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

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.

Speak with a treatment specialist. Call 24/7



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