop alcohol floating through my husband’s veins for that long. I told him I don’t mind a glass of wine randomly but I’m not a drinker. He continues to try and make me. I said no. He gradually got meaner and meaner. More aggressive. I was protecting my kids because the courts around here hand over the kids to the alcoholic parent many times when they can behave for short spurts. No way was that happening. They would never be stuck with him and I have no say. To make a long story short, after all of the “trying to help”, begging, pleading, crying, educating, leading by example, yada yada yada. . the ONLY thing that sobered him was me telling him in the most calm, serious manner to come home during the day while the kids are at school and pack his stuff. I wasn’t dealing with him not one more day, no more slurring at the dinner table and he’ll never, ever, ever raise his voice at me and point in my face. I packed his alcohol and told him to take it all with him and get out adn I didn’t care where he goes, what he drinks, who he screws or whatever but he just couldn’t stay here and to leave us alone, we will be happier living anywhere but with him. He begged me to work with him. I said no, what did I do when I tried? He said he would yell at me and walk away. I told him our boys deserve a better role model, a better man in their life to teach them and I deserve to take care of me. He got all alcohol out of the house and immediately got into counseling. I told him he had to go. I’m over it and meant it 150%! He changed in an instant! How about that? He went from a nasty, bullying drunk to crying and begging. I didn’t care anymore. It was like a check list that day; laundry. . check, bills. . . check, kick his drunk ass out.. . . . check! I had no emotions about it. That’s how numb I became to him. After drinking for well over 20 yrs that I knew him, he was able to stop when he had no other choice. Sad, the damage is done though. I have no feelings for him. So, sometimes it takes to kick the drunk out. I was looking forward to him getting out and having peace because that’s how far beyond I was. I will say that I grew the biggest set of . . well, not sure what to call them, but I had an awakening and will never allow anyone to bring their poison around me like that ever again. Good luck to all dealing with this. You will feel the weight of the world lifted off you once you tell them to leave and actually mean it. The battle is within them and you deserve better. Remember, any addict is VERY manipulative!
  • My husband drinks and than gets angry at me. The kids see this. Should I leave him? I have no where to go.
  • I’m a victim of physical abuse and verbal abuse. I have just recently moved me my 2 babies and my disabled mom out of the home that we shared with my husband. He gets very dangerous when he is intoxicated he’s very controlling. I have tried to help him in multiple ways and he refuses to get help to get the family back together.
  • Thank-you for your article. It is informative and hits home in some mentioned examples. Currently, myself, 19 and 15 year old daughters do a similar thing as the recent poster stated. We go to our rooms while my husband blares the music, or tv during drinking. While a social and intelligent person, his melancholy, needy self leaves a very oppressed environment for the rest of the family. HFA is the perfect description. There are 1-2 non-alcohol evenings, the rest are generally times where he is not able to stop with one or two. The complaints of having to be the bread-winner, or my inadequacies as a wife are constantly mentioned. He has actually gone without alcohol for 30 days. I was hopeful the attempt would give him a new perspective of not needing it. It did not. His excuse for drinking is stress. If I were, as many, financially free to exit, I would. I feel as though my daughters and myself, husband too are being cheated with the distractions of all stressors alcohol causes. Definitely does not promote a happy environment. Even with “normal days,” it is a cycle.
  • My husband is 68 and he drinks every single day a bottle and a half of wine. Usually starts at 12 pm…I am working, he is retired. He has clinical depression and a lot of health issues, which do not allow drinking. Sometimes antidepression medication mixed with alcohol make him agressive. I don ‘ t know what to do. He will not survive without me. I tried to talk, no help.
  • My wife gets drunk frequently at home and insults me hits me and is threatening. I don’t know why I stay, I stopped drinking for the most part so she doesn’t have a drinking buddy but I cant do this anymore . I don’t know why I don’t leave
  • I’m living with an alcoholic & am stuck for a while financially before I can get out. It sucks because they are extremely moody & put you down all the time. I can’t tell my family because the only places I could go live would mean giving up my precious cat. I’ve been working on a plan to get out within 6 months because him or his family won’t admit there’s a problem. I pray daily because of the verbal abuse. I’ve never been with an alcoholic before and didn’t see the signs until I was stuck here with him & no family around. I pray daily & when I do get to move out I will Never look back!! This has ended my urge to ever date again! I’m going to make it on my own by the grace of God! If your in a relationship like this plan & get out if they refuse help!! No way to live!!
    • I’m feeling so empty, reading all these accounts are like reading about my life day in day out. Stuck in lockdown with someone who just won’t stop drinking. He lost his job last summer and is yet to go back, I’m incapacitated at the moment after a fall 5 weeks ago so am dependent on him. He’s even started taking my painkillers for my long term health condition from me to help him sleep.I have a broken foot and arthritis but he still took them. He argues about everything. Lies to me continuously and has done for years; is spending money we don’t have on cigarettes and alcohol and then checking my weekly shopping bill taking things out that he doesn’t think we need. To everyone outside the home he’s wonderful seems like a genuine guy but to me and the children he’s hurtful, spiteful and unpredictable. He has 1 maybe 2 coffees before he starts drinking now at 1pm until bedtime becoming more aggressive as the day goes. My children love him dearly but despise how he treats me. I believed he was my soulmate after the breakdown of my first marriage but he has lied and literally gambled all my inheritance and family security (equity) away without ever listening to me. The more money he lost the more sneaky and secretive he got until he moved it to an account I couldn’t access then he’d lie about what was left until one day he admitted it was all gone. I can’t live like this anymore; I’m devastated that my younger children now have to experience the pain of a parental separation as my older children did as I know the pain and guilt they will feel (even though it’s not them) but I just can’t let this be their life anymore or mine. I will never give myself to someone again.