Alcoholism And Relationships
Intimacy, communication, love, compassion, and commitment are the emotions and actions that build a close-knit relationship between two people. When these things start to take a nosedive, the relationship can start to crumble or even come to an end. An alcohol addiction mixed into any relationship, especially an intimate one, can have devastating effects.
How Does An Addiction Affect A Relationship?
When one partner is constantly on an alcohol binge, it starts to create a crack in the foundation of the relationship. Like throwing a stone at a windshield and creating a crack, soon enough the pressure will cause the crack to spread and the damage will become widespread. Eventually, the opposite partner may not be able to see where the relationship is headed amidst so much turmoil. The intimate or romantic partner is not the only one who is affected—various other relationships may suffer as well—a couple’s children, various relatives, friends, and even co-workers may experience harm due to alcohol’s damaging effects. Though in many cases, the one who is probably the most devastated and negatively affected is the partner of the one who has the drinking problem.
This can happen for many reasons—the sober partner may now have more responsibilities to take over in their partner’s absence from the day-to-day responsibilities of the relationship or family, including taking over greater financial obligations or childcare. They may become physically and mentally exhausted as they struggle to contend with their changing lives.
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When a marriage or relationship has a partner who struggles with alcohol addiction, the other partner is usually very unhappy in the relationship. When a drinking problem exists, it often creates a huge emotional gap between the couple that keeps building the more the drinking continues—trust falters, blame rises, and anger may become far too prevalent. This gap can be a huge challenge to work through in any relationship. Fighting, arguing, or even violence may start to happen between the two parties.
The stress and tension from the fighting is often one reason why the partner with the addiction will turn to drinking. In an attempt to tone down his or her stress levels, a person may drink to self-medicate. This can create a merry-go-round of alcohol abuse—fighting and unstable emotions will typically lead to even more alcohol abuse, fueling the addiction. This cycle is a challenge to get out of, but there are ways to help both the relationship and the person with the addiction to overcome these obstacles.
What Are Some Signs That An Alcohol Addiction Is Hurting A Relationship?
When a relationship is greatly impacted by alcohol addiction, there are common warning signs that may signal a problem, as outlined by the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.
Here are a few to be aware of:
- In nearly every single argument, drinking or behaviors related to it come up, such as staying out far too late or sleeping in too late, ignoring important tasks or duties at home, issues with money, and many more.
- Creating, on more than one occasion, an excuse for a partner who is sick due to their alcohol consumption, as an attempt to explain their behavior; examples include calling in sick for them at their job.
- One of the partners confesses that they drink to help tone down stress or tension associated with fighting or other situations within the home, including arguments that revolve around alcohol consumption.
- When one of the primary activities the two partners enjoy doing together involves drinking.
- Spouts of violence, aggression, “angry touching,” or disrespect between partners, when one or both parties have been drinking.
- If one or both partners need to drink to be able to openly communicate or talk about the issues in the relationship or to show signs of love or fondness toward the other.
- The family grows embarrassed or feels a need to hide from others, including other family members, because of someone having an alcohol addiction.
Not all relationships will exhibit these same behaviors, however, if you’re concerned that your relationship exhibits patterns like these, it may be time to look at the relationship honestly, considering the way alcohol is impacting it, while finding ways to improve it. This may be a harsh and difficult reality to consider, and in the case of addiction, it will probably mean the drinking needs to cease.
The problems between the couple need to be looked at closely, even the ones that don’t result from the drinking itself, because some problems may actually trigger or push a person towards drinking. In some cases, it may seem easier to just hope these problems will fade away, but unfortunately, ignoring this very real, and potentially dangerous problem, will only serve to continue to bring harm to both the individuals and the relationship. The best possible solution is to get help as soon as possible or like an infection it may spread and get far more toxic.
The Effect On Children
When a child has a parent with an alcohol addiction, they will likely encounter negative experiences and even traumatic ones. This is especially true if they witness certain issues within their parent’s relationship. A child will experience a far worse experience when both parents are heavily involved with alcohol, as opposed to when only one is. Heightened levels of physical violence, with not just one parent but two, can create a very unsafe, unstable home for a child and have lasting negative impacts. Witnessing this abuse between parents is very detrimental, and in some cases, the child may experience certain forms of abuse as well. Recent reports say that one out of four children in the United States are impacted by a family member that is afflicted by alcohol abuse.
What To Do Next?
When making the choice to get help, you are not only improving your life but that of those around you, such as your friends, children, or partner. As the partner of a person with addiction, offering your support at this time is crucial. Research has shown that receiving the aid of a partner while seeking treatment can greatly help the one in need of treatment to overcome these problems. Getting your partner to treatment may change both of your lives forever.
It is a very common issue that the partner who is displaying these problems doesn’t want to seek treatment or counseling or that they are in denial, believing that they are not in need of help. If you seek out help, either for yourself or a loved one, there is information, compassionate support, and a means of motivation that can aid you in overcoming this indifference, so that you begin to believe in your recovery.
It is crucial to look at the emotional issues within the relationship that still need to be addressed, because oftentimes, couples still help even after the addiction is looked at and treated. Even after this main threat to the relationship is addressed, a ripple effect from before can still have lasting effects to both partners, if left unchecked. Otherwise, continuous fighting can lead to relapse and more substance abuse, starting the cycle all over again. A long-lasting impact will include dealing with every side of the relationship—not just the addiction. Removing drinking from the equation is the first step, but creating a loving, supportive, and communicative relationship is what will keep it solid and going forward.
When it comes to an alcohol addiction and a relationship, there are a variety of ways to address the issues. Individual or group counseling and/or helpful support meetings may help to bring about the changes needed within your relationship; however, a greater measure of help may be needed for the individual who is suffering from the addiction. A medically-assisted detox, followed by either outpatient or inpatient treatment may be the best option for a person with an alcohol addiction. The good news is that many of these programs offer family therapy and support, to help families overcome the addiction together, while building a better foundation for tomorrow.Article Sources
American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy - https://www.aamft.org/iMIS15/AAMFT/Content/Consumer_Updates/Substance_Abuse_and_Intimate_Relationships.aspx
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism - https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/niaaa-guide/
Research Institute on Addictions - https://www.buffalo.edu/ria/news_events/es/es12.html