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Partner's drinking affecting relationship
Hi everyone - I haven't been on here for a few years! But I wondered if anyone could give me some different perspectives on this issue...?
My partner and I have been together for 21 years - Ive suffered from Anxiety and Depression most of my life but getting better at coping all the time. I used to drink a LOT before I got my Anxiety diagnosed but I haven't had a drink at all for something like 12-14 years.
My wife though has been drinking more as she's gotten older (we're both 44). She drinks every day and drinks excessively (like falling down drunk) once a week or so. She realises she drinks too much but she doesn't show any signs of slowing or stopping - I've pretty much given up on the hope that she will stop.
But MY problem is how much it bugs me - I feel like I'm being unreasonable (and that may be the case) in wanting her to stop drinking - I don't want to be controlling or demanding - and it seems extreme of me (which it may be) to be remotely considering ending a 20+ year relationship over it - but more and more I feel like I can't deal with it.
I guess I would like to hear other people's opinions on this - is it unreasonable of me to demand that someone else stop drinking? Is it unreasonable of HER that she keeps drinking, knowing how much it's affecting our relationship? (We've discussed it a lot). Is there a different way I should be looking at the whole issue?
I know I'm in the minority in society being a total non drinker and it feels unreasonable to demand that of someone else... I've been trying to NOT let it bug me so much over the past few years but it's not working!
Many thanks for listening!
Dear Mr Walker~
Welcome back, it as been a while.
I'm most impressed you managed to give away alcohol, it is hard enough without the background of anxiety and depressor making things worse.
You wanted a perspective, OK, this is mine. When I married - I had one 25 year partnership and after that sadly ended in her passing away I entered another, which is still lasting after a similar period. I've been blessed.
On both occasions all of us changed in some ways, hopefully to be more accommodating and cherishing as well as all the normal things such as bringing up kids:) Plus experience.
What did not change was the conviction my wife had my back, was as capable as I (if not not more so) and a partner in decision making.
Sadly your wife is not the same person you joined 21 years ago and I doubt she would meet the expectations you both had earlier on. Alcohol is an insidious disease, life altering, poisoning, dangerous and leaves one with unclear thinking - pus it is highly addictive.
You are not with the same person. Even so your protective instincts for the one you loved may well be a trouble to you, maybe feeling that you are abandoning when you are needed most.
I'd not think it unreasonable to want your wife to stop drinking, however having a black and white attitude may not be the only answer, though for some it works. Getting her to reduce in stages might be a more realistic goal, hoping the person you knew will reemerge as the intake decreases.
I am pretty sure of three things, first your wife has to want to stop, and second experienced professional assistance for both of you is needed, her to help stop or reduce and have a plan in place which may involve another in emergencies, and for you - to be able to cope.
I'll stress that any reduction or cessation should be under the close guidance of a doctor.
Hi Mr Walker
You sound like a reasonable person who's able to see good reason to look at things from different angles. Croix offers great advice when it comes to different perspectives. I hope I'm able to add to that in a way that can help.
My husband and I started our relationship as drinking buddies. As we progressed through our relationship, a number of factors changed. I became a mum who was primary carer to our kids on top of experiencing the end of a 15 or so year battle with depression, on top of beginning my quest for greater self understanding. When the depression came to an end, so did my drinking. On my quest, there have been a lot of questions, including 'Why was I so reliant on alcohol?'. Not sure if it's the same for your wife but, for me, I was an emotional drinker. If I was down, alcohol led me to feel 'up', before the crash that comes afterwards, making the depression worse. If I was bored, it led me to feel more excitement. Shy/nervous/anxious, it led me to feel confident. This list goes on. When I came out of depression, I found alcohol got in the way of the emotions I wanted to feel. Do you feel your wife is an emotional drinker and, if so, do you know what emotions or feelings she's trying to conjure up? By the way, I found alcohol also allowed me to conjure up 'numbness', for numbness was better than depression (so I believed at the time).
My husband still drinks, not excessively but enough to have an impact on the relationships around him. I've tried to lead him to see this on occasion but he refuses to. He does not believe his drinking creates problems. He's what you'd call a functional alcoholic.
I heard a great piece of advice the other day, 'A person's behaviour changes through self awareness'. I imagine you'd be able to relate to this, given how far you've come in your own life. The more self aware you become, the more your behaviour changes and you go on to become even more self aware in the process. It's like raising yourself through a graduating form of self awareness. If someone flat out refuses to work on becoming more aware of their behaviour, they can't graduate through the challenge they face.
Do you feel part of your frustration involves you having worked so hard on your self and your wife isn't up to doing the same thing? Do you feel she's depressed? What do you feel is stopping her? While she's aware her drinking is a problem, is she aware of exactly why she drinks? Is the answer something you could find together?
I have to echo therising here and really get to understand what is driving your wife to drink to such an excessive level. Sometimes we judge the person and make personality judgements before we understand the situations that can sometimes drive behavior - like alcohol abuse. Alcohol abuse can be related to many factors work, depression, anxiety, stress, boredom. It would be good to get a chance to talk to her - maybe go out in nature together and casually bring up how you noticed how she has been consuming alcohol and share your concern - you want to understand if there is anything that is causing this increase in consumption. She may not answer straight away but that question will stay with them and at a later time they may recognize the fault of their ways and reveal something to you.
Hello again! And thanks!
Yes you're right we are both very different people after 20 years!
I suppose I've moved more (maybe too far) towards it being a black and white issue because she's tried cutting down very many times - I don't think it would be a problem for me if it was a healthier amount - she just can't seem to stop once she starts.
Also I think, because it was was very easy for me to quit drinking (I don't know why - I expected it to be very hard) - I'm maybe underestimating how hard it is for her..
A lot to think about..!
Thank you for the replies!
Yes it's definitely emotional.. she has been diagnosed with depression but doesn't always take medication for it.
We have been through a LOT over the years! And currently have a few very stressful/depressing situations going on.
I guess that's another issue - because we have a lot of external stresses - I may be focussing more on how her drinking affects ME (because I'm already dealing with a lot) and forgetting how hard it is for her...
I should say it's also a social thing for her too - a lot of her friends drink too much as well and she gets a kick out of being known as the biggest drinker of them all. They like to brag about how crazy they get on nights out etc.
So there's a lot of factors to it... And yes, like therising we started out as drinking buddies/party animals in the entertainment industry but I guess I've changed a lot more than she has...
I think she also likes to act like a teenager with her friends as an antidote to getting a bit older...
Dear Mr Walker~
One hopeful thing "she's tried cutting down very many times". That's good, she realises these is some sort of problem, with her, or the drink, or the effect on you. Any is good.
Not succeeding can be a downer, or an encouragement, that's one reason a professional is needed. I guess if she still wants to have your back then maybe there is enough there to keep on trying. I suspect there might be.
I do know looking at myself when I have troubles, be they medical or whatever I may feel I've no control, it's hopeless. That can go two ways. I can react by picking on something impossible to try, and fail. That proves I'd no control over life, nothing to be done.
Then instead I could pick on something I might be able to control -and succeed. That gives me a smidgen of control over life.
That's irrational but I think important, at least for me. I'm probably explaining it as clear as mud.
With other external matters hounding the pair of you maybe you are picking on one thing.
If those matters are pressing on both of you your wife may see herself, or her drinking as an additional failure, and lack of contribution.
Maybe this drink and the mindset behind it are a two-person problem.
What do you think?
Thanks Croix - yes I know exactly what you mean - I do the same with the impossible tasks and the small victories!
And yes she does know it is a problem. She has even seen professionals about it before - but I think we differ in how MUCH of a problem we think it is..
Each time we talk about it she seems to agree with me and has a few days or a week off. I just feel like it's up to me to decide whether I can live with her drinking or not. I don't think she's going to stop and I don't think she can cut down.
But you're right it's better than being in total denial...
It's just a bit raw at the moment because she went on a big bender the other day and has been asleep ever since.
In general also we don't have much support (well I have less than her because my social anxiety means I'm quite isolated) but we've both been under pressure from our whole extended family from other issues. So when she's drunk or asleep I feel extra lonely! I know I shouldn't rely on her so much for emotional support (because she's under the same stress as me!) But it feels like it's us against the world sometimes!
We have been foster parenting our grandson over multiple 12 month orders so our lifestyles drastically change from year to year plus our whole extended family thinks he should be with his mother so we get constant pressure and no help at all and are treated like WE took her child from her - no one else in the family offered to care for him each time he was removed but we get almost BLAMED for the whole situation.
So it's very stressful and we go through a kind of grieving process each time he goes back - so I've been more depressed than usual lately too...
And of course drinking is it's OWN problem as well as a crutch and a symptom of other problems but you can't really talk about it with anyone... Friends of family I mean...