Drinking too much

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

You may feel like your partner is being taken away from you – both literally and figuratively. Perhaps you resent the amount of time they spend out drinking and feel like they’re a completely different person when they’ve been drinking.

Perhaps you don’t know how to broach the topic with them – or maybe you have and it’s not gone how you would like.  Maybe they’ve accused you of nagging them, or they disagree that there’s a problem at all. Perhaps they tell you it's your fault that they drink.

For many partnerships, 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.

Set aside some time to talk about things and talk about them properly. 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 a partner’s behavior may be different when they drink. Instead, try and find a moment when you’re both sober and in a normal mood – that way, you’re much more likely to be able to talk about things constructively. 

When it comes to having difficult conversations with your partner, you may find our article on communication tips to try with your partner really useful. This has a number of ideas on how to talk over an issue without things getting heated or turning into an argument.

What if they disagree?

This is a risk. There’s every chance that your partner will feel that there’s nothing wrong with the amount they drink – and resent the fact that they’ve been 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 accepted as completely normal.  Some people can consume different quantities of alcohol and feel more or less of an effect than others.

This is complicated by the fact that drinking is sometimes triggered by certain life events, such as losing (or gaining) a new job, having children, and any other significant changes. Before broaching the topic with your partner, you may like to consider if there is a specific reason why they’re drinking a lot. It could be that this will be an important part of addressing what’s happening together. 

Depending on how strongly they disagree with you, it might be that you’re able to compromise and meet somewhere in the middle. This might mean them drinking 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 unable to see eye to eye.  They may feel you’re being a total killjoy, whereas you think they’re being totally unreasonable. In more extreme situations, it might be that they’re in denial about the amount they drink and unable to consider any 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 kind 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 from here, 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.

Domestic Abuse  

Alcohol misuse often features as part of a pattern of domestically abusive behaviour. Abusive partners will blame what they do on what they’ve been drinking, often with the promise that it won’t happen again. It’s also not usual to find that an abusive partner asserts that if you didn’t annoy, upset or frustrate them so much, then they wouldn’t need to drink and then there wouldn't be any abuse. Such excuses are never acceptable because the abuser is simply finding a different way of blaming you for what they themselves have chosen to do.   

If a partner changes for the worse during or after drinking or shifts into actually abusive behaviour whether that’s emotional or physical, getting professional help can support the safest way of deciding what to do. Remember, it’s not your job to ‘make’ someone stop drinking. In fact, it’s usually an impossibility anyway because only the person displaying the unhelpful or abusive behaviours can make those changes. 

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