Worried about your partner’s drinking?

16 June 2020

Feeling like your partner drinks too much can create a lot of tension and upset in a relationship.

You may feel your partner is ‘being taken away from you’. Perhaps you resent the amount of time he or she spends out drinking and feel they’re a different person when they get home.

Perhaps you’re unsure how to broach the topic – or maybe you have and the outcome isn’t what you’d hoped for.  Maybe your partner has accused you of nagging, or disagreed that there’s a problem at all.

For many couples, this type of issue can bubble beneath the surface for years before becoming a real point of contention.

What can I do?

The first thing – as with the vast majority of relationship issues – is to try to talk about it.  Although this can be difficult to do, especially if you feel like it’s been a problem for a long time, it’s important to try to get things out in the open. Otherwise, you risk resentment building up over time and eroding your relationship.

Another issue with drinking is that it’s not something that you can reliably address at the time – in fact, it’s often a bad idea to do this, as your partner’s behaviour may be different when he or she has been drinking. Instead, try to find a moment when you’re both sober and in a normal mood – that way, you’re more likely to be able to talk about things constructively.


What if they disagree?

There’s every chance that your partner will feel that there’s nothing wrong with the amount he or she drinks – and resent being challenged.

We all grow up with different values surrounding drinking alcohol.  What might be normal to one person may not be to someone else. Some people grow up in families where drinking alcohol – even to excess – is completely normal.  Some people can consume different quantities of alcohol and feel more or less of an effect than others.

Sometimes these are legitimate defences – but often less so. This is complicated by the fact that drinking is sometimes triggered by certain life events, such as losing (or gaining) a job, having children and other significant changes. Before broaching the topic with your partner, you may like to consider if there is a specific reason why he or she is drinking. It could be that this will be an important part of addressing what’s happening together.

Depending on how strongly your partner disagrees with you, it might be that you’re able to compromise and meet somewhere in the middle. This might mean them drinking slightly less when you’re out together, even if it doesn’t mean them cutting it out entirely. Or it could mean making sure you’ve got one evening each weekend put aside for you to both enjoy sober.

What if this isn’t possible?

In some cases, you may be unable to see eye to eye.  Your partner may feel you’re being a killjoy, whereas you think he or she is being totally unreasonable. In more extreme situations, it might be that your partner is in denial and unable to consider alternatives.

In cases like this, applying extra pressure is unlikely to yield positive results. The focus at this point has to be your own welfare and happiness: if you feel you’re unable to continue with things the way they are, you may want to consider getting support for yourself.

Organisations like Al-Anon provide help to people affected by other people’s drinking. They run groups where you can meet people who are experiencing the same situation.

Although this won’t necessarily change your partner’s views, depending on how serious their habit is, it will send a message that, regardless of how they feel, you do feel it’s an issue and one that you need help coping with.

Likewise, talking to friends and family may help you figure out what you want to do, and will help you to feel less isolated. One risk with this kind of relationship issue is that it can stay behind closed doors, hidden. It’s important you have a support framework to help you think about options and to give you relief from any tension or stress that the situation is creating.

How we can help

Our counsellors regularly speak with people for whom drinking is an issue in their relationship. If you’d like help figuring things out, you could come in for individual or couples counselling Relationship Counselling. Your counsellor will not tell you what to do or take sides: we’ll simply listen and help you talk things over together. If you’d like to talk with one of our counsellors why not give our friendly appointments team a call on 01234 356350 or emailing appointments@relatebedsandluton.org.uk.

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