Are You Dating an Alcoholic? Signs and How to Help

Medically Reviewed By Kayla Loibl | Last Edited : November 22, 
| 4 Sources

Dating a Recovering Alcoholic
Alcoholic Boyfriend

Dating an alcoholic is never easy, and it would almost always take you by surprise.  You’ve begun dating someone new and like how charming and smart they appear.

The first few dates go well; you meet for a drink, get drunk, talk as if you’ve known each other a lifetime, you laugh at each other’s jokes and everything seems to be going just fine.

Eventually you begin to wonder about your date’s drinking, you always seem to meet in bars and a lot of alcohol is consumed. While it may be fun now, it is getting worrying....when will it slow down.

You start to wonder whether your date has a drinking problem or worse, is an alcoholic. Is your date's behavior a sign of alcoholism? Unfortunately, alcoholism effects approximately 14.1 million adults in the United States alone.

These are understandable concerns. Being in a relationship with an alcoholic can be challenging, and dating an alcoholic for some is not a good fit. It is better to know before you get too involved, whether your prospective partner is physical dependent on alcohol.

There are several factors that you should consider regarding your partners drinking. Are they currently in denial about their drinking behaviors? If so, this could be a tumultuous relationship until they are ready to make some healthy changes in their life. Or is your partner at a place of change? While this could still be a challenge, there may be some more hope for this relationship.

Signs That You May be Dating an Alcoholic

If you think that you may be dating an alcoholic then there are certain signs or “red flags” that you can pick up on within their behaviors.

It is important to note that the presence of these signs do not necessarily mean your dating an alcoholic. They are however, indicators that your partner most likely has a problem with drinking and may well be alcohol dependent. Here are some signs that your partner may be an alcoholic:

· Your date makes excuses to drink - good news, bad news, indifferent news, your one month anniversary etc.- anything is a reason to drink.

· Your date only wants to go where it is possible to drink. Parties, bars, friends’ homes, restaurants etc. are O.K. Locations such as the outdoors and the cinemas are often avoided.

· Your date has a high tolerance to alcohol. You would notice that the level of impairment that you see does not match what you would expect for the amount of alcohol that they consumed. With a tolerance to alcohol, a larger quantity of alcohol is needed to have the same effect.

· Your date becomes very defensive when questioned about their drinking habits. Often they will become verbally aggressive and sometimes physically aggressive. They could also show signs of denial, simply meaning they do not see the negative impact that their drinking behaviors have had. Their drinking could impact their previous relationships, their standing at work or other important relationships.

· Your date often smells of alcohol when you meet. This is because they are probably drinking BEFORE they go out on a date with you.

· Your date suffers from mood swings. Usually an alcoholic is cheerful, talkative and affectionate when drink is at hand. If there is no drink available they are tense and preoccupied. Their preoccupation is often regarding when and how they will have their next drink.

These are just some of the signs that your date may be alcoholic. You will find more at the ten warning signs of alcoholism and at alcoholic behavior. A good rule of thumb is to listen to your instincts, you will likely notice behaviors or comments that are unexpected.

What Can I do If I Suspect I am Dating an Alcoholic?

Many would suggest that you avoid relationships with individual who is an alcoholic. However, thinking that “running” from such a relationship is the only option is an example of black and white thinking which can be unhelpful.

Some feel that getting involved with an alcoholic will always end in tears. Because the alcoholic already has a date and its name is alcohol. And, unfortunately for you, alcohol is the focus for an alcoholic.

If you are dating a person who is in denial and not ready to make changes, it is likely that you will come second to alcohol. The reason for this is their preoccupation with drinking as well as cravings for alcohol.

As noted above, it may not be as simple as not dating an alcoholic, as many people fall for alcoholics. It can be very hard, especially at the beginning of a relationship, as well as to leave someone you really care for, even love because he/she has a drinking problem.

It can be easy to minimize or brush under the rug warning signs that you may be recognizing. Try to be mindful of this, as it can lead to additional troubles.

An additional challenge that some face if believing that they can help their partner stop drinking and live a healthy and sober life. While this is a beautiful idea, the harsh reality is that we cannot make anyone do something that they do not want.

This can be especially true for alcoholics. An alcoholic will never stop drinking unless he or she wants to, no matter how much they profess their love to you.

If you do decide to continue dating an alcoholic then it is important to set boundaries. These are behaviors that you will not accept from your date. Tell your date what you expect from him/her (in a moment of sobriety) and the consequences if the behavior is not followed. It is very important that you do not enable your alcoholic boyfriend or girlfriend.

The situation could be quite different if the alcoholic finds themselves wanting to change. Early recovery has its own challenges, however it is possible that things could get easier. Again, the most important factor would be their desire to change. Without an internal motivation, a healthy and lasting recovery will be impossible.

Some other options include having dates that do not include alcohol or commit to drinking responsibly. 

dating-an-alcoholicPhoto by Andrea Piacquadio

If you or someone close to you wants help and advice on quitting drinking then take a look at the following pages:


Trying to Help the Alcoholic you Date

If the person that you are dating is showing signs of denial, trying to point out problematic drinking behaviors will likely lead to conflict. The alcoholic can become defensive, and will likely not hear the message you’re trying to make. At the same time, you do not want to enable their behavior as this would contribute to them falling deeper into addiction.

All you can do is inform them about alcoholism (why not direct them to the alcoholism guide), tell them how you feel about their drinking and then let them do what they will with the information.

Should your partner be aware of their drinking concerns, and have a desire to stop drinking, you can support them in their recovery. This could be listening to their struggles, helping them find treatment options, and understanding the role that support groups could play in their recovery.

An additional option would be to educate yourself. Take time to learn about the disease of addiction, the biological effects of alcoholism, common behaviors of alcoholics, the recovery process and relapses. Alanon meetings are a resource for individuals who have a loved one who is an alcoholic that may be helpful.

Factors That May Contribute to Continued Relationships with Alcoholics

Some individuals find themselves in a pattern of dating alcoholics. Growing up in a home that had one or more than one alcoholics could be something that contributes to this.

The reasoning behind it would be that this was a norm for you growing up and that you have become accustomed to the chaos that comes along with loving an alcoholic. You likely learned to take care of the alcoholic and this helped you survive.

This behavior is then taken into adult life and the individual is constantly looking after addicts to 'take care of'. Read codependency in relationships for more on this form of behavior.This is usually a subconscious act and those doing it are unaware of the patterns they are following.

If you read the statements above and felt as though it was relatable, something to consider would be to meet with a psychotherapist and further explore these behaviors.

Counselors are independent,

  • unbiased individuals who explore your history and current struggles. 
  • It can be helpful to talk to an outside person about your concerns and worries and know that what you say remains private. 
  • Counselors can provide different perspectives and point out any patterns that are present in your dating history.

Counseling and/or therapy is a good way to identify issues that are leading you into destructive relationships with alcoholics or other addicts.

For more information on alcoholism and how to help an alcoholic to recovery, please reach out to a treatment provider today.

Loving an alcoholic is one of the most painful things you will ever have to cope with. Yet, it doesn't need to be, C.P.Lehman in his book, Help Me! I'm In Love With An Addict gives you the strategies that will enable you to find happiness and get your life back on well as other skills that are crucial when attempting to cope with an alcohol dependent.

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


Facts and statistics regarding alcohol use and alcoholism provided by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism:  Alcohol Facts and Statistics | National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) (

Information regarding Alcohol Use Disorder provided by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: Understanding Alcohol Use Disorder | National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) (

Information regarding how alcohol abuse can effect a relationship: Is Alcohol Impacting Your Relationship? | Psychology Today

Further information about how alcoholism can impact a persons family and loved ones: What Are the Problems & Effects of Alcoholism on Families & Marriages (

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