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Divorce Help | December 9, 2023

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Marriage on the Rocks: Dealing with your Alcoholic Spouse - Divorce Help

Marriage on the Rocks: Dealing with your Alcoholic Spouse
Brian Beltz

If you are the husband or wife of an alcoholic and are struggling with your loved one’s addiction, you aren’t alone. Not even close. Statistically speaking, an estimated 12.5 million spouses in the United States are battling their mate’s unhealthy relationship with alcohol.

Substance addiction is a disease that impacts everyone the addict’s life touches. It is a complex illness that can not only destroy an addict’s own self image, but has degrading effects on the way they view their spouses, can leave haunting emotional scars on their children and often destroys friendships and other familial relationships along the way. Addiction is one of the biggest challenges a couple can face.

Addiction is a downward spiral that often leads alcohol abusers to lie, cheat, behave irrationally, get sick and neglect important people and events in their lives. And spouses who are legally bound to addicts are usually the ones who bear the brunt of the impacts of the addiction, without enjoying the effects of the drugs or alcohol themselves. While an addict can push consequences aside to chase another high or find their next buzz, concerned spouses are left to pick up the pieces.

divorceA 2007 Boston University study revealed that a high level of alcohol use while individuals were in their early 20’s was the leading cause of divorce before age 30. Various other studies have found that the amount of alcohol that a person consumes may be directly correlated to the length of their marriage. Alcohol abuse can lead to issues surrounding money, arguments over the amount of alcohol consumed, legal problems and lack of intimacy. Divorce is three to four more times more likely when alcohol abuse is a factor in a marriage, and the likelihood is multiplied when drinking habits among couples are incompatible. The amount of alcohol a husband and wife consume during their first year of marriage can predict long-term effects on the marriage and probability of divorce.

So you have all this information – but what’s it good for if you don’t know what to do with it? Well, below are some options to explore, starting with the primary and most effective and ending with your final effort.


What you can do

Get help for yourself.

There’s only so much you can do to help your spouse. And if you’re like most partners of addicts, you’ve likely gone to great lengths to help your mate help him/herself. Whether or not your efforts have been effective, it’s time for you to focus on you. Addicts aren’t the only ones with twelve-step recovery processes. Addictive illness and recovery programs like Al-anon, CoDa (Codependents Anonymous) and AcoA (Adult Children of Alcoholics) can provide community support and offer expert advice. They can open your eyes to unforeseen solutions and remind you that you aren’t alone in this battle.

Urge your spouse to get help.

Rehabilitation and recovery programs, self-support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, counseling and numerous other solutions are out there to help people in your partner’s position. While many addicts are in denial about their illness or refuse to obtain professional help, the ones who do have a chance of turning things around. Professional treatment centers have sprung up across the country at an exceeding rate over the past decade. There is likely a center nearby that can help your family and your marriage through this destructive stage addiction.

Get out.

Some people will find themselves in a place that they once never thought they’d be – at the end of their rope and the end of their marriage. If you have reached a point where you have exhausted all your options and have nowhere to turn, divorce may be your only way to move on to a healthier, happier chapter of your life – especially if you have children. If your spouse has become violent or irresponsible to a point where you have found yourself or your family in danger, it may be time to remove yourself from harm’s way.



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