couple holding hands and talking about alcoholism

How to Talk to Your Spouse About Alcoholism

Is your better half always drowning in alcohol? As a result, do you often find him skipping work? Is your joint account getting thinner and thinner by the minute? Is he unable to perform his duties as a parent the way he used to? Before this gets even worse, you need to speak to him regarding his drinking issues. Here are some tips that can help you talk to your spouse regarding alcoholism.

how to talk to spouse about alcoholism

1. Make sure you have all the info you need.

A soldier doesn’t go ill-prepared to a battle, doesn’t he? Without the proper knowledge, you might not be able to have an effective conversation with your partner. 

As such, you need to equip yourself with all the info that you need. Explore this website to learn more about alcoholism, and how it can affect the body and the mind. More importantly, navigate through all the treatment options for your better half. The more informed you are, the better chances that you have in helping your significant other. 

2. Choose the right time.

Talking to an alcoholic at any given time is not a smart thing to do. He’s more likely to be argumentative, even violent, if he’s intoxicated or if the effects are starting to wear off. Choose a time when he’s sober and ready to talk. This will help both of you achieve a serious and fruitful conversation. 

3. Don’t be confrontational.

Don't be confrontational while talking to an alcoholic spouse.

You may be confronting your spouse regarding his alcoholism, but it’s best if you don’t give an aggressive attitude. Speak to him in a peaceful manner. And, if you can’t help it, taking a deep breath can help you ‘relax’ right before you talk to your partner. 

4.Don’t talk down to him.

He may have made a mistake, but it does not mean that you can act all high and mighty will you preach your sermon. Remember, your spouse is your equal. The vow even goes ‘for better or for worse.’ Yes, he might have committed a few infractions along the way but that doesn’t give you the right to look down on him. And because of that, you have to treat him with respect, instead of condescension. 

According to Kate Nasser, a people skills coach, you can avoid sounding condescending by asking him about what he feels. Do not make statements such as “I know it feels…” as this presumes that you know how he feels.  Talk to him with the utmost respect and there’s a good chance that he’ll listen to you.

5. Avoid using negative terms such as ‘drunk’ and ‘alcoholic’. 

Given that he is indeed a drunk and an alcoholic, these terms might make your partner more defensive about his problem. When talking to your partner, make use of his name, or your pet name for him. This individual approach may help him be more accepting of the fact that his drinking problems are taking a toll on the relationship. 

6. Avoid pointing fingers. 

Blaming is never good. According to Dr. Bernard Golden in his article with Psychology Today, this defense mechanism is a means of preserving your self-esteem. However, it leads to the disownment of your possible faults in the process. To wit, you might be co-dependent and you might not even know it.

With that being said, it’s best to avoid the blame game when it comes to talking to your spouse. You need to be compassionate and respectful. Speak encouraging words to motivate him to change his ways. Offer to be with him through every step of the way as he tries to stay away from alcohol. 

7. Tell him how his drinking affects your relationship and your family. 

Talking to an alcoholic is never easy, more often than not they don’t think they have a problem. As such, a good measure is to let him know about the consequences of his behavior. Recount the days when he was not able to attend his daughter’s recital – and how your little girl was devastated by it. Tell him about the fear that you felt when he got into a car accident while driving under the influence. Maybe, just maybe, the impacts that alcoholism has on your lives will prod him to change for good. 

8. Hear his side of the story.

The reasons for alcoholism differ accordingly. Some spouses might take a bottle to sleep, while some might do so to relieve stress. Some might find this a way to socialize. Whatever his cause may be, recognizing his triggers can help you get the treatment that he needs. 

For one, ask your spouse why he drinks, or what causes him to drink. If he says that it’s because of his stressful work, then help him find better alternatives for stress relief. For one, you and your partner could engage in a new hobby – or you guys can do yoga or meditation right at the comfort of your own home. Veering away from these triggers will most likely be the key to his sobriety. 

9. Don’t expect the change to occur overnight.

As with any other addiction, abstinence from alcohol does not happen overnight. He will undergo stages – from being a cold-turkey to maybe quitting once and for all. With that being said, avoid placing high expectations on your husband. Accept that recovery may happen slowly, but surely. 

10. Seek the guidance of a professional.

If your numerous attempts at talking to him do no good, then it’s time that you seek the help of a professional. You can consult with a therapist, or seek the help of Al-Anon groups of Alcoholics Anonymous, for tips on how to deal with your spouse. More often than not, they have techniques that make ‘the talk’ all the more effective. 

Talking to an alcoholic spouse can be a harrowing experience. But this shouldn’t stop you from conversing with your partner. By doing so, you can help him recognize his shortcomings – and perhaps give him the motivation to go through an appropriate treatment for his condition. 

Latest posts by Raychel Ria Agramon, BSN, RN, MPM (see all)

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