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It’s an extremely difficult situation to find yourself married to an alcoholic. It can be even harder to ask friends or family for advice due to feelings of shame or embarrassment. What should you do if you believe you’re married to someone whose drinking has gotten out of control?

Take Care of Yourself

When you’re married to an alcoholic, life can be a whirlwind of chaos and confusion. You may wonder if today is going to be a “bad day” for your spouse—a day of heavy drinking—or if your partner will behave badly or possibly not come home at all. These uncertainties can create anxiety and sadness for you.

First and foremost, it’s important to try to separate your emotional state from your spouse’s moods and behaviors (which you can’t control, no matter how hard you try) and concentrate more on taking care of yourself. A husband or wife with a drinking problem can become an all-consuming focus, many times at your own expense. You can’t do well at anything—your job, taking care of your children, maintaining the household—if you don’t take care of yourself first.

Don’t Cajole

Trying to convince someone to stop drinking by cajoling or harassing them usually has the opposite effect. Since your spouse has a disorder that affects the way the brain functions, much of the talking that has to do with logic or consequences doesn’t succeed. Using threats with your spouse may work for a little while, but their willingness to change must come from within for it to last. When you’re married to an alcoholic, your partner is on a mission to drink that’s beyond their control.

Don’t Enable

Enabling someone is when you unintentionally help them to continue being an alcoholic. Examples of this are making excuses for your partner’s actions while drinking, buying alcohol for your spouse or drinking with them.

Educate Yourself

Educate yourself by finding out what alcoholism is all about. You’ll learn that alcoholism is a disease, and it needs to be treated like any other chronic disease, like diabetes or asthma. Knowledge is power and the more you understand, the better you’ll be able to cope and make effective decisions.family

Seek Support

When you’re married to an alcoholic, even if your spouse refuses to seek help, you can get help and support on your own. There are groups and meetings you can attend where people much like yourself are dealing with  members who have drinking problems.1 By going to these meetings regularly, you won’t feel isolated. Through talking with others who are dealing with similar situations, you’ll find compassion, while learning different ways to cope from people who understand your living situation.

If You’re Married to an Alcoholic, Family Therapy Can Help

Alcoholism is a family disease that affects everyone in the family. If you find yourself having to deal with your spouse’s drinking problems, family therapy can help. Family therapy is designed to deal with the destructive effects of alcohol abuse by offering support and helping everyone in the family develop healthy coping skills. Family therapy could also motivate your spouse to seek help if they initially refuse treatment.2

Give us a call or come visit our California Outpatient Treatment Center


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26727006
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2651683
How to Handle Being Married to an Alcoholic
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