HELP! My Spouse Drinks Too Much

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What do you do when your spouse is drinking too much and it is affecting your lives together in a negative way? Do you continue to close your eyes to what’s going on and hope that someday he/she will finally wake up to the problems this behavior is causing? If you’ve “been there” and “have done that”, the question is: “How’s that been working for you so far?”

Do you yell and scream and try to shame him/her into stopping this behavior? Same question applies: “How’s that been working for you so far?”

And then there are the excuses —you’ve probably heard a million of them! “I drink to forget” “I feel better when I drink” “I’ve tried to ‘get on the wagon’ …’every time I fail'” and more.

“Alcoholics offer many excuses — ‘Drinking makes me feel better,’ ‘It calms me down,’ ‘I’m more fun when I’m drunk’ and more —but these explanations only skim the surface of the deeper issues that usually drive and fuel a drinking problem.” (Ashley Michael, from article titled “But I’ve Got Reasons” formerly posted on

And what about the promises your spouse has made that “things will be different?” (That is, if you’ve even received such promises!) Perhaps you can relate to the following comments that came from a wife whose husband has a drinking problem:

“I couldn’t count the times Bob promised he would never drink again. That must be the most frustrating part of the experience — having Bob look me straight in the eye and tell me he’s through —really done with bingeing. He’d say, ‘I’ve seen how it hurts you and the kids, and I’ve had it. I promise you that I’ll never do it again!’

“Then in a day or two he was dead drunk. I thought he was lying to me. How could he love me and lie so many times to my face? But he wasn’t lying. He couldn’t keep his promise. Bob thought he could whip this problem with willpower. It’s like trying to stop diarrhea by making up your mind to do so.” (From the Focus on the Family Question and Answer article “If my husband drinks a lot but doesn’t get drunk, is he an alcoholic?”)

That’s not the most inviting word picture to think about, but it has some truth to it, don’t you think? Your spouse may have good intentions but he/she is in a state of denial both mentally (not facing the truth) and in a state of denial physically (where the needs of the body deny him or her the ability to stop reaching for another drink unless he/she has serious help).

It’s difficult to talk to someone who is in a continual state of denial, as well. That is why you often need help to know how to best work with the situation you have been handed. It comes down to the fact that when you are dealing with a person who is a heavy drinker —particularly if he or she is is drinking at the time, you aren’t speaking to your spouse so much as you are the alcohol he/she is using for numbing purposes —to cope with life in an unhealthy manner.

When you are trying to deal with this type of dysfunctional partner you truly need wisdom and help from someone who isn’t so close to the situation and can give you objective advice.

“A comment I often have clients, who are frustrated with a dysfunctional partner, repeat back to me is:  ‘Do not expect functional behavior from a dysfunctional person.’

“Learning to get our expectations in line with reality is a first step in dealing with reality. We are often the first person that needs a change of perspective. In therapy we call this ‘re-framing’ the situation.” (Delores Stone, Counselor)

You need to “get real” within yourself and with your spouse. To help you with this, please read:



So, in light of what’s been discussed so far, you may find the following advice from author Angie Lewis, to be helpful:

“Detach With Love. Be loving and supportive of the person you married, not the alcoholic. Don’t take any of the emotional garbage they dish out while drinking. Have you noticed how when your spouse drinks they start to berate you and want to start arguments? Don’t argue or fight back. Let them know you will not argue with them while they are drinking, period.

“Above all, never allow the alcoholic to trespass against your spirit when they are playing one of their mind games. Walk away and close the door behind you. Go visit a friend, take a walk around the block, or put some earplugs in your ears. Your mental health is what helps the alcoholic the most. This is what detaching with love is all about. Detaching yourself from the disease is what helps the alcoholic see that he needs help.”

To learn more read the following article written by Angie Lewis:

Married to an Alcoholic: 7 Steps to Helping Them Get Sober

Also, fom Skyler Sage: Realize that:

“Alcoholism is a Family  Disease. “This means that we are all affected by the substance abuse of a loved one. Not only are we affected; we play our OWN part in the continuation and manifestation of the disease. Our marriage, our family, is like a mobile. Each of us has our own little piece of the delicately balanced structure. Every action on any of our parts shakes the mobile. Tenuous balance quickly becomes imbalanced, shaken up, disrupted. Our role as spouses, children, friends on this mobile is just as powerful as that of the alcoholic’s.

“I believe this awareness is the first key in coping understanding that we play an equal part in the drama of living with an alcoholic. We are either part of the problem, or part of the solution with every word we speak, every secret we keep, every action we take, every action we avoid taking.”

To read more, please go to:

• Coping With an Alcoholic Spouse – Skyler Sage

From Melinda Cook, comes the following advice:

“If you are not in any danger, continue to encourage your spouse to get help. Do not make it seem as though you are lecturing them though, they will rebel and continue in their disastrous ways. Find a support group, go to Al-anon meetings, and learn all you can about addictions. When they are willing to admit they have a problem, find places they can turn to for help in getting better. Coping with an alcoholic spouse can tremendously take a toll on you and your family.”

And it can, as you know.

And then several additional helpful articles:

• DO YOU LOVE AN ALCOHOLIC — Stop Rescuing (Pt 1)

• DO YOU LOVE AN ALCOHOLIC — Setting Boundaries (Pt 2)


After all of this, you wonder, will the information help me? Is there hope for my spouse? To read the encouraging answer, please click onto the Focus on the Family web site link to read their response to the question. And then afterward click into the web site to read what one wife of an alcoholic learned:

• My Spouse Is an Alcoholic Who Has Tried to Quit Drinking. What Should I Do?

Twelve Steps to Change

We realize we have given you A LOT of information to pray about and consider. We want you to know that we pray the Lord opens the doors of heaven and pours out His Spirit within you and your home, and speaks powerfully to your spouse.

To give you some type of direction where you can get help, the following are a few helpful organizations you may be able to contact (we realize that they are not available to help in every country, but for some of you, they may be able to help in some way):

What do you do when your spouse is drinking too much and it is affecting your lives together in a very negative way?
The following came from a wife whose husband appeared to have a drinking problem. Can you relate?
“I couldn’t count the times Bob promised he would never drink again. That must be the most frustrating part of the experience — having Bob look me straight in the eye and tell me he’s through — really done with bingeing. He’d say, ‘I’ve seen how it hurts you and the kids, and I’ve had it. I promise you that I’ll never do it again!’
“Then in a day or two he was dead drunk. I thought he was lying to me. How could he love me and lie so many times to my face? But he wasn’t lying. He couldn’t keep his promise. Bob thought he could whip this problem with willpower. It’s like trying to stop diarrhea by making up your mind to do so.” (From the Question and Answer article “If My Husband Drinks A Lot But Doesn’t Get Drunk, Is He An Alcoholic?”)
That’s not the most inviting word picture to think about, but it has some truth to it, don’t you think?

The above article was written by Cindy Wright of Marriage Missions International.

If you have additional tips you can share to help others in this area of marriage, or  you want to share requests for prayer and/or ask others for advice, please “Join the Discussion” by adding your comments below.


Filed under: Assorted Marriage Issues Mental and Physical Health

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123 responses to “HELP! My Spouse Drinks Too Much

  1. Help. I’m a 59 year-old man who has been happily married to a bright, attractive and intelligent Christian woman for 25 years. But after years of self medicating for MS symptoms and the loss of her mother, she is smitten by the bottle. Wine mainly. It’s grip defies logic and I live in fear that the urge to drink is overcoming every thing we have built together. I pray to the Lord for answers, a message, or a self awakening. I find empty bottles in her closets, under the sofa, behind the TV. Yes, I’ve confronted her, bargained, and we’ve had many long discussions. It’s been heart breaking. This is something that happens to someone else. Would you be willing to pray for us?

  2. I pray for wisdom and I ask you all to pray with me too. I have a boyfriend who is about to be my husband and we have one small baby. My soon to be husband drinks a lot and drinks everyday. Although he may not get drunk everyday he drinks everyday and smokes too, he even smokes weed. We have talked and talked and talked. He has promised and promised but he’s broken the promises. I am at a point where I feel I can’t stand him anymore and I just wanna call it quits. I don’t know wat to do. I feel bad for our small baby. Can someone advise me or at least pray with me.

    1. Kristen, There are so many things I want to say to you. How I wish we could just get together so I could put my arm around you and start with, “Honey, lets talk…” Why are you thinking of marrying this guy? That’s especially puzzling because you said you’re at a point where you “can’t stand him anymore” and want to “call it quits.” How is this the basis for a good marriage? And how would this marriage be good for your “small baby?” By marrying this guy, will your baby be raised in a loving, stable, protective environment –giving him or her a good start in life? And then if you marry, will you be adding to your family so more children will blessed by being raised in such a healthy, nurturing home?

      Kristen, please wake up. Please reread what you wrote in your comment and tell me what you would advise someone else who would ask for your advice if they were in the same place. And then read the comments below yours where you see one comment after the other of devastating, loveless marriages that are going on where sober spouses are pleading for help because of the extremely troubling circumstances they are living in where alcohol is wiping out their chance of having any kind of a “normal” life. The person they married is gone, leaving behind a drunk who lies, cheats, and is totally self-absorbed in meeting their drinking needs. And yet you are thinking of voluntarily stepping into this future?

      Just because your boyfriend doesn’t get drunk everyday, it doesn’t mean that your future will be any different until he STOPS –being pro-active in getting help to stop this. Promises will continue to be broken over and over again (as you see and others testify by their comments)… you have seen nothing yet. From what I can surmise from your comments, your boyfriend loves his drink, and himself and taking care of his needs over any that you and your baby may have. If that weren’t true, then his promises wouldn’t be broken. Please, please, please wake up, and take care of your baby and yourself. Your boyfriend won’t and will only keep complicating your life more and more.

      IF he gets help …IF he stays away from alcohol and other mind-altering substances, and IF he steps up and shows himself to be a total participant in partnering with you your relationship and raising your child in a healthy, loving home OVER A LONG PERIOD OF TIME –not just for you, but because he is totally changed and realizes it’s the right thing to do, THEN it would be okay to consider marrying. But if not, please run the other way. He is headed into a downward tailspin (much worse than now), and will take you and your child with him. The dysfunction you are living with now will forever change your baby’s future to be a horribly sad one, rather than a good one, which is still possible at this point.

      Please leave the dysfunction behind you and reach out to straighten out your life and the life of your baby. You don’t have to keep feeling “bad” for this baby… you can pray for wisdom, reach out to the Lord, and run with that wisdom in a GOOD direction. I DO pray for you and for this baby, and for your boyfriend to wake up. But until and unless he really, really does, you can still do the right thing and build a good life for you and this child. I hope you will and pray strength and insight for you to be able to do so.

  3. I have been married for 25 years and had four children. My oldest committed suicide almost four years ago at the age of 27 and my husband started drinking more. He has had two DUIs (the last one about three months ago) and says that he is not an alcohol abuser. He quit drinking for about 2 months to prove he wasn’t abusing alcohol but about a week ago he started drinking again; not a lot but a beer or glass of wine.

    My youngest son is 15 and has been the target along with me with his berating and yelling. He sometimes would come home after two in the morning and yell at us. Even pulling me out of bed or pouring cold water on me, then in the morning not remembering he did it. The problem is my youngest started smoking pot during this time and will just leave the house and not say where he is going. He will lie and take money. My husband has caught him many times with pot.

    I travel a lot with my job and am scared of what might happen while I am gone. My son can be manipulative and has tried to get me to leave my husband. We put him in a treatment center for three weeks but it only has made things worse. My husband can be in denial with what he does when he drinks. I have tried to get both of them in counseling but have not succeeded. My son wouldn’t get out of the car when he had an appointment and my husband doesn’t think he has any type of problems and it is all my son.

    I am out of country now and my son texted me and said my husband has been drinking and coming in late the last 3 nights. When he got home last night, my son said my husband hit him several times and locked him out of the house and made him sleep in the garage. When I called my husband he denied it and said my son was trying to be manipulative. I don’t know who to believe and am so scared something will happen. I feel like I am a terrible mom because I don’t know if my son is lying or if he really needs help. I have no one that can check on him. I have already lost a son and can’t bare all this. What do I do?

    1. Hi Kim, Clearly you need help from experts for your situation. Alcoholism is a terrible thing to grow up with as a child… I know. Very likely the deep wounds stemming from the passing of your oldest are still fresh and affecting you all more than you perhaps realize. You are not a terrible mom, rather you have carried a heavy load and need some help! WP (Work in Progress)

  4. There’s so much I thought I knew but actually I don’t have a clue how to survive my situation. I’ve been to Al-anon and felt good after the meeting. But then it’s the same old feelings that surface. I have my own demons; food. I finally went to get help at 68 years old and lost 130 lbs. I feel good about myself but I know that taking care of me and keeping the lbs off takes effort and keeping it green. So…I go to my weekly meetings, write down my food choices, and if I have a bad week, I know where to go for help. It was never easy for me. I have an addiction to food. The only way for me is to be accountable to MYSELF!

    It’s not any different than my husbands drinking issues. I know I really can’t help him until he admits to HIMSELF he has a problem and wants to do something about it. We’ve been married for, are you ready, 45 years. I’ve survived cancer, lost weight, gone to school st 65 and never once did I feel unworthy of good things not happening for me. It hasn’t been a charmed life but I’m still here, and will be ready if that day ever happens to my husband. The only thing I can do is take care of me. It sounds selfish but it’s a simple formula. I’m codependent; I know it. So I’ll try to be ready for that sacred day if it ever comes. God please help my husband but more importantly, help me stay strong.

    1. Hi Kathy, Well… You have done an excellent job of surviving your situation already for a long time!! Obviously you’re the expert here! You’re right, your husband can move forward only when he admits he has a problem, and when he wants help for himself. Do you have trusted Christian friends with whom you can share these things? Having others around you is a huge advantage. You say the “only thing I can do is take care of me…” It seems you have so much to give! I have found that when we give ourselves away, that God takes care of us in infathomable ways. Your husband is lucky to have you! WP (Work in Progress)

  5. Hello, my husband for 5 years now is a very heavy drinker, and he’s both verbal and physical at times but the verbal is mostly the issue. If I was to keep quiet his violent behavior is not much of an issue. I love him and left many times. But this time we are fixing to raise a family of twins that I am carrying and I am stuck between wanting to better my children and myself by getting away from the problem but I also know he has no one and feels that he really needs us as a family and I’m very torn on what to do. I feel that he needs a healthy support system but there is no way he could quit this disease alone. In fact, I feel it would make his situation much worse. What are some things as a supportive and loving wife, that I could do in order to help him?

    1. Hi Karah, Your husband is very fortunate with you, and yes, you both need a healthy support system which does not allow him to get away with this behavior, and at the same time moves him toward recovery from this problem.

      I am a husband married 36 years with 2 adult children. Alcoholism was a big issue during my growing-up years.

      You husband needs to first admit that he has a problem which needs fixing (this is half the battle already,) and then he wants to actively seek help. If your husband is not yet at this place of admission and desire to change in his life, then your need to surround yourself with support in terms of trusted friends, family and a church community is that much greater. There are many organizations which specialize in this problem- Alcoholics Anonymous is well known. You could certainly contact an AA near you for further advice.

      As a supportive and loving wife, you can indicate in all kinds of ways that you are there for him and love him, but that this behavior cannot continue. “Tough love” I believe that is called. It is essential that your twins are exposed as little as possible to an alcoholic father… the mood swings, verbal and physical violence can scar children for life. I know. I have seen this for myself. Your husband also needs to be aware of the grave effect this problem can have on his children.

      I cannot be more specific right now, and I am not a “liscensed expert” in these matters. I have had the experience as a child, though, and I have seen what domestic violence (verbal and or physical) can do to a family. I hope these comments help. You are among friends here, Karah. May God bless you and guide you…. WP (Work in Progress)

  6. My partner drinks every night until he falls asleep. Sometimes he wakes up and goes for another drink. He does know he uses his drinking to numb the day. We have a good life but he is affecting the whole family. I do not know where to start and how to get him help. I am ready to leave.

    1. Hi Lynda, Three things you can do straightaway are to ask the advice of an organisation like Alcoholics Anonymous… and to suround yourself with friends and family whom you trust, wth with whom you can share these concerns. Far better than carrying such a nurden all by yourself. Third is of course, to pray… I hope these ideas help… WP (Work in Progress)