8 Minutes

Edited & clinically reviewed by THE BALANCE Team
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If you are living with an alcoholic partner, it is not wrong to assume that your life is full of challenges and hardships. You might be exhausted from picking up more responsibilities, frustrated about your living situation, or even afraid for your safety and that of others in the house.

Dealing with an alcoholic partner can significantly impact an individual’s life. In this article, we will look at the challenges faced by individuals living with an alcoholic, the do’s and don’ts of living with them, and the treatments available to help such people recover.

Living with an alcoholic comes with multiple challenges and difficulties. These challenges often vary depending on the severity of the situation and the people involved. However, evidence has also found many commonalities in terms of the financial, social, physical, and emotional hardships faced by the loved ones of an alcoholic, such as:

  • Experiencing anxiety
  • Developing feelings of frustration
  • Feeling mentally disturbed
  • Displacing the high frustration levels on children
  • Ignoring the needs of other family members, including children
  • Feeling ashamed around others
  • Neglecting their health
  • Insomnia
  • Physical harm
  • Financial difficulties
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Reduced socialization

While most of the issues faced by spouses of an alcoholic are emotional, the addiction can significantly impact other aspects of life. Such people are also at an increased risk of facing violence or assault at the hands of their alcoholic partners. Being unsatisfied in relationships also acts as a trigger for violence.

Alcohol use disorder is a chronic medical condition marked by an inability to control or stop drinking despite the severe social, professional, or health consequences. The impact of this disorder is not always limited to the primary individual suffering from it. It is widespread and may negatively affect their families, colleagues, friends, and other loved ones around them.

Living with someone with alcohol addiction is never easy as it can easily trigger feelings of self-blame or an urge to control their drinking habit. The following three experiences are commonly reported by almost all partners living with an alcoholic individual:


Many partners start blaming themselves for their partner’s issues with alcohol. Instead of doing it, remember that your partner is solely responsible for how they regulate their emotions and seek recovery. Like any other chronic medical condition, alcohol addiction has several contributing factors.

Controlling their drinking

It is common to attempt to control your partner’s heavy drinking. Many people obsessively monitor their drinks count and keep tabs on their whereabouts. They also lecture them all the time and even forbid them from drinking. Whatever attitude you practice, remember that it is impossible to make a difference with this mindset. You did not cause it and cannot cure or control it.

Being an enabler

Enabling is a behavior adopted to cover your loved one’s odd behavior. For example, a spouse of an alcoholic may call their boss to tell them that they are sick when they are just intoxicated or going through a hangover. Such enabling attitudes may temporarily bail your loved ones out of difficult situations; however, they may do more harm than good in the long run. Hence, instead of enabling your alcoholic partner, learn how to say no and set healthy boundaries.

As a partner of an alcoholic individual, life can be emotionally and physically draining. Learning how to deal with an alcoholic spouse while looking after your health is indeed stressful and challenging but not impossible. In most cases, the spouses of such individuals require extra support to manage their everyday affairs. To make life easier, keep the following list of do’s in mind:

Do maintain a level of normalcy throughout your days. Make a family routine and stick to it. Wake up at a fixed time, have three proper meals, relax and enjoy your day, and go to bed at the same time every day.

Remember to focus on yourself and everyone else who seems to be affected by your alcoholic spouse. This must be the priority of everyone directly dealing with an alcoholic for their own mental and physical health.

Do learn when and how to step back. While this might be difficult, stepping up for your spouse and trying to save them every time they get into an incident or an issue will only worsen their addiction. Sometimes, all it takes is a crisis to happen for such addicts to recognize how badly they need to change.

Do look for external support. It is imperative to find people who listen and support you. You may find support in other family members, friends, or colleagues at work. Consider joining a support group if you cannot find trustworthy people around you. These support groups help you connect with people undergoing similar experiences with their family members for support and advice. Additionally, there is plenty of professional help for spouse of alcoholic individuals available at mental health clinics and therapy centers.

While you put your efforts and struggles into accomplishing the tasks mentioned above, keep in mind the following list of don’ts at the same time:

  • Don’t give up. Remember that you are not alone in this situation; there is still time to handle it before things get worse. There are people around you who care for you and are ready to support you to make things better.
  • Don’t waste your energy and time trying to stop or control your spouse’s drinking. While this can be tough as you care for your partner, it is essential to keep in mind that you cannot control their drinking habit, and it’s doubtful that you will ever be able to change it. Moreover, withdrawing from alcohol on your own can be extremely dangerous. Professional help is always available for quitting alcohol safely, so encourage them to seek specialist treatment at a rehab instead of taking charge yourself.
  • Don’t spend your energy or effort on covering up for your alcoholic spouse. While such people do not want other people to know about their drinking problem, it is not your responsibility to always support their secret.
  • Don’t be in a position where you risk your own physical or emotional safety. Look for immediate professional help and support instead of trying to handle the situation yourself.

A part of dealing with a drunk spouse is to help them get the treatment they need. Multiple rehabilitation centers are working worldwide to offer necessary treatments for alcohol addiction. The programs offered as a part of alcohol addiction treatment usually include the following:

  • A pre-admission assessment to analyze the situation and evaluate the intensity and severity of the problem
  • A tour of the facility, giving the clients a chance to look around and get their questions answered
  • Formulation of a care plan, including the best approach for treatment and recovery based on the pre-admission assessments and checks
  • A medically-assisted detox process to cleanse the body from all alcohol residues in a safe and effective way
  • A residential or outpatient program, depending on client needs that include one-on-one therapy, support groups, workshops, medications, and seminars to support recovery
  • Aftercare programs to help clients practice a sober life for years to come with continued support and care

Taking care of yourself is equally important when you are living with someone with an alcohol use disorder. Although it may feel counterintuitive to focus on your health and wellbeing first while your partner shows problematic behaviors, tending to your needs is critical before you can take any steps to support your spouse.



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