Living with an Alcoholic Spouse: How to Cope and Find Support

Domestic Violence And Abuse

Living with an Alcoholic Spouse

When we marry or enter into a committed relationship, we expect to share our lives with someone who will support us through thick and thin. However, living with an alcoholic spouse can be a challenging and difficult experience, to say the least.

Alcoholism is a disease that can gradually undermine a person’s physical and mental health, often taking a significant toll on their family members, especially their spouse.

Signs of Alcoholism

1. Recognizing the Signs

At first, it may be hard to spot the signs of alcoholism when we’re trying to adjust to living with an alcoholic spouse. However, it’s essential to recognize the following signs that may indicate your spouse is an alcoholic:

  • Giving up activities that were once important to them
  • Continuing to drink, despite negative consequences
  • Unable to fulfill their duties
  • Drinking despite health issues caused by alcohol
  • Struggling to cut back on drinking despite wanting to
  • Increased tolerance for alcohol
  • Drinking in dangerous situations
  • Withdrawal symptoms when trying to quit drinking

Reasons Someone Stays in a Relationship with an Alcoholic

Many people who are married to an alcoholic struggle to leave the relationship, even though it causes them pain and suffering. Here are some reasons why some people may stay in a marriage with an alcoholic spouse:

  • Fear of starting a new life without the alcoholic spouse
  • Belief that their children are better off with both parents in the home, despite addiction issues
  • Financial dependency on the alcoholic spouse
  • Fear of being alone and unable to manage on their own
  • Shame, embarrassment, or religious reasons prevent them from leaving
  • Pressure from friends and family to stay with the alcoholic spouse
  • Love for their spouse and belief the alcoholic can change

2. Should I Stop Drinking If My Partner Is an Alcoholic?

The stigma around addiction often makes people think that they are to blame for their spouse’s alcoholism. However, this is not true, and it’s vital to remember that alcoholism is a disease, not a moral failure.

If you’re living with an alcoholic spouse, it’s essential to consider the impact of your drinking on your spouse’s progress towards recovery. It’s important to seek social support and avoid sabotaging the progress your spouse has made by drinking around them.

By continuing to drink, you may demonstrate that continued alcohol consumption is okay, which may negatively impact their ongoing recovery.

Effects of Alcoholism on the Spouse

Living with an alcoholic spouse can have a significant impact on your physical and mental health. It’s important to recognize that you are not alone and that it’s not your fault.

The following are some of the most common effects of living with and being married to an alcoholic spouse:

  • Domestic violence or abuse
  • Mental health problems, including depression and anxiety
  • Reduced confidence and self-esteem
  • Feeling inferior to the alcoholic spouse
  • Sleep problems, including insomnia
  • Financial issues due to their spouse’s addiction

Tips for Spouses of Alcoholics

3. Helpful Tips

Here are some useful tips for spouses of alcoholics:

  • Recognize that it’s not your fault, and you cannot control your spouse’s drinking
  • Do not take their behavior personally
  • Do not accept inappropriate behavior because you think it will help them recover
  • Do not enable their behavior by giving them money or covering up for them
  • Do not take full responsibility for fixing them.

Signs It’s Time to Leave an Alcoholic Spouse

4. When to Consider Leaving

Living with an alcoholic spouse can be emotionally and physically exhausting for the spouse. It’s essential to watch out for these warning signs which may indicate it’s time to leave an alcoholic spouse:

  • Mental or physical exhaustion
  • Lost trust in the alcoholic spouse
  • Emotional abuse
  • Life revolves around the alcoholic spouse
  • Fear of their partner
  • Endless cycle of treatment
  • Negative consequences for themselves
  • Unwillingness to seek help
  • Dangerous behavior

Giving It One Last Chance

5. Family Intervention

If you’re considering leaving an alcoholic spouse, there may be one last chance to engage in a family intervention. A family intervention is a meeting where the alcoholic spouse’s loved ones express their concern about their drinking behavior and the negative impact it has on those around them.

It’s crucial to avoid criticizing or blaming the alcoholic spouse but rather explaining the negative effects of their drinking. This is an opportunity to provide a chance for treatment, and often, hiring a professional interventionist is the best option.

Relapse Prevention Plan

6. Relapse Prevention

If you decide to stay in the relationship after the intervention, it’s essential to work with your spouse to develop a relapse prevention plan. This involves maintaining open communication, supporting your spouse to avoid relapse, and helping them to get back into treatment if necessary.

It’s also crucial to decide to end the relationship for good if harmful behaviors continue.

Accepting Alcoholism as a Lifelong Disease

7. Lifelong Support

It’s important to recognize that alcoholism is a chronic and lifelong disease that requires ongoing support. The key to accepting alcoholism is to determine what behaviors are acceptable and contribute to their recovery.

Support your spouse to receive ongoing help and counseling, which is essential in overcoming this disease.


Living with an alcoholic spouse can be a challenging journey, but remember that you’re not alone. If you’re at a point where you think leaving is the way to take care of yourself, ensure that you’re physically and mentally okay before embarking on the new journey.

It’s essential to seek support and contact local support groups for guidance. You can heal from the stress and heartbreak of living with an alcoholic spouse, but it takes time, patience, and most importantly, a willingness to take care of yourself.

In conclusion, living with an alcoholic spouse can be a difficult and challenging experience that takes a significant toll on a person’s physical and mental health. It’s important to recognize the signs of alcoholism, why someone might stay in a relationship with an alcoholic spouse, and the effects of alcoholism on the spouse.

Additionally, if you decide to stay with the alcoholic spouse, it’s essential to develop a relapse prevention plan and accept alcoholism as a lifelong disease that requires ongoing support. Remember that seeking help and support is a vital step in overcoming the stress and heartbreak of living with an alcoholic spouse.

By taking the necessary steps to care for yourself and addressing the issue of alcoholism effectively, you can move forward with your life in a healthier and happier direction.

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