11 Effects of Living with an Alcoholic Spouse and How to Live with an Alcoholic Spouse.

WhatToGetMy Instructional Article

  • The effects of alcoholism on spouse;
  • Life with an alcoholic and living with a drunk husband/wife;
  • When to leave an alcoholic husband; and
  • Support for spouses of alcoholics.

Check out these related articles on How to deal with an insecure man and Signs of insecurity in a woman.

Annual deaths due to to alcohol abuse in the U.S. 2006-2010.

Alcohol abuse remains a serious cause for concern here in the U.S. from the above chart, one sees that alcohol addiction is responsible for a high number of deaths in the U.S. The stats from the chart above shows a bleak picture as far back as 2010 and sadly the situation has not gotten any better since then.

The knock-off effect of alcohol abuse has caused a negative ripple effect across our society. The family as the most basic of the society feels these negative effects the most. In marriages, alcohol abuse continues to have serious negative effects and results. Wives of alcoholics for instance have painful experiences like having to deal with alcoholic abusive husbands and having to cope with an alcoholic husband. And the same goes for a husband who has to deal with an alcoholic wife.

In this article we deal with this very serious and important topic and provide insights into the following:

  • Effects of alcoholism on spouse(s);
  • How to live with an alcoholic spouse;
  • leaving the alcoholic spouse and when to leave an alcoholic husband/wife; and
  • support for spouses of alcoholics.

We also answer some very popular questions on dealing with an alcoholic husband in the Frequently Asked Questions section, so be sure to check it out.

11 Effects of alcoholism on spouse(s).

Table of Contents

Alcohol has several negative effects on the spouse of the alcoholic. Life with an alcoholic can best be described as a daily rollercoaster filled mostly with lows rather than highs. The spouse of recovering alcoholics knows what they had to get through to reach the point in their marriage where their spouse can be said to be a recovering alcoholic.

The negative effects of alcoholism on spouses can sometimes go undetected because being in the moment tends to dull the senses and makes the other spouse not realize just how much of an impact it is having on them. Here are some of the significant negative effects of alcoholism on the spouse/victims of alcoholics:

1. It brings tension between spouses.

Alcohol addiction causes tension between the spouses because the non-alcoholic spouse has to always put up with the negative displays of the alcoholic spouse.

Alcohol addiction causes tension between the spouses

They have to deal with the embarrassment the lifestyle of their spouse brings to them and this is bound to drive a wedge between the spouses.

2. It is the leading cause of physical and emotional abuse in marriages.

Most victims of alcoholics have to put up with abusive behavior in alcoholics. These usually oscillate between physical and emotional abuse, and in some cases both. Spouses who physically and emotionally abuse the other spouse are most likely alcoholics.

3. It takes an emotional toll on the spouse who is on the receiving end.

The spouse on the receiving end has to deal with a myriad of emotions and feelings having to deal with the unpredictable nature of an alcoholic spouse.

4. It creates an unhealthy codependency relationship.

What tends to happen in most alcoholic relationships is that the victims of alcoholics develop an unhealthy codependency relationship with the alcoholic. They do this by making excuses for their alcoholic spouse and creating an enabling environment that allows the alcoholic to continue on the path of alcoholism without taking responsibility.

5. It can affect intimacy between the spouses.

Alcohol has a negative effect on sex because it lowers libido and sexual performance in the long run. This can harm the sexual satisfaction of the spouses in the marriage and lead to sexual frustration by the spouse who is not an alcoholic.

6. It is one of the leading causes of divorce.

Most divorces have come about because of an alcoholic problem with one of the spouses and a refusal by that spouse to deal with it.

7. Reckless living by the alcoholic spouse that negatively affects the other spouse.

The alcoholic spouse may take on a lot of debts that would in turn affect their spouse who is not an alcoholic. Oftentimes, the debts mount up and expose the innocent spouse to ridicule and embarrassment. Sometimes, the alcoholic can get into fights and infractions with the law, thus exposing them to legal liability. This in turn depletes the finances of the home in trying to solve the legal problems.

8. Negative effect on the alcoholic’s work.

The alcoholic spouse may be nursing a hangover one time too many and missing work as a result. This ultimately affects their work negatively and they can in some cases lose their job.

9. Health challenges for the alcoholic spouse.

Heavy alcohol consumption poses several health risks to the one imbibing it such as obesity from a lack of exercising and increased risk of cancer. Other diseases like pneumonia and cirrhosis are also risk health problems for persons who imbibe alcohol a lot. This would affect the non-alcoholic spouse who has to live with the anxiety and pain caused by the self-inflicted health challenges.

10. Increased chances of unfaithfulness/infidelity.

Most spouses who cheat on their significant other have alcohol as the trigger point. When a person is very intoxicated, they are more prone to engage in sex because it dulls rationality.

11. Alcohol can lead to infertility issues.

Alcohol affects the quality of sperm for instance. This can in turn affect the fertility of the alcoholic husband for instance. And if the victim happens to be the wife and she wants to have children, that dream may never come to reality with an alcoholic husband.

Living with an alcoholic husband/wife – How to live with an alcoholic spouse.

It is not easy living with an alcoholic husband/wife because it always harms the victims of alcoholics. If you have an alcoholic spouse, here are some do’s and don’ts of how to live with an alcoholic spouse.

12. Don’t blame yourself or take responsibility for your spouse’s alcoholic problems.

You are not the reason why your spouse is an alcoholic. It is their choice and therefore their responsibility for being an alcoholic.

You are not the reason why your spouse is an alcoholic

You mustn’t blame yourself or want to shift responsibility from your alcoholic spouse to yourself because it is the quickest way to then create an unhealthy enabling environment.

13. Don’t try to control them because the truth is you cannot control the drinking problem they have.

Your alcoholic spouse cannot even control themselves. It is therefore naive to think that you could undertake the herculean task of trying to control them. It is best not to even try because you only end up frustrating yourself and wearing yourself out.

14. Don’t try to cure their alcoholic problems.

Alcohol addiction is a health problem that requires professional help. Don’t try to be their doctor. Get them professional help. It is the only thing that would get them a step closer to getting the help they need.

However, they would likely not want to get professional help right away and you can’t drag them legs screaming to the doctor. What you can do is seek professional advice to equip yourself with while waiting for them to be ready to get professional help. The doctor would also give you helpful professional tips for helping them in the interim.

15. Don’t take their relapses personally or have unreasonable expectations.

Maybe your spouse promised you that they would change and stop and then they fall back to their old habits. This can understandably make you feel disappointed and let down and in turn, affect your disposition towards your spouse. But remember that when it comes to alcohol addiction, it is not easy for an alcoholic to just kick the bottle. So, don’t take it personally.

Expecting your alcoholic spouse to immediately kick the bottle when they said so is an unreasonable expectation that would set you up for untold pain. It is therefore best to exercise some patience with them and take the other tips in this article and in time you would have your spouse back.

16. Don’t enable their alcoholic lifestyle and lovingly allow them to face up to the consequences of their lifestyle choices.

An enabling environment continues to aid your alcoholic spouse from owning up to their alcoholic lifestyle and taking responsibility for it. Some examples of an enabling environment are for instance calling your spouse’s workplace and making excuses for them not turning up to work due to nursing a hangover. Or always being there to take them into the house when they pass out outside the house.

These enablers will not help them realize that they need help. They will never understand the full impact of their actions while you keep covering for them or enabling their drinking lifestyle.

We understand that it cannot be easy to take the tough love route and let them deal with the consequences of their action like for instance leaving them to sleep outside and wake up whenever they are sober and dealing with the embarrassment it comes with.

But remember that without tough love, they will likely not face up to their actions and take responsibility for it. It is only when they’ve had to deal with the embarrassment themselves and dance to the tune of the consequence(s) created by their lifestyle would they realize that they need help.

17. Don’t take unacceptable behaviors or sweep them under the carpet.

This is especially important if your spouse’s alcohol addiction has now degenerated into abuse whether of a physical or emotional nature. Once abuse starts to happen, talk to someone about it and seek professional help and legal help if necessary. Remember that your health and safety are paramount more than anything else.

18. Don’t stop taking care of yourself.

Your health and well-being are of paramount importance. Your spouse’s negative alcoholic lifestyle should not take you down the drain with them too.

Your health and well-being are of paramount importance

Check out our helpful article on How to start caring about yourself to get tips on how to start taking care of yourself.

19. Try to maintain normalcy in the home.

Don’t change the normal routine of the home because of your spouse’s alcohol problems. Life should remain normal and unchanged. If you wake up at a certain time to get the kids ready for school, for instance, this should not change. While your spouse deals with their alcohol problems it is important you maintain your normalcy in the home.

20. Don’t give up in the circumstances.

It would not be easy keeping faith in the face of living with an alcoholic husband/wife. But it is important not to give up or let the situation affect your positivity. And if you are having a hard time staying positive, our articles on How to remain positive in difficult times and How to think positive when everything is going wrong can help you out.

21. Talk to your spouse about the problem and the negative effect it’s having on you and the family.

But remember to have the conversation when they are sober because having the conversation while they are intoxicated would be self-defeating. Also, try to be as conciliatory and less confrontational as possible so that they don’t go on the defensive and defeat the purpose of the conversation. Talk about getting help and suggest that they get help. Let him/her know that you would not enable their alcoholic lifestyle and they would have to live with any consequence(s) of having one bottle too many.

22. Get them help.

Professional help for mental health condition or alcoholdrug use problem 2017. Source Statista

Not all alcoholic spouses agree to get help. But you can encourage them with the stats in the above chart that seeking help is not out of the ordinary and that they are not alone.

However, in some cases where the situation becomes critical, you may need to take the decision to book them into rehabilitative care, especially when they become a danger to themselves as a result of their alcoholic lifestyle.

23. Don’t make it difficult by drinking around them.

It’s hard enough staying away from the bottle, don’t make it even harder by drinking around them. By so doing, you are helping them and making the journey to recovery easier.

Leaving an alcoholic spouse – When to leave an alcoholic husband/wife.

Leaving an alcoholic spouse is not easy, especially when there is codependency involved. When the other spouse starts to think of themselves as the source of the problems of their alcoholic spouse or as being responsible for their spouse’s alcoholic addiction, it becomes even more difficult. But there comes a time when the non-alcoholic spouse should leave an alcoholic husband/wife. And when should that happen?

24. When their alcoholic lifestyle begins to negatively impact your life.

Once you start to lose yourself and your mental and physical health become jeopardized, then it is time to let go. No marriage or relationship is worth your life and well-being. You may not need to go the drastic route of a divorce first.

You can start with separation and spending time away from your alcoholic spouse. This time apart would help you get some sanity and peace of mind. It would also help your alcoholic spouse decide if your marriage is really worth losing over the bottle. Your separation might be the eye-opener your spouse needs to get their act together.

And if after the separation there is still no discernible change or desire to change, then you can pull the plug through a divorce.

25. When you start living in fear of your spouse.

Once you become afraid of your spouse then it is time to leave the marriage.

Once you become afraid of your spouse then it is time to leave the marriage.

Whether it is fear of your life or fear of the possibility of being hurt, once fear creeps in there is no need to stay. Your life is more important than a failing marriage.

26. When an alcoholic spouse becomes violent and physically abusive and emotionally abusive.

Any form of abuse should not be tolerated. The moment your alcoholic spouse’s lifestyle degenerates to any form of abuse, it is time to leave that alcoholic husband/wife.

27. When your spouse becomes unpredictable and dangerous in their demeanor and disposition towards you.

Has he become unpredictable in his actions towards you? Is he one minute sweet and the next menacing and dangerous, that is a worrying sign that it is time to put your safety first and leave.

28. When the alcoholic spouse does not want to stop and refuses to get help.

Since they do not want to get help, they will only take you downhill with them. It is in your best interest to walk away from the marriage once it becomes clear that your alcoholic spouse does not want to stop or does not want to get help.

It is in your best interest to walk away from the marriage once it becomes clear

Check out this related article on When should you give up on a relationship.

Support for spouses of alcoholics.

The spouses of alcoholics suffer the most in such relationships. This is why support for spouses of alcoholics is very important. The main way to provide support for spouses of alcoholics is by counseling and therapy support.

29. Counseling and family therapy.

There are some counseling and family therapy specially dedicated to taking care of the family members and loved ones of alcoholics. One such service is with Al-Anon and they provide spouses of alcoholics with dedicated support to get through the challenging experience of life with an alcoholic.

Frequently asked questions.

1. How does alcohol ruin a marriage?

Alcohol has the 11 devastating effects listed in this article, on any marriage. These are enough to ruin any marriage.

2. Why do alcoholics cheat on their spouses?

It is not usually the case that the alcoholic spouse intentionally cheats on their spouse. In some cases, it happens without any plan for it to happen. And this is because alcohol tends to dull the senses and makes it easier for infidelity to happen.

3. How can you help someone who has an alcohol use disorder?

You can help them by getting them help. And if they refuse to take the help, the best way to help them is by not enabling their alcoholic lifestyle. Let them face up to the consequences of their alcoholic lifestyle because with every enabler you create, they will never own up and take responsibility for their alcoholic lifestyle and choices.

4. How do you deal with an alcoholic husband’s emotional abuse?

You shouldn’t put up with emotional abuse in any form. Be firm and decisive in not standing for emotional abuse in any form. Have a conversation with your alcoholic abusive husband when he is sober, that you do not appreciate his emotional abuse and would not stand for it. If it continues, then it is time to leave the marriage because nothing is worth your mental and emotional wellbeing.

5. When should I worry about my husband’s drinking?

Where his drinking starts to have a negative impact on his life and the family, then you may need to start paying attention to it. Is he missing open days at your children’s school because he was hungover? Or starting to have a hard time at work because of his drinking habits, then you should start getting worried.

6. My alcoholic husband ignores me, what should I do?

Let him be. Don’t lose sleep over it because you can be sure that he isn’t losing sleep over it because he’s too intoxicated to care. When he is sober have a conversation with him about the situation and how it is affecting you. If nothing changes, take some time out from the marriage to give you both the time to decide what works best for both of you.


Alcohol addiction has a devastating effect on marriages. It can ruin marriages because of the 11 effects of living with an alcoholic spouse. In living with an alcoholic husband/wife, it is important to take the do’s and don’ts listed in this article into account. This will help make life with an alcoholic bearable. However, once you see any of the outcomes listed in the third section of this article, then it is time to leave an alcoholic husband/wife. Get the needed support so that you are not alone and left to deal with all the emotional stress alone.





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