Wives of Alcoholics: Getting Help

Medically Reviewed By Kayla Loibl | Last Edited : November 24, 
| 4 Sources

My Husband is an Alcoholic
Married to an Alcoholic

wives of alcoholics

Alcoholism is seen as a significant health and social problem, especially to the families and wives of alcoholics. Many women worry that they might be married to an alcoholic. Living with a partner, significant other, or spouse who has a drinking problem could have devastating effects on their partner’s emotional well-being, personal relationships, professional life and oftentimes even their physical health.

A 2019 study from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) estimated that approximately 14.1 million people living in the United States struggle with alcoholism. This breaks down to an estimated 8.9 million men and 5.2 million women.

Maybe you are beginning to see how your partners drinking has impacted your marriage. A major warning sign for many is when their partner continues to drink alcohol despite facing consequences for their drinking.

You are concerned for the well-being of someone you care about, and for the health of your marriage.

Sometimes you feel so alone, the one person that you should be able to turn to is the one person you can't, your husband.

Before we continue we must make a distinction between a problem drinker and an alcoholic. It is important to make this distinction as it is much easier for a problem drinker to quit drink than an alcohol dependent (alcoholic).

"If your loved one is struggling with alcoholism and you want to speak to someone that understands, call our support assistants. As former addicts they are empathetic to the struggle you are facing. The conversation is free & they are available 24/7."

My Husband is an Alcoholic
Problems Faced by Wives of Alcoholics

Partners and wives are at the forefront of their loved one's alcoholism and as a result they face many issues on a daily basis.

The effects of alcoholism are as damaging to them as they are to the alcoholic themselves.

Some of the issues they face include:

  • FINANCIAL WORRIES: The alcoholic spends a large proportion of his income on drink. They are also putting their jobs at risk by drinking. Maybe they turn up late for work, take long breaks, come to work smelling of alcohol, ignore their duties etc. Partners and wives of alcoholics live in constant fear of not having enough money to meet the basic needs of themselves and/or their family.
  • EMOTIONAL STRESS: Living with an alcoholic is an emotional roller-coaster. This puts great strain on the partner or wife of a drink dependent man. The alcoholic can undergo huge mood swings, generally dependent on the alcohol level in his blood stream. The family, and in particular the wife, bears the brunt of this. Emotional stress is one of the greatest effects of alcoholism on family life.
  • DEPRESSION: Depression is more common among partners and wives of alcoholics. This is hardly surprising. Self-blame, anger, stress, shame, hopelessness are all understandable emotional reactions felt by someone when involved with an alcoholic. These emotions can lead to clinical depression. If you believe that your partner's/husband's drinking is causing you to suffer from depression then IT IS TIME TO TAKE ACTION NOW.
  • CODEPENDENCY: Codependency in relationships is very common in an alcoholic partnership. What this means, in short, is that the wife or partner of an alcoholic becomes a kind of 'little helper' for the alcohol addict. They do everything for the alcoholic while ignoring their own emotional and physical needs. It is very common for a wife to unconsciously enable an alcoholic.
  • ABUSE: Abuse can take many forms. We are all used to the image of the 'wife beater'. Yet this is only one type of abuse. Wives of alcoholics can be subjected to all types of alcoholic abuse. Verbal, emotional, financial abuse are all faced by wives of alcoholics on a daily basis.

From the above you can see that being the wife or partner of an alcoholic is difficult to say the least.

The good news is that there is help out there for those in relationships with alcoholics......

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My Husband is an Alcoholic
Help for Partners and Wives of Alcoholics

Self-blame, depression, hopelessness, shame, fear and anger are the daily lot of someone involved with an alcoholic. Yet many continue to stay in these destructive relationships.

It is not for me to say why but no matter how low you feel there is help out there.

It can seem sometimes that it is alcoholics who are offered all the help. But this is not the case, there are places and for wives of alcoholics to turn to for support.

If you believe that you are in a relationship with an alcoholic then you have choices....

  • Ignore the Problem and Pretend that Nothing is Wrong.
    Continue as you have always done. Not a choice I would recommend but one I can understand. There is a certain stigma attached to alcoholism. Many partners and wives of alcoholics blame themselves for their partners drink dependency and feel great shame. So it is easier for them to pretend there isn't a problem rather than face the social stigma.
  • Seek Counseling.
    Unspoken problems often sit in people's heads growing without respite. Verbalizing these problems and issues with an impartial person who has no emotional connection to you can be a great way of putting them into perspective and resolving them. Counseling is always confidential.
  • Leave the Relationship
    An option to take particularly if you are married to an alcoholic who is being abusive towards you. This is a brave step to take and many who have been involved in an alcohol fueled relationship for some time find it hard to do. Why? Because their self esteem is at a low and such a brave decision is beyond them. It is generally advised to seek counseling or some other kind of help before making such a choice. However, if you are involved in an abusive relationship GET OUT AS FAST AS YOU CAN.
  • Online Help.
    As mentioned already on this page there is stigma and shame attached to alcoholism. The internet is a good way to get help and support while remaining relatively anonymous. Read alanon meetings online for more on this. Alcoholism forums are also good places to visit if you want to understand more about alcohol dependency.
  • Al-anon.
    Al-anon is a support group much along the lines of Alcoholics Anonymous. It is a 12 step group and is aimed at those involved in some way with an alcoholic. This can include wives, partners, children, friends, colleagues etc. of alcoholics. It is a support group and is an excellent way to find support and empathy from those in similar situations to yours. And....it's free to attend.
  • An Intervention.
    This is when those who are affected by your husband's drinking come together and confront him. The purpose is to make him see how his drinking is impacting on those who care for him. An intervention is not easy and it is possible to employ the services of a professional interventionist to facilitate the process. For more on how to go about a successful intervention, read alcoholic intervention.

How to Help an Alcoholic Husband or Partner

You might be wondering what you could do to improve the situation, and whether your husband or spouse even wants your help. Unless your husband or partner wants to be helped then don't even bother.

Forcing an alcoholic into alcohol addiction recovery is pointless. They will only resent you.

All you can do is look after yourself and your children or dependents, if you have any, and support your partner or husbands as they take their initial steps toward recovery.

Ultimately you can only change yourself, you cannot change anybody else.

Get the support and help YOU need and let your 'other half' take the path he needs to. It sounds hard, but that's the way it is.

love an addict 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 track...as well as other skills that are crucial when attempting to cope with an alcohol dependent

"If your loved one is struggling with alcoholism and you want to speak to someone that understands, call our support assistants. As former addicts they are empathetic to the struggle you are facing. The conversation is free & they are available 24/7."

If you found this page helpful, then you might find the following related pages of interest:

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


Al-Anon Family Groups. Are You Living With an Alcoholic Spouse or Partner?. https://al-anon.org/newcomers/how-can-i-help-my/alcoholic-spouse-or-partner/

NCBI. Living with an alcoholic partner: Problems faced and coping strategies used by wives of alcoholic clients. 2016. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5248422/

Dual Diagnosis. Guide to Living With an Alcoholic. https://dualdiagnosis.org/alcohol-addiction/guide-living-alcoholic/

Healthline. How to Help Someone with an Alcohol Addiction. March 29, 2019. https://www.healthline.com/health/most-important-things-you-can-do-help-alcoholic

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