Substance Abuse and Intimate Relationships

Women have been known to suffer from a decreased libido from alcohol use disorder also. There is evidence that a relationship can make it, but some that would argue that it most likely won’t. For the married population with one person being a heavy drinker, research shows this is 50% more likely to end in divorce according to a study in Medical Daily. If your husband has a drinking problem, it’s normal to feel frustrated, concerned, and exhausted. People often use alcohol to combat stress, tiredness, or depression but it can create a vicious cycle.

Many people drink more to avoid these feelings, leading to an unhealthy cycle that affects both partners. This cycle is also described as a “chemical romance” between an individual and alcohol. The effects of living with an alcoholic are both short-term and have lasting consequences. Spouses of alcoholics are more likely to be victims of domestic violence, may suffer emotional harm, may neglect their own health, and may become socially withdrawn. Many relationships affected by alcohol end in separation and lasting effects like physical injuries, emotional trauma, additional addictive disorders, financial problems, and broken relationships.

Alcohol abuse doesn’t just affect the person with a substance use disorder.

Alcohol abuse and addiction certainly carry negative consequences on an individual’s health and well-being. In terms of alcohol and relationships, it can be a single catalyst in estranged marriages and contentious discourse among family members. Not every person or couple who drinks heavily will engage in domestic violence or emotional abuse.

For this reason, it can be difficult to understand if and when your drinking has become unhealthy, especially if alcohol has played a role in your relationship for a long time. This uncertainty is sometimes described as a phenomenon known as “gray area drinking“. Below we discuss how alcohol can disrupt your most important relationships. We also draw attention to some red flags that your drinking may have become unhealthy, and provide next steps for making a change. Family
Support for Change Efforts
Families also need to learn to support the drinker’s efforts toward change. Family members can support change through verbal encouragement,
nonverbal gestures, or taking on family responsibilities to free up the drinker’s
time for treatment or self-help meetings.

Hiding Drinking Habits

You also join free therapist-moderated alcohol support groups and our anonymous community forum. Our highly qualified professionals are prepared to help you address your drinking and get you on the road to a happier and healthier life with strong personal relationships. Relationships should bring a sense of comfort and security, and provide more happiness than distress. When an individual develops unhealthy drinking habits, their partner may feel their relationship becoming chaotic and even unsafe. Drinking habits can also impact jobs and finances, causing further stress and insecurity.

Your ability to enjoy alcohol is ultimately predicated on how well you can do so responsibly. And it’s up to you and your partner to decide if and how alcohol can maintain a place in your relationship. The good news is that cutting back on your consumption offers far more benefits than the challenges it may present . And just imagine how nice it would be to never have to live through another hangover. Emotional abuse can include frequent belittling and complaining, ignoring a partner’s emotional needs, and manipulating or controlling a partner.

Alcohol and domestic violence

Just ask yourself why you feel the need to be dishonest about your drinking. Successful relationships are built on a foundation of honesty and trust, and any type of secrecy is a red flag. Each person has a different response to alcohol, but yours may not make your partner comfortable. Your significant other fell in love with a certain person, but you might become someone else entirely when you drink alcohol.

  • Therefore, you should use this resource primarily as a source of
    support for affected family members.
  • Its effect on people is not limited to their physical and mental health, but also extends to their relationships— particularly with family members.
  • Do you increasingly choose to drink over other things that you used to enjoy with your significant other?
  • From a romantic perspective, alcohol addiction can impair emotional and sexual intimacy.
  • For example, Al-Anon provides support group meetings, where loved ones of people with alcohol addiction can share their experiences and learn from others facing the same challenges.

You also
can be clear that discussing drinking is not equivalent to requiring that
anyone change their behavior, and that the family will be involved actively
in decision-making about how to proceed. You can enhance client
motivation by linking the client’s drinking to their own positive goals. In
particular, if there is a discrepancy between the client’s current life circumstance
and the specific goals that he/she has articulated, drinking may be contributing
to this discrepancy between goals and desires. Helping the client make this
linkage can provide a powerful source of motivation to change. The use of three major
therapeutic principles — empathy, motivation through attention to client
goals, and choice — can facilitate the successful introduction of drinking
issues into therapy. Figures 4a and 4b identify the key principles and pitfalls
to consider when addressing drinking as an issue in family treatment.

More specifically, a parent’s drinking can significantly impact their child. However, if a parent struggles with alcohol use disorder, it can cause instability in the household, and harm parent-children bonds. The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study shows that children of parents with a substance use disorder are more likely to experience physical and mental health problems throughout their life. Is it possible for a person to excessively drink alcohol and function properly in everyday life? For spouses or significant others, many feel that alcohol can negatively impact connections.

how alcohol affects relationships

You can work closely with the family
to identify supportive actions that are comfortable and acceptable to them. Although the main target
of this discussion is the drinker, the other family members should be encouraged
to express their views about advantages and disadvantages of different approaches. By the end of the discussion, the ideal outcome invokes a specific change
plan. Referral for specialty treatment; involvement with self-help; continued
work on the drinking in the family therapy; or an initial attempt at self-change
are all acceptable change plans. Feedback about the linkages
between drinking and lack of progress in treatment also can be used to introduce
the topic of alcohol into therapy. You may
see the individual family member with the identified drinking problem alone
for a period of time, and then bring other family members back into treatment.


Requests for Change
Family members also can be guided to make specific, positive requests for
change from the drinker. Requests may be directed toward changes in the drinking
itself, toward behavior when drinking, or toward seeking assistance. You can
guide family members in articulating the changes they want and help them practice
how to make such requests. You should prepare the family by explaining that
the drinker does not always respond to such discussions or requests with immediate
acceptance. You should also help the family understand that requests for change
are part of the larger set of behavior changes described in this section of
the Guide. Instead of assuming an authoritative
stance that directs the drinker to one course of action, you can provide choices
that help the drinker to become knowledgeable about these options.

how alcohol affects relationships

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