HELP! My Spouse Drinks Too Much

Spouse Drinks Too Much AdobeStock_289116357We 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)

Be Realistic

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:

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

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:

• 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.

Also, if your spouse drinks too much:

Here are several additional helpful articles to read when a spouse drinks:

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

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


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.

Helpful Organizations

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:

• Al-Anon Internet Meetings


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?

• Find Al-Anon Meetings Online

• On-line Al-Anon Outreach


• New Life Recovery Centers


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


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:

7 Essentials - Marriage book


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149 responses to “HELP! My Spouse Drinks Too Much

  1. Am I being self-righteousness by not condoning my husband’s alcohol problem???

    1. I don’t know if you’re acting self-righteous about this or not. You are the one who knows that as you examine your heart and attitude. But it’s not good to condone your husband’s alcohol problem. Jesus never condoned things like that. Excess anything (other than giving love, grace, kindness, forgiveness, etc) is not good. So saying something, and doing something about this is not wrong. Doing it with a self-righteous attitude –that’s not good. Pride can trip us up along with those we are trying to help. Don’t condone, but check your own attitude while you’re dealing with all of this. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

  2. This is an excellent article outlining help for family members. Living with a spouse that is abusing drugs or alcohol can be extremely difficult on a family system. Getting a spouse to agree to getting help can also be an uphill battle but with support and help you can find a path that works for you. I always encourage family members to get a private therapist and attend Al-Anon even if their spouse does not agree to get help. It is so important for the family to get help as early as possible. This will help you prepare for the future and also so you can stay as healthy as possible during a difficult times. Often times family members who do not get help, can get quite mentally unhealthy without even realizing how bad it’s getting until it really affects your life.

  3. Concerning detaching with love. What does one do when their spouse drinks all hours of every day and we have children? I can’t take the kids to a different room or an outing all hours of every day. We are walking on constant eggshells around him as he is always looking for something to get mad over, therefore giving him another reason to drink angrily and pass out. So, I try to keep to myself when he’s like that and then I realize that days, months and even years pass by without me having a decent conversation. It’s a lonely agony.

    I keep lifting him up to build his confidence, hoping for reciprocation. I have given him ultimatums, lovingly giving him boundaries and requests for him to get help with no results. (Though, a few years ago, cps was notified concerning a bruise on our son that he accidentally inflicted while intoxicated. I had no choice but to tell him to leave and not come back until he was sober. He went through a week long detox and seemed much better, even going as far as to tell me that he didn’t like how alcohol made him feel anyway. However, a little while later, his rehabilitating insomnia was more than he could handle, all alternative sleep methods don’t work apparently, and his “night caps” brought alcohol back into our house.)

    He knows that he needs help and is full of talk to change with no action. He wants everything to be perfect. The simple little irritations in life (example: two kids arguing, being put on hold in a photo call, a leaky faucet, ants at a picnic, anything) sets him off in a tangent about how “nothing ever works right for me in my life”, “I am not meant to have anything work out for me”, and so on. He’ll look at me and say things like, “you’ll never have anything but this dump with me” in what I feel is an indirect effort to push me away. Of course I tell him that material doesn’t matter to me. (There are other forms of psychological abuse that happens very often as well, such as cruel sarcasm, bully type of mocking and passive aggressive sarcasm.)(Keep in mind, all of his abuse issues are worth mentioning because of alcohol. Alcohol brings it out tremendously in him.) His need for constant perfection creates psychological issues in the kids. He doesn’t want to get help from anyone because everyone is imperfect and he doesn’t feel like anyone can help him.

    He doesn’t have respect for anyone’s counsel because he always finds out that those people in those positions, like pastors, have many huge mistakes in their own lives. (Example: The pastor that married us turned out to have an affair after we moved out of that state. When my husband called him years later, he won’t get back in touch with us.) He seems to always have an excuse to not get help. It’s like he’s holding onto his misery like it’s a safety blanket and misery loves company which brings the whole household down. My husband is extremely intelligent, quick witted and a high functioning alcoholic.

    It’s so difficult for me to know the right balance between the correct amount of support to give and giving firm boundaries. I am a quiet, easy going, go with the flow type of person. Being put in a situation like this is so confusing. I have tried many times to use advice like this article, but I haven’t seen results. I know that I am not perfect myself and there are plenty of times over the years that I reacted wrong. I am and have been actively working hard to do what is right though. I know that I can’t change him, that’s up to him. I also know that having him leave or the kids and I leaving would be extremely devastating and really not possible because I have no where to go, I am homeschooling and a stay at home mom.

    I am obsolete in my field (graphic art degree from years ago) and I truly believe (have had Godly confirmation) that I am supposed to do something in the arts field in a different location. I live in an area that I am not meant to and can not get work in my field here. I just don’t know what else I can do to get through to my husband. His work would be able to move us around and get us to better areas for our entire family to flourish. His alcoholism and procrastination is what is holding us back. There are always consequences for our actions and those consequences can effect others as well, like your household. It really is a crying shame. I keep pressing, praying and lifting him up with inspiration and love, hoping to finally see him open up and receive help. I feel like another ultimatum may need to happen, but the last few were not accepted. Any suggestions for me are appreciated!

    1. Rebekah, I have a few suggestions for you:
      1) You didn’t mention church, so if you aren’t involved in an active Bible-teaching fellowship of believers, I would suggest that you find one and get involved, at least you and your children.

      2) If you don’t have some close Christian female friend who you can share your struggles with, I would suggest that you find a good female Christian counselor to talk to.

      3) Your husband is self-medicating himself with alcohol… trying to escape from something. It will be helpful to you if you understand why he might be acting the way he acts. I would suggest that you read “How We Love”, by Milan & Kay Yerkovich. They have a really great ministry at

      4) Over the longer-term, your husband will be helped by building friendships with other guys who are solid Christians. He most likely won’t seek them out, they will need to seek him out. So you being involved in a good church will play a big part in making this happen.

      I will be praying for you, your husband, your marriage, and your children…

    2. I totally agree with all that M wrote and hope you will follow through with what he has advised. I have a few other suggestions, as well. First off, your husband may not get help but you need to get help. I strongly advise that you contact the ministry of Focus on the Family (at Go into their Contact section so you can speak to a counselor. They have counselors on staff that will talk to you, and also will advise of other counselors in your area. You truly need some type of action plan. If you keep doing what you have done, you will keep getting what you have gotten and this is not acceptable for you or for your children. Your husband’s alcoholism will forever change your and their lives in a negative way. Make no mistake about that. He needs to change, or this situation needs to change, and your husband does not appear that he will step up and be the hero here to take the steps, which would lead to change. So you need to be the one.

      There are a few books that I HIGHLY recommend you read before you put your plan together. Try to be a quick read on these if you can. One is a book written by the authors that M recommended you visit their web site. It is titled, How We Love. It is written by Milan and Kay Yerkovich. It’s published by published by Water Brook. The authors of this book “draw on the tool of an attachment theory to show how your early life experiences created an ‘intimacy imprint’ —an underlying blueprint that shapes your behavior, beliefs, and expectations of all relationships, especially your marriage. They identify four types of injured imprints that combine in marriage to trap couples in a repetitive dance of pain. The principles and solution-focused tools in this book will equip you to… –identify the imprints disrupting your marriage –understand how your love style impacts your mate –break free of negative patterns that hinder your relationship –enhance your sexual intimacy, and –create a deeper, richer marriage.” I heard the Yerkovich’s talk about this subject and could see how it could absolutely change the lives of many couples in positive ways as they better understood each other’s communication styles. It’s truly an enlightening book –revealing things I never realized before. I believe it’s something that is important for you to read through yourself to see if it helps you.

      Another book that I recommend you read is probably the first one I would start with: It’s titled, Love Must Be Tough and is written by Dr James Dobson. This is the type of approach you would need to use to combat what you are going through with your husband. You need to use tough love so that you have even a smidgen of a chance of saving your marriage. The way this is going, I can pretty much guarantee you that you will lose your husband at a young age. (My brother was a highly functioning, perfectionistic, procrastinating alcoholic for many years. Most of the things you describe about your husband also described Rick. He died at age 46–way, way too young. He thought he could keep going like he was, but it caught up with him. I’ve seen this happen over and over and over again.) Your husband will, you will, and your children will lose on this one if something isn’t done to change this.

      You might also think of getting the book, “Boundaries” by Cloud and Townsend. But the other books are especially important. And contacting the ministry of Focus on the Family is especially important. You need some serious help. You may need to do some tough love things to get your husband to get off of this destructive, toxic road that he is fixed upon traveling–dragging you and your children down this road along with him. I hope you will. I pray strength for you to be brave enough to get help for your family.

      1. Thank you for your advice. We do have a small church that we attend regularly. My husband says that he wants to go as well but has excuses as to why he rarely attends with us, usually due to not getting to sleep early enough or he feels like he will be a hypocrite to go because he feels the need to put on a fake facade. But, I still go with the kids.

        Our pastor is aware of his struggles and has spoken with him about it a few times. He is a really humble, soft spoken pastor. I appreciate him. Since it’s a small church, I am not sure whom else to gain support from there but I will talk to the pastor about it. A few years ago, I had a female friend there that I gained some advice from as she had worked in the legal field in the past. Her husband also had spoken with my husband because he has a heart for him. This couple have, since then, began going to a church a distance away and we’ve lost touch.

        Also a few years back, I had seen a counselor at a family life network near me concerning my own anxiety. And, my husband saw this counselor’s husband concerning his issues (at the time, out of his own accord). But, he had not kept up with it. It is time for him to actively seek, and follow through. It is more difficult now for me to get to counseling sessions since we’re down to one car and I have three kids at home with me and no baby sitters, but I’ll find a way to do what is needed.

        Your advice is very helpful. My steps that I should take here are a little bit clearer. I’ll look at these books and speak to my pastor about moving forward with an action.

        I do know that my husband has had a difficult life and has witnessed many bad situations that most do not. He’s been in the medical field, is very, very good at his job (To be clear, he does not work under the influence as he goes to work after he has slept anything he’s drank off.). He just can’t handle life’s stresses and holds them close. His family is a bit like that. They don’t like to talk about their feelings and seem to feel the need to hold everything in and be strong. Even the normal sadness in life, like an elderly grandparent passing away, is enough to make my husband encase himself in his pain even more. Every time some sort of bad news comes along, I can almost see him cementing a new brick in this metaphoric wall that he has enclosed himself in.

        These roots to his problems are going to be tough to break through. He’s known dealing with his anguish in this manner for so much of his life that he’d need to completely change his whole foundation. I can see that he needs to try though because, yes, I can see that he is self destructing. It’s only a matter of time before his body will give out. And, we have really young children here.

        Again I thank you for your advice, I will take educated, well thought out actions. Your prayers are appreciated. I keep praying and pressing. I have been showing more and more my prayers and positive words toward him, trying to build him up and speak life. These little continual words of confidence and support, I hope will aid him in his journey to recovery. As I lay boundaries here in the near future, I hope to orchestrate it to go along with these positive words that I’m sowing into his mind.

  4. Its is all so difficult. One of these articles says to let the alcoholic know the harm he has done and another says do not make him feel guilty. I know it is a matter of degree, but as long as he chooses to drink I feel like I am walking a tightrope with all my behavior. If I get that balance just right and love without emotion (detachment) he will stop drinking. But I also have to know I did not cause his drinking. I never felt I caused his drinking until I started the process of learning how to help him.

    The only consistent thing I see is to trust God and that this experience helps me grow spiritually.

  5. Although there are some valid points in this article I don’t think it paints a very accurate picture. You are assuming that the partner is functional but very often people use alcohol to cope with dysfunctional partners. Also, many people with alcohol dependence are not in the denial stage but lay people underestimate the difficulty in stopping when it has been used as a coping mechanism. Also the term alcoholic is not helpful. Alcohol dependence or alcohol use disorder are the appropriate terms.