Alcohol is the most abused substance in the U.S. According to a recent survey, millions of adults have used alcohol in the past year. Many of them are alcohol abusers. This includes binge drinking, heavy drinking, and underage drinking.

Living with an alcoholic spouse can be challenging. Their addiction can affect your emotional well-being, finances, and even physical safety. One thing to note is that alcoholism is a disease, but that doesn’t mean you have to stand by helplessly. You can navigate this difficult situation while prioritizing your well-being.

Understanding Alcoholism

Alcoholism is also known as Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). It is a progressive chronic disease characterized by an unmanageable urge to drink despite negative consequences. It affects the brain’s reward system, making it difficult for someone with AUD to stop drinking on their own.

Alcohol abuse can weaken the immune system and cause memory problems as well as mental health issues like depression and anxiety. So, how do you know your spouse has an alcohol use disorder?

Some symptoms include difficulty limiting or controlling alcohol intake. They also need to drink more to achieve the same effect. They may continue to drink despite health problems or relationship issues. Drinkers hide, deny, and neglect their responsibilities at work or home. Additionally, they may engage in risky behavior while intoxicated.

Dealing with an Alcoholic Spouse

An alcoholic spouse is problematic, and they can drag you along with them. This can affect your mental health, finances, and relationship with them, as well as your kids. While many partners will nag or force them to quit drinking, you must understand that this will not help.


It might even push them further into addiction. Putting an alcoholic into rehab doesn’t guarantee results, especially if they haven’t made the decision themselves. So, what should you do? Here are ways to deal with an alcoholic spouse:

Realize They Need Your Help to Get Better

Alcohol abuse doesn’t start overnight. It develops gradually over time. For instance, a person who used to drink once a month will start drinking every weekend, then three days a week, and finally, every day.

As a spouse, you must realize this early enough. Early intervention will help address the problem before it escalates to more severe consequences, and your spouse may be more receptive to help. However, despite how far they are from alcoholism, treatment is available.

Encourage Them to Get Treatment

Be sure to research available treatment options and addiction treatment centers in your area before having the conversation. Encourage them to seek professional help and offer to be there if they need you.

However, approach this conversation with sensitivity and empathy. Ask them how they would want you to help.

Communicate Appropriately

Most alcoholics are in denial, and talking to them about their drinking can be daunting. Open communication is crucial. Choose a time when they’re sober and calm. Focus on “I” statements to express your concerns, such as “I feel worried about your health when you drink so much.” Don’t be overly judgemental, and avoid accusatory language like “You’re ruining our lives.”


Don’t give ultimatums, as they may exacerbate conflict. Your goal should be to show them how the situation affects your family so that treatment can be proposed. If they don’t listen to you, you could involve someone they respect. However, ensure they don’t ambush them, as the situation can escalate.

Stop Enabling Them

Many times, alcoholics in the denial stage won’t acknowledge the problem and reject your help. If this happens, you need clear boundaries. Establish limits regarding acceptable behavior and consequences for violating those boundaries.

For example, you may decide not to engage in arguments when your spouse is intoxicated or seek temporary separation if their drinking becomes unmanageable. If they are arrested for DUI, avoid bailing them out and letting them face the consequences. If they don’t show up to work due to drinking, don’t make excuses for them.

Seek Support for Yourself

The stress of living with an alcoholic spouse can affect your mental and physical health. It would be best if you didn’t let them ruin your life. Take time for activities you enjoy, eat healthy foods, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep.

Join an Al-Anon support group, which supports families affected by alcoholism. You can also join therapy to develop coping strategies and manage your emotions.

Prioritize Your Safety

Alcoholism can result in aggression and violent behaviors. Never stay with a violent partner. As much as you want to help them, your safety and children’s well-being come first.

Walk away until they get help. Remember, recovery is possible for your spouse and your relationship. Good luck.