Talking to Your Spouse About His or Her Drinking

If you suspect your spouse has a drinking problem, you may be wondering how to best address the issue. Read on for our tips to broach this difficult topic.

Let’s assume, for all intents and purposes, that your spouse suffers from alcoholism (sometimes referred to as Alcohol Use Disorder or AUD). If such is the case, which is very likely is if he or she cannot stop drinking, you’ll want to be mindful about how you broach the topic.

If your spouse recognizes they have a drinking problem, the conversation will be a lot easier. If they do not, however, view their drinking as problematic, then be very careful about making accusations. In other words, don’t automatically label them an alcoholic, attack them, or tell them that they’re wrong. All of this is likely to backfire. Stick to your own feelings. Explain how it hurts you in addition to how it impacts your life and any other members of your household.

Here are some tips for getting through an arguably difficult conversation with your spouse about his or her drinking: 

Ease into the conversation

Make sure your spouse is sober and that you’re feeling calm. Or, at the very least, make every effort to get into a relaxed headspace. Meditation and deep breathing can help. Once again, approach this from your vantage point without using accusatory language.

Tell your spouse how their drinking makes you feel

Offer them specific examples if you can. You can say things like, “it really hurts me when you miss our date nights because you’re hungover or you’ve been drinking heavily.” Obviously, this is just an example, but hopefully, you get the idea. There might be more extreme cases where arrests have been made due to DUIs, drunk in public charges, or perhaps even situations involving your children.

Listen

Give your spouse the opportunity to tell you how he or she is feeling and whether or not they recognize that their drinking is a problem. Be fair and do not interrupt them while they’re talking. If they truly don’t that they have a drinking problem, don’t let this influence your judgment. If their drinking bothers you and is impacting your life in negative ways, you’re entitled to your feelings.

Set a boundary and offer a compromise

If your spouse isn’t ready to change his or her drinking habits, it might be time to set a boundary. Try not to use threatening language here. Simply explain to your spouse what you’re willing to put up with. If your spouse’s excessive drinking is causing you to question your marriage, then this compromise might include a trial separation if he or she doesn’t cut back for an extended period of time. Only you know what’s best, but it’s all going to start with listening and trying to understand where your spouse is coming from first. This way, you can understand what you’re dealing with and approach a potential compromise.

Educate yourself about alcoholism>

This is important for numerous reasons when you’re about to have a conversation with someone about a drinking problem. First and foremost, though, it’s important to understand how this disease operates so you realize you’re not to blame for your spouse’s behavior. If alcoholism is present, your spouse’s drinking has absolutely nothing to do with you. You’re dealing with someone who has a disease of the brain, and a true-blue alcoholic will often risk the things that are most dear to them just to get drunk. Learn more about alcoholism.

Offer solutions

If your spouse recognizes that he or she may have a problem and is ready to get help, be prepared to offer solutions. Do some online research and locate good recovery centers in your area if you think rehab might be necessary. You can also check out various recovery programs like Alcoholics Anonymous or SMART Recovery. Find meetings in your area so that you can present your spouse with a list.

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