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How to be in a Relationship with an Alcoholic

A group of five adults stands outside in a semi-circle with their arms around each other.
Family and friends can play an important role in recovery from alcohol addiction.


Relationships are complicated enough—and when you throw alcohol into the mix they can become downright explosive.

Fights provoked over nothing. Holidays that are ruined. Late nights spent worrying. Money problems.

That leaves the family and friends of an alcoholic with two very important questions—how to cope with daily life and how to convince their loved one to get help.

Alcoholics’ Behaviors in a Relationship

Life with an alcoholic can be a rollercoaster of emotions. They may blame loved ones for their problems. A husband, for example, may say that he wouldn’t drink so much if his wife wasn’t such a nag. A wife might say she’d give up her nightly wine if she didn’t have to stress over paying the bills.

The thing is, you won’t be able to change this type of behavior. What you can do is to change your response to it. Instead of feeling guilty and trying to fix the problem, realize that—until the addiction is addressed—nothing will ever truly be resolved.

And that’s more or less the message when it comes to all aspects of addiction and a person’s behavior. You can’t change it. What’s more, your loved one’s brain chemistry may have changed so much that even they can’t change their behavior.

Here’s an example: Your wife promised you that she would only have two drinks when she went out after work with friends. Yet she came home obviously very intoxicated. You take it personally. If she loved you, she would have stopped at two.

But the very definition of addiction is that a person can’t control his or her drinking. It’s beyond your loved one’s control. And it’s certainly beyond your control.

Finding Help

Your loved one can get better. Until that happens, find help for yourself.

Joining a support group will help you to understand that this is not your fault and also that you can’t control it. It will also help you to realize that your loved one isn’t doing this to hurt you or because he or she doesn’t love you.

Some experts say that addiction is actually harder on a drinker’s family than it is on the person abusing alcohol. Nothing will make this situation easy, but it can become more bearable.

The ultimate goal, of course, is for your loved one to seek help. If you’re reading this, it’s more than likely that you’ve already asked—and your loved one has said no.

That doesn’t mean you should give up. Accusations, in general, are not helpful. Instead, try to make it their decision. Try being empathetic and asking open-ended questions.

So, rather than telling your loved one that he or she is ruining your life, ask what they think life might be like if they didn’t have to drink every day to feel OK. Help your loved one to see that this isn’t just about giving alcohol up. It’s about building a new—and infinitely better—life.

Hope and Healing at The Raleigh House

At The Raleigh House, we believe that an important part of the healing process is repairing relationships that have been damaged by alcohol. Rebuilding trust takes time and effort, but our master’s level therapists are here to help heal your loved one—and your family. Fill out our form or contact us today to learn more about the alcohol addiction treatment program at The Raleigh House.

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