Alcoholism In Marriage

By Kayla Loibl | Last Edited: October 05, 2020 | 4 Sources

Dealing With An Alcoholic Spouse
Effects On A Marriage

It’s tough to cope with alcoholism in marriage and difficult to deal with an alcoholic spouse.

Not surprisingly, studies show that alcoholics have shorter marriages than people that don’t have addictions to alcohol. Those marriages may be less happy and more troubled than marriages not affected by alcoholism, as well, although of course there are many other things that affect the happiness and success of a marriage, not just the drinking habits of spouses.

Free Expert Advice 


Free Expert Advice 


Effects of Alcoholism in Marriage

Alcoholism in Marriage

According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, some common effects of alcoholism in marriage include:

  • Lack of effective communication skills
  • Frequent disagreements or arguments
  • Broken promises, lies, and lack of follow through with commitments on the part of the spouse with the drinking problem
  • Jealousy on the part of the alcoholic spouse
  • Infidelity (on the part of either spouse)
  • Sexual problems
  • Lack of involvement in family activities on the part of the spouse with the drinking problem (such as not helping with household chores, not joining the family for meals, missing important family gatherings like birthdays, etc.)
  • Financial problems
  • Legal problems that impact the relationship
  • Domestic violence (initiated by the spouse with the drinking problem)
  • Disagreements related to parenting or poor relationships between the spouse with the drinking problem and any children)
  • Separation or divorce

Family members of alcoholics may experience significant levels of stress, anxiety, and depression, too.

How Do You Deal with an Alcoholic Spouse?

Please note that, while here we refer to the alcoholic as “he,” women are sometimes alcoholics, too, and their drinking can affect a marriage as much as a man’s drinking can. It’s just easier to read information if we use one pronoun instead of saying “he or she” over and over again.

Dealing with a spouse with a drinking problem is stressful. It’s important to understand that you cannot make your spouse stop drinking. You can’t make him get help. There are things you can do to help and support him, but in the end, he is the only one that can control his behavior.

  • Don’t try to talk to him about his drinking when he’s drunk or hung over. Wait until he’s sober.
  • Don’t cover for him (enabling an alcoholic). That means don’t call his boss with an excuse if he is too hung over to go to work, don’t make excuses about his drinking to his friends or family members, and don’t bail him out of jail if he gets arrested while intoxicated. Let him deal with the consequences of his own behavior.
  • Be honest about how his behavior affects you and the rest of the family.
  • Let him know what the consequences of alcoholism in marriage will be if he continues drinking or refuses to get help for his drinking, but don’t make threats you won’t keep. For instance, don’t tell him you’ll take the children and move out unless you really mean it.
  • Tell him you want him to seek help for his drinking but don’t nag him about it and don’t try to do it for him. For instance, let him make an appointment to see his doctor or let him make some phone calls to find out where the local Alcoholics Anonymous meetings are; don’t try to do all the work for him. Let it be his responsibility.
  • Get help and support for yourself. Attend Al-Anon meetings for family members of alcoholics. Consider seeing a professional counselor. You can’t control what your spouse does but you can control what you do.

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Lead Writer/Reviewer : Kayla Loibl

Licensed Medical Health Professional 


I am a Mental Health Counselor who is licensed in both New York (LMHC) and North Carolina (LCMHC). I have been working in the Mental Health field since 2015. I have worked in a residential setting, an outpatient program and an inpatient addictions program. I began working in Long Island, NY and then in Guelph, Ontario after moving to Canada. Read More

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