Being married to an alcoholic can be overwhelmingly stressful, to say the least. The daily frustration of living with someone who abuses alcohol can leave you wondering if your marriage is worth saving or if it can even be saved at all.
The truth is, nearly every relationship is worth saving, and that includes the relationship you have with your spouse. At some point, you may come to realize that nothing you can say will make your alcoholic spouse stop drinking, and the only person who has control over their alcoholism is them.
It is possible to save your marriage, and to do this, you will need to help your spouse. Helping an alcoholic is not about learning how to control them and their drinking habits but rather about realizing that doing so is impossible. When you commit to helping your loved one, you need to commit to taking care of yourself too.
So let’s take a look at what steps you need to take in assisting your partner or spouse if they struggle with alcohol addiction and are at the stage of needing help to save the marriage.
- First Things First – Am I Married to an Alcoholic?
- Planning For Family Alcohol Support and Recovery
- Relationship Patterns in Alcoholic Individuals
- Manipulation and Manipulative Behavior
- Seeking Help When in a Relationship With an Alcoholic
- Determining the Level of Care for Your Family and Alcoholic Spouse
- Organizing an intervention
- Planning for a Future After Alcoholism
- Wrapping Up
First Things First – Am I Married to an Alcoholic?
The simple act of acknowledging that your spouse has a drinking problem is a massive part of any recovery process. This might seem easy, but you’d be surprised at how many people thought that honestly acknowledging the severity of the problem and bringing the emotions that have been building up to the surface, shared this mindset, and were unpleasantly surprised.
In the same vein, your alcoholic spouse could greatly benefit from recognizing their issue and opening themselves up to the change that they need in order to overcome their abuse of alcohol. As the partner of an alcoholic who is about to enter recovery, you might find that the results are better when you help yourself before you even begin to try helping your spouse through this extremely challenging time in their life.
Planning For Family Alcohol Support and Recovery
Before the alcohol recovery process can begin, we suggest that you develop a plan with a trained recovery professional. This plan should consider the accountability and boundaries for all parties that are and will be involved in the recovery process.
Taking the very difficult first step, asking for help, and creating a plan for alcohol rehabilitation with a professional alcohol interventionist, is often the part that causes people to experience the most fear because it is the part that you know least about. Like many things in this life, change naturally brings about fear because we have no idea what to expect.
Allowing yourself to live in that fear and take the path of inaction can only lead to bad things, both for you and your spouse suffering from alcohol abuse.
Relationship Patterns in Alcoholic Individuals
Recognizing an alcohol abuse disorder is only part of the equation when it comes to solving the problems that exist in a relationship plagued by abusive alcohol consumption. Many of the problems that arise are a result of the behaviors of the substance user being compounded by their spouse’s or family’s codependency, reactivity, and enabling.
Some of the following characteristics often identify this behavior:
- Providing assistance and money that could otherwise be addressed were the person not in active alcoholism
- Making excuses for their actions in order to avoid consequences
- Condoning or ignoring problem behavior, especially in public settings
- Ignoring the issue of substance abuse and associated behaviors
- Being dishonest to other family members and friends about how things are going with you and them
- Believing your ideas and methods of helping them are actually helpful
- Engaging in behaviors that encourage alcoholism, primarily to avoid confrontation with the alcoholic
The symptoms of being the enabler to an alcoholic spouse can be hard to swallow, especially if you recognize them in yourself and your own relationship. Discerning enabling behaviors is not meant to make you feel guilty or ashamed, but with that being said, stagnation does not improve the situation for the enabler or their partner who is an alcoholic.
Taking the first step will be helpful to both parties in recognizing the issue and its side effects, and once this is done, the healing process can begin. The physical and mental health of both you and your partner is at stake here, and with determination, commitment, and surrender, recovering from an alcohol addiction can offer a better, happier life for you and your relationship.
Manipulation and Manipulative Behavior
Manipulative behavior is another common occurrence amongst those who are suffering from an alcohol abuse disorder. For some, dishonesty and manipulation become normal routines, and it is often said that an alcoholic would choose to be dishonest even if the truth would be beneficial to them.
Manipulations, blaming others as the cause of one’s problems, flipping the script, and dishonesty are exhausting behaviors that can wear down those on the receiving end of these behaviors. Alcoholic behaviors can manifest in many ways, with some of the most common including:
- Guilt-tripping in order to avoid blame
- Threatening self-harm and engaging in isolation when confronted with problems
- Asking for favors and money and, when refused, blaming others for shortcomings and lack of resources
- Being defensive when substance abuse is called into question
- Claiming the victim
- Preying on emotional, physical, or financial fears
These traits often develop slowly and it can be difficult to notice them growing before it is too late. If you are able to recognize these signs in your relationship, we strongly encourage you to address them with professional help sooner rather than later. Helpful suggestions can come from support groups, family therapy, intervention, and counseling.
Seeking Help When in a Relationship With an Alcoholic
When you seek to improve the quality of your life while you are married to an alcoholic, one common thought that might be racing through your mind is: “Can I save my marriage, and how?” These are two very existential questions.
It can be very beneficial to seek help for yourself first and explore the reasons why you allow yourself to stay in a relationship if your alcoholic spouse is unwilling to seek help. There are plenty of resources out there that can help you take the first step, create a plan, and stick to it.
Remember that there is no shame in seeking treatment and assistance to give you the tools you need to empower yourself to assist your partner and to assist your spouse in handling the challenges and changes along the way.
Determining the Level of Care for Your Family and Alcoholic Spouse
Once your spouse has decided to make some changes in their life and seek help, it is essential that you speak to a professional to determine what the most appropriate course of action would be. The same can be said for the family.
When you are talking to an interventionist, you will be able to talk through your options to begin your own recovery process from the trauma that comes with being in a relationship with a substance abuser. What’s more, you will also be able to discuss whether or not you intend to save the marriage.
Even in the case of a bitter separation, both you and your partner can benefit from a treatment plan, and you will both be able to expand your opportunities by functioning independently. Professional interventionists that perform alcohol assessments will help you and your family figure out the right level of care for all involved parties.
Organizing an intervention
If your spouse will not address their abusive relationship with alcohol, then it may be time for you and your family to take the first step for them. A dated mindset would have you wait for your partner to want help or for them to hit rock bottom. Not only is this a myth, but it is extremely dangerous.
In addition to concerns with codependency and enabling, other concerns in a marriage with a partner who abuses alcohol, like feelings of resentment, mental health issues, and many other symptoms, are discussed during the intervention process, many of which would have been glossed over otherwise. Interventions are not 12-step calls and are certainly not speeches delivered by the family member with the largest ego, contrary to what movies would have you believe.
An intervention is a holistic process that looks at family systems and how they influence the recovery process for both the alcoholic and the family.
Planning for a Future After Alcoholism
Evidence has repeatedly suggested that families who enter recovery with or without the alcoholic receive positive outcomes for themselves and on the overall recovery efforts of the alcoholic party. When thinking about what comes next, the decisions you make will be far more effective because you have started the healing process, especially in comparison to families who have not.
Entering a recovery program requires you to surrender to those that likely have better ideas than you, your spouse, and your family. Listen to those professionals who are able to offer unflooded and unbiased suggestions outside of your own.
In recovery, there is a saying that states that recovery happens ‘one day at a time.’ This is so true and is a great way to look at things. Planning for a future after alcoholism involves learning and growing as a person. The fewer expectations you have and the more you allow the process to unfold through professional guidance, the more productive and positive your outcome is going to be.
There is no easy way to deal with alcoholism, and being married to an alcoholic can have some seriously negative impacts on your life. It is important that you are able to recognize the problem and take the first step for you – and perhaps your spouse as well – into recovering from the affliction and repairing your relationship.