According to the CDC, more than 5% of American adults reported drinking heavily in 2018. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found a direct link between high alcohol consumption and people with anxiety and high stress levels.
Although alcoholism can feel like a coping tool, it’s only a temporary escape from a person’s problems. Besides this, it can cause significantly more issues than the drinker is aware of. This is especially true for alcohol abusers who are married or in committed long-term relationships. When combined, alcohol and marriage don’t generally have a positive correlation.
Common Ways Alcoholism Will Affect a Marriage
What happens if you marry an alcoholic or someone who abuses drugs? People married to a drunk or a drug addict can face numerous problems. These problems extend well beyond typical relationship troubles and can affect many other aspects of home life. The most common of these issues are discussed below.
When someone is addicted to alcohol, they don’t have the emotional availability to make a marriage work. The alcohol replaces everything else in their life, leaving loved ones feeling neglected and uncared for.
Alcoholism is a very committed relationship with alcohol. When someone isn’t actively consuming alcohol, they’re thinking about it or planning for the next time they can drink.
Additionally, research suggests that alcoholism increases the risks of domestic violence for both spouses and children. Even a person who’s usually calm and caring may violently lash out when under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This strains a marriage and can significantly impact the mental well-being of all family members.
Excessive drinking can cause fertility issues, regardless of a person’s gender. For women, it can be challenging or even impossible to get pregnant. For men, the potency of their sperm can be affected.
Plus, if a woman drinks while pregnant, she places her unborn child at significant risk of congenital disabilities and premature birth. The chances of miscarrying are also increased with ongoing drinking through pregnancy.
Alcohol costs money. Over time, the financial burden of alcohol can cause a family to go into debt, fall behind on their bills and generally struggle with money. Even cheap alcohol isn’t cheap. If an addicted person spends only $10 a day on cheap alcohol, they’ve spent $3,650 on alcohol alone by the end of the year.
These numbers are only estimates, yet they still don’t represent the actual costs of alcoholism. Besides direct costs, alcoholism can also create a financial burden by increasing the costs of health care or car insurance (in the event of a DUI) and lost work.
Couples who struggle financially often fight more. The inability to make ends meet can be stressful on both parties, causing tempers to be short and patience to wear thin. When other problems with alcohol and marriage exacerbate this stress, the consequences can be severe.
Alcoholics and drug addicts often find themselves in legal trouble. They may be arrested for possession of illegal substances or operating a vehicle under the influence. It’s also more likely they’ll be charged for theft or domestic violence.
Legal issues can cause severe disruptions in a marriage. For example, the alcoholic partner may spend time in jail, which increases the home burden of their spouse. Often, a DUI will result in the loss of a license, which also increases the spouse’s responsibilities and can result in difficulty working.
Another problem with legal issues is that they can be expensive. Although some people qualify for free legal assistance, many don’t and will have to pay for a lawyer out of pocket. Then there’s the possibility of fines related to charges. Once everything is said and done, a conviction of any kind can result in paying out thousands of dollars.
Drinking excessively can cause severe health consequences, decreasing the alcoholic’s quality of life and further straining their marriage. A few common health consequences of alcohol abuse include:
- High blood pressure
- Increased risk of stroke or heart attack
- Liver disease, including cirrhosis
- Digestive problems, including ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, acid reflux and more
- Increased risk of cancer
- Weakened immune system, leading to being sick more frequently
- Learning and memory problems, including Alzheimer’s and dementia
- Mental health problems like depression or anxiety
Marriage and Alcoholism: Addressing the Problem
If alcohol abuse affects your marriage, it can be difficult to imagine the challenging times will ever end. However, sobriety is always possible once the addict has decided to get help.
The best way to address the problem is by starting with the alcoholism. For some, this may mean staging an intervention. An intervention is designed to support the addict and tell them how their problem affects their lives and those close to them. If the addict has decided to get help on their own, thanks to a difficult conversation or an unfortunate medical emergency related to their drinking, an intervention isn’t necessary.
Most people will benefit from an inpatient program that provides temporary living accommodations in a healing atmosphere with 24/7 access to medical professionals. Intensive outpatient programs are also an option when it isn’t possible to spend one to three months in a rehab facility. Once a person has “graduated” from these programs, ongoing community support and groups like Alcoholics Anonymous are critical to staying sober.
Once the alcoholic is securely on the road to recovery, marriage counseling and family therapy can help with issues caused by excessive drinking. Both parties of the marriage (and sometimes, any involved children) may benefit from additional one-on-one therapy.
It’ll take time to solve all the issues caused by alcohol in your marriage, but a full recovery is possible. The best thing you can do as a nonalcoholic partner is support your spouse through their recovery journey as much as possible.
Help Is Available
If you or your partner think you may be suffering from alcoholism, contact us at Sunlight Recovery to find out more about how we can help. By calling (888) 402-3647, you can speak with an addiction specialist who can help you get your marriage (and your life) back on track.