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My partner is horrible when he drinks

I’ve been with my boyfriend for nearly a year. Normally, he’s amazing and we get on great. However, we’ve been out a few times drinking together with work colleagues and friends, and on these occasions he’s been extremely disrespectful towards me.

The first time, he got really drunk and started aggressively flirting with other women in front of me, putting his arm around them and whispering in their ear. I made it known I wasn’t happy about it but he just laughed and didn’t take me seriously. So I left, and he apologised the next day, saying he was drunk and he would never do that again, etc. Like a chump, I forgave him because I love him.

We were fine again for another six months, but last week he met up with me and my friend. This was his first time meeting any of my friends. He showed up really drunk, was fine for about half an hour, and then began completely ignoring me at the table we were all sharing. Like turning his back to me and hyper focusing on my friend.

When he finally spoke to me, he made a sexual comment. I then stormed off and made it known I was annoyed. My friend agreed with me, and said she’d noticed his behaviour and thought it was inappropriate. We had a big shouting match, and then the next day he apologised again and acknowledged he had a drinking problem.

But I’ve noticed my feelings are changing. He’s a great boyfriend when he’s not insanely drunk, but this is making me nervous to go out anywhere with him. He’s said he’s going to try and change his drinking habits, but I just don’t know. I love him, and this is unusual for us, but I can’t be disrespected like this continually for years. It’s already damaging my self esteem.

What is your advice on this?

Leave him. You’ve had an opportunity to see the writing on the wall so don’t ignore it. 

I know this sounds harsh but all these signs are there. When he’s been drinking, his behaviour changes and you find yourself on the end of his cruel and disrespectful actions. It’s good that he acknowledges he has a problem with booze but he now needs to do something about it and I’m afraid that all the while you put up with how he is when he’s drunk by continuing in the relationship, there isn’t much reason for him to change. 

People say all sorts of things if they think a relationship may end. Promising to make changes if only things can continue is a common one. Of course, sometimes people do actually sort themselves out and demonstrate they have indeed addressed the underlying problem and the relationship carries on. Often though, the repeated promises to change after each dreadful event never materialise and all that happens is the person on the receiving end feels more and more diminished, as you do now. 

Your changing feelings are entirely understandable and I think what you’re really saying here is that it’s becoming difficult to trust that he won’t be or get drunk and behave as you describe. Thats a difficult place to be because  you end up filled with anxiety about what’s going to happen next. His actions appear to be related to being with you and others too. Maybe he’s just fine when you’re alone. Maybe he gets anxious about being in a social situation – some people do and that’s fine.

What is not fine is when their way of managing their anxiety results in humiliation for someone else, as is the case here.

I have worked with many couples over the years where substance misuse was apparently the problem. It’s not uncommon for the person misusing to blame their partner for somehow being responsible for making then drink or take drugs. Of course, all of that is nonsense because the only person who can and should take responsibility for misusing and doing something about it is the person actually doing it. 

I know you love him and ending the relationship may seem too big a step or perhaps an unnecessary one because ‘surely’ he will want to make good on all this – and he might do – but in this particular situation I suggest you trust your instincts and feelings and move on to a relationship with someone willing to treat you with respect and compassion. You could of course always say that once he’s evidenced he’s got the support he needs to stop drinking (which by the way may need professional help) and can evidence things are different for him then you might reconsider the relationship. 

But as things stand, him getting drunk and insulting you is not something to be endured, so don’t.  You’re worth so more much more than that. 

Do you have a question to ask Ammanda?

Ammanda Major is a sex and relationship therapist and our Head of Service Quality and Clinical Practice

If you have a relationship worry you would like some help with send a message to Ammanda.

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