We realize this is a totally different type of Marriage Insight than we usually send out to our subscribers. But we feel strongly that God is prompting us to do so. And who are we to argue with God? We believe it is because many of you are dealing with this issue. Or it could be that someone you know is dealing with this situation and it would be a marriage saving gesture to send it to help them. Here is the issue: What do you do when your spouse drinks too much and it is negatively affecting your lives together? Do you close your eyes to what’s going on? Do you keep hoping that someday he/she will finally wake up to the problems the drinking is causing?
Or maybe you yell and scream and try to shame him/her into stopping this behavior. The question is, how did that work for you? Has any of those methods helped to propel things forward in a positive way?
It could be that you have “done everything right” and yet you’re still fighting through this as a continual issue. This causes you to wonder how much longer you can hold out hoping things will change. You’re exhausted, confused, and don’t know what to do next.
Spouse Drinks: Excuses, Excuses
And then there are the excuses. You’ve probably heard a million of them! “A few drinks never hurts anybody.” “It’s my business—not yours.” Or maybe it’s: “I’ve tried to ‘get on the wagon’ of living without drinking, but every time I fall off” (and then they laugh as if that’s funny). But there’s nothing funny when a spouse drinks too much again and again and again. Despite their “best” efforts, the excuses just don’t hold up. So, yes:
“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“)
Promises, Promises: When a Spouse Drinks too Much
And what about the promises your spouse has made: “from this day forward things will be different”? (That is, if you’ve even received such promises!) Perhaps you can relate to the following comments a wife wrote concerning her husband who has a drinking problem:
“I couldn’t count the times Bob promised he would never drink again. It was completely frustrating. Bob would look me straight in the eye and tell me he’s 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 Focus on the Family article “If my husband drinks a lot but doesn’t get drunk, is he an alcoholic?“)
Good Intentions, But…
That’s not the most inviting word picture to think about, but it has some truth to it. Your spouse may have good intentions; but he/she is in a state of denial both mentally (not facing the truth) and physically (where the needs of the body deny him or her the ability to stop reaching for another drink).
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’s important to note that when you are dealing with a person who is a heavy drinker, you aren’t speaking to your spouse so much as you are the alcohol, he/she is using to cope with life in an unhealthy manner.
Wisdom Needed When Spouse Drinks Too Much
So, when you are dealing with this type of dysfunctional partner you truly need wisdom. You also need to get help from someone who isn’t so close to the situation and can give you objective advice.
“A comment I often have clients, 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 also need to “get real” within yourself and with your spouse. To help you with this matter, read the following. These articles can set the stage to realistically deal with the truth of this issue. You may not think they pertain to you but read them anyway. Perhaps you can glean a few tips that can help you in this matter:
So, in light of what’s been discussed so far, we’re going to give you a few tips that you could find helpful.
“Don’t use the ‘A’ or the ‘D’ word. When it comes to confronting a person with an alcohol problem, one of the worst things you can do is call the individual an ‘alcoholic.’ For one, most problem drinkers are not alcoholics by the true definition of the word. Secondly, the stigma associated with the “A” word will most likely put your spouse immediately on the defensive and alienate them even more. Another word to avoid: denial. Accusing your spouse of being in denial will only breed resentment and contempt.
“Highlight the connection between the cocktails and the consequences. A sensitive yet effective way to approach the topic is to link your spouse’s drinking to the results of their behavior. For example, ‘You say you’ve been more tired than usual—that seems to have gotten worse since you started drinking more.’ Or, ‘You say you don’t have time to exercise; I noticed you’ve been skipping your exercise class to make time for going out for drinks.” (Robert Yagoda)
To read more that Robert writes on this issue (which we highly recommend) here’s a link to his insightful article:
And then the following advice from author Angie Lewis, can also be helpful to keep in mind:
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:
Alcoholism is a Family Disease.
Also, from Skyler Sage, realize that:
Substance abuse by a loved one affects the entire family. We also 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, go to:
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.
Also, if your spouse drinks too much:
Here are several additional helpful articles to read when a spouse drinks:
We realize we have given you A LOT of information to pray about and consider. We pray the Lord opens the doors of heaven and pours out His Spirit within you and your home. It is our prayer that He speaks powerfully to your spouse to access how much he or she drinks. Additionally, we pray that your spouse will do something about his or her drinking problem.
To give you direction where you can get help when you or your spouse drinks too much, the following are a few helpful organizations you can contact. We realize that they are not available to help everyone in every country. But for some of you, they can definitely help you:
We pray that God will use this article to help you and/or those you know and care about.
But no matter what you are going through, keep in mind:
“Even in the darkness light dawns for the upright…” (Psalm 112:4)
Cindy and Steve Wright
— ADDITIONALLY —
To help you further, we give a lot of personal stories, humor, and more practical tips in our book, 7 ESSENTIALS to Grow Your Marriage. We hope you will pick up a copy for yourself. (It’s available both electronically and in print form.) Plus, it can make a great gift for someone else. It gives you the opportunity to help them grow their marriage. And who doesn’t need that? Just click on the linked title or the picture below:
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