Living with an Alcoholic Husband

His Drinking Is No Longer a Problem

By an anonymous Empowered Wife

When my husband and I met over 20 years ago, I knew he enjoyed drinking beer or whiskey every day. As a hippie chick, granola type, I was more interested in herbal tea and berry smoothies.

I felt a bit nervous about his drinking, but I loved him and thought I could adapt.

Over time, though, I began to consider my husband’s drinking a problem.

When he drank too much, it was unpredictable whether he would ascend into charm or descend into insensitivity and mean-spiritedness. He could get loud, obnoxious, sloppy, dull-eyed, and make aggressive remarks.

I did not like his drinking. I wished he would change. Then I would feel happier.

I had no idea of the influence I would have over his drinking. Click To Tweet

Prior to learning the Six Intimacy Skills™, I dealt with his drinking in a variety of ways.

While he was drinking, I either avoided him or did damage control.

When he was sober, I had strategies to try to control his future drinking:

I told him how I felt—anxious, hurt, embarrassed.

I expressed my worry about his health if he continued drinking. I told him his liver might fail.

I questioned him. “Why is drinking so important to you?” Or, “Is it really necessary to have alcohol at every family gathering?”

I tried freezing him out to let him know I was unhappy with his drinking.

I reminded him it was before noon and asked, “Who drinks before noon?”

I accused him… of getting drunk, of neglecting me, of choosing alcohol over me.

I suggested he get a professional alcohol evaluation.

I used his drinking as a bargaining chip. “You get your beer. I think I should be able to get a cat.” He hated cats.

None of my strategies curtailed his drinking. Nor did they bring us closer. Instead, they triggered defensiveness, attack, and increased marital distance and discord.

I did manage to get a cat out of the deal, but he hated the cat and it became a source of even greater contention between us.

Fast forward. After 20 years of marriage, I was fortunate enough to find and begin applying the Intimacy Skills. I made some initial progress by reading some of Laura Doyle’s books and later deepened my practice of the Skills through coach training.

I learned about Spouse-Fulfilling Prophecies (SFPs) and discovered that I had a negative SFP: “My husband is a problem drinker.”

To me it seemed true. I had evidence.

One day an acquaintance visited us. Her husband had been a colleague and drinking buddy to my husband many years prior. She complained that her husband, since retirement, did not do much except drink. She sounded exasperated.

Her husband sounded even worse than mine. After she left, I turned to my husband and said, “I am so grateful you are such a responsible, light to moderate drinker.” A positive Spouse-Fulfilling Prophecy was born in that moment.

His face lit up and he responded, “Yeah, that’s right.” He acted like I finally got him.

I was surprised he believed my statement and didn’t accuse me of being sarcastic. I did not really believe it myself. It felt like a real stretch to me.

I started playing mini-detective and began actively looking for evidence to support this new SFP anyway.

I found evidence. He did not drink and drive—responsible. He did not drink during work hours—responsible.

If he came home from a bar looking like he’d had one too many, I began to say, “That is not like you to drink so much. You are such a responsible, light to moderate drinker.”

He agreed it was not like him. He began to do self-analysis and say things like, “I should have had something to eat before the beers. I wouldn’t have been so affected.”

I noticed he started coming home from the bar telling stories about how other guys were drinking too much and acting loud and obnoxious. Ha. He then reported, “I just had one beer.”

I responded, “I am so grateful you are such a responsible drinker.” He beamed.

While working on this SFP, I was also practicing other Intimacy Skills.

I became more respectful and less controlling. I stopped criticizing him for his drinking. I stopped giving him advice, complaining, and questioning his choices, and I stopped freezing him out when I disapproved.

If he said anything insensitive, I just started saying “ouch” and putting on duct tape. That stopped arguments.

I kept myself happy. For example, if he was drinking and I began to feel anxious, I would immediately turn to my own self-care. I’d take the dog for a walk or call a friend. Attending to my own happiness alleviated my anxiety and eliminated resentment.

On one occasion this year, we gathered with family and friends at our family cabin. I knew there was potential for a lot of drinking that day. When several others went to the bar to watch sports, I opted to stay back at the cabin. This was self-care for me.

When I showed up at the bar to pick up my husband at the prearranged time, he loudly told me to sit down. I felt anxious and did not want to be in the bar waiting for him. In a friendly tone, I said I would be in the car and he could come out when he was ready. I enjoyed reading my book in the solitude of my car.

When he came out, he thanked me and promptly fell asleep while I drove home. No needless emotional turmoil (NET). Whoo.

Recently, we were on a cruise. We were given two drink tickets for an excursion. When we arrived at the excursion, they told us we could upgrade to unlimited drinks for the day for an extra $10.

My husband immediately jumped on it, then paused, changed his mind, and stated, “Two is enough.” Wow. I was so pleased.

Although things are not perfect in our home, they are so much more peaceful. While my husband still drinks a little daily, I do not think of him as a problem drinker. I feel relaxed and no longer worry about his drinking. I truly see him as a responsible, light to moderate drinker—not to mention a sweet and thoughtful guy (another SFP).


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37 thoughts on “Living with an Alcoholic Husband”

  1. How in the world will this even be possible if I decide to move back into our house with my husband who exhibits much of the behaviors of the alcoholic (prior to anonymous’ use of intimacy skills), as I have a 15 year old son and the two of them do NOT get along? He puts me down too.

    Best,

    Lauren

    Reply
    • Lauren, the rift between your husband and teenage son, along with your son’s treatment of you, sounds so painful. I admire your courage and commitment to your marriage in spite of your husband’s alcoholic behavior. I still remember how it was to feel disrespected in my own house. Practicing the 6 Intimacy Skills with my loved ones, including other family members, not only revived my marriage but deepened my connection with others in my life too. As challenging as it is to have a teenager, you can create a culture of mutual respect with him while honoring your desires regarding your marriage. I’d love to give you the support to help you do that. I invite you to my upcoming free webinar: How to Get Respect, Reconnect and Rev Up Your Love Life. You can register for it at https://lauradoyle.org/swewtraining/

      Reply
  2. This is great. I do wonder if someone is abusive when drinks, or behaves in unsafe behavior while drinking, would u still apply this strategy?

    Reply
    • Karen, I acknowledge you for your willingness to practice the Intimacy Skills. Your safety comes first. I recommend using these tools in the same house with an alcoholic if you are safe. If you’re not sure, I invite you to speak with one of my coaches about how to receive further support. You can apply for a free discovery call at https://lauradoyle.org/marriage-relationship-coaching

      Reply
  3. What is a good SFP for husband having an affair? “I love your loyalty to me…???” “I love how focused you are on our marriage…???” : /

    Reply
    • Janet, I’m sorry to hear that your husband is having an affair. I so admire your commitment to your marriage and desire to practice the Intimacy Skills with your great SFPs! I remember how despairing it felt to have lost the intimacy in my marriage and how empowering it was to learn that I could get it back by practicing the 6 Intimacy Skills. I know you can get your husband back and would love to offer you more support beyond this brief reply. I invite you to my upcoming webinar, where I’ll talk about what to do when your husband is having an affair. It’s called How to Get Respect, Reconnect and Rev Up Your Love Life. You can register for free at https://lauradoyle.org/swewtraining/

      Reply
  4. I am glad it worked for you. My husband drank himself to death and passes on 10/13/16 I miss him but do not miss the anger and abuse.

    Reply
    • Linda, I’m so sorry to hear of the loss of your husband and extend my deepest condolences. I’m sorry for what you’ve been through. It is truly heartbreaking what alcoholism can do to a marriage. Thank you for sharing your experience. If you are interested in checking out my new TV series Empowered Wives, episode 13, “Kimberly,” features a courageous woman adjusting after the passing of her husband. It’s free if you’re an Amazon Prime member, or with a free 1-month trial of Prime, at https://goo.gl/iPPQZG.

      Reply
  5. And what to do when your husband is hitting on his co-workers online when he’s drunk? Which is often? Complimenting them but not me?
    Other than coworkers issue, everything is great here, intimacy skills rule!
    Flirting with coworkers is something I need either figure out SFP for or I would appreciate you writing a blog – ” husband flirts with other women and doesn’t think it’s a big deal”

    Reply
    • Wow, NB, I’m delighted to hear everything else is great in your marriage! Except when he’s drunk–ouch, that sounds painful that he’s flirting with coworkers online. I acknowledge you for everything you have done to restore the intimacy in your marriage and for your commitment to finding new ways to do so. I love your idea to use an SFP. And thanks for the blog idea, which I’ll add to my list. I was so baffled that my husband didn’t care about things that were important to me and didn’t seem to care about me, period. The 6 Intimacy Skills rule for me too because now I feel cherished, desired and adored. I want you to feel that way too, even if he’s drinking. I invite you to try the 5-day Get Cherished Challenge at http://getcherished.com

      Reply
  6. Thanks for answering, I have read Empowered wife, did the webinar, am working through the modules, did a complimentary coaching call and trying to do all the SWeW I can…sometimes I feel I am living a lie and wonder if it is possible to save us…although I try to tell myself I am in control of our future.

    Reply
    • Janet, I’m full of admiration for you and your commitment to saving your marriage! I hear it feels like you’re living a lie sometimes. I remember feeling dishonest at first when I was expressing gratitude or showing respect. The more I practiced the 6 Intimacy Skills, the more I felt empowered to be my best self, my most genuine self. If I can do it, you too have the power to transform the culture of your marriage. For further support and hope, I invite you to watch my TV series Empowered Wives. It’s free with an Amazon Prime membership or a free 1-month trial of Prime at https://goo.gl/iPPQZG.

      Reply
  7. Thanks, Laura. I will check it out! Big thanks also for making your show available on Amazon in Germany in English!!!!
    We have Prime and I was so excited to see the show was available there already!!! I watched Yaraa episode and I will definitely use drop and do 10 ( Gratitude’s) consciously!
    Thank you Laura!

    Reply
    • You’re welcome, NB! I’m so glad to hear you’re enjoying the show! I admire how open you are to practicing what you’re gaining there, like dropping and doing ten. I love your enthusiasm and would love to spread the word to other women. Having more reviews on Amazon like what you wrote here would really help. Thank you!

      Reply
  8. Men act chivalrous, strong and loving at first….but it is usually just an act. …but that is why we marry them. Later we find out what they are really like. Also, it’s hard to find out the true nature of the family he comes from and his past in the average courtship. My husband has real issues with women in general but specifically with his mother and 4 sisters.
    I would really love to read some examples/stories of women who have tried these skills on a passive aggressive man where it worked. The intimacy skills seems to fuel their desire to hurt emotionally rather than help. Showing vulnerability seems to only put another arrow in their quiver.
    I’ve read the books, blogs, and know the skills. I need to hear true stories of this working on a PA man. It’s been over a year ..and no matter how hard I try the cycle continues. I love my husband but I really don’t like him any more. He should have been an actor In Hollywood.

    Reply
    • L.C., I’m sorry to hear you’re losing hope. I admire your commitment to your marriage and to practicing the Skills to strengthen it. I did not like my husband much when I was new to the 6 Intimacy Skills. For me, their real power was in transforming me and my attitude toward him. The icing on the cake was that he ended up changing too! I’ve had other clients with passive aggressive husbands who restored the intimacy (like in this blog), so I know it’s possible to transform your marriage too. I needed support to learn how to practice the 6 Skills in unison and how to apply them to what I was going through. I’d love to give you more support and invite you to my free upcoming webinar: How to Get Respect, Reconnect and Rev Up Your Love Life. You can register for it at https://lauradoyle.org/swewtraining/

      Reply
    • Hi LC
      I am in a similar situation with a PA man who is also an alcoholic. There has been a lot if damage in this marriage and my resentment gets bigger each day. There just seems to not be any hope left. I have left this marriage emotionally. I wish I knew the answer…..

      Reply
  9. Alcoholic is alcoholic. And this downplaying, rugsweeping and evading just shows just how much of an addict your husband is. Please get him help.

    Reply
    • Ida, I hear you when you say an alcoholic is an alcoholic. I am well aware of the pain that alcoholism causes, and it’s not something I take lightly. Many clients have come to me with issues regarding their husbands’ drinking. In practicing the 6 Intimacy Skills, they often realize that fixating on whether their husband is an alcoholic or not is not serving them. Choosing to focus on their own happiness, on the other hand, does transform them and their relationships. As much as a surrendered wife might want to get her husband help, she knows there is nothing she can do to “make” him get help.

      Reply
  10. Then the smart decision is to get out of the situation. An Alcoholic does not deserve a Wife unless he earns it by getting and staying sober. We Women are worth far more then a alcoholic husband could provide.

    Reply
    • Yes, you are worth it! Leaving an active alcoholic is a divorce I endorse. But for those who choose to stay, perhaps unsure of his diagnosis since that’s on his side of the street or for whatever reason, I want to empower them to have the intimacy they too deserve.

      Reply
  11. What will you do to a husband who hits a wife when not drunk. Who chooses xbox and beer over spending time with his family. And when he gets drunk Will make a fight with his drinking acquintance. There is no intimacy in our relationship at all.

    Reply
    • Ylyne, I’m sorry to hear your husband has hit you and chooses not to spend time with the family. That sounds devastating. Your safety comes first. If you are not safe with him, that is a divorce I endorse. You are the expert on your own life. Some of my clients chose to try the 6 Intimacy Skills after being hit and were able to turn things around. I remember how lonely it felt when it seemed my husband wanted to do anything but spend time with me. With the 6 Intimacy Skills, he wants to spend time with me, and I feel cherished, desired and adored. I want that for you too! Every day that you choose to stay with him, I invite you to experiment with the Intimacy Skills in my upcoming webinar: How to Get Respect, Reconnect and Rev Up Your Love Life. You can register for free at https://lauradoyle.org/swewtraining/

      Reply
  12. I love thoughtful approaches and the stories that exemplify them. Something in your article really just clicked for me. You wrote:

    ‘I turned to my husband and said, “I am so grateful you are such a responsible, light to moderate drinker.” A positive Spouse-Fulfilling Prophecy was born in that moment.’ . . .

    In all the years of life challenges of facing those in my family (& beyond) with addictions, it is rare that I get the joy of the ground shifting into place in bigger ways, to align with deeper truths helping me feel more grounded no matter what shows up.

    There’s always a sense of peace that follows when it happens though, when I know I can show up more grounded and able to be present in more profound ways.

    Thank you for simply taking the time to share and reflect. ???? It was a pleasure to stumble on this article today and to be able to experience tuning in to at this particular moment. ☺️

    Reply
  13. The alcoholic husband should tell his wife how grateful he is for her staying with him and also doing everything around the house because he can’t from drinking too much! This advice is ridiculous. You can try to make yourself happy but you cannot do that 24 hours a day when all your husband cares about is drinking. He may keep a good job, etc. but what about him caring about how his wife feels. This is just unrealistic. I have tried to be positive but very difficult when all you see is your husband guzzling one beer after another.

    Reply
    • Agree! I live in pain every day with this disease. And so I find ways to survive that just can’t be good for a marriage. We just keep getting further and further apart. Sad.

      Reply
  14. I just married an alcoholic after living together 12 years,I see im not alone but im tired of doing everything alone.Im 57 and dont think im holding on,waiting for him to apreciate me.He goes to bed at 3:00pm sometimes 5:00pm.And early in the morning hes out.I feel so lonely.

    Reply
  15. My new Relationship started out well..we fell in love! Then he began drinking..he would be funny and loving..then a few months in he started running with a friend of his who i ” knew” wasnt healthy.. he eventually got his second Dui.. he lost his job and i ended up supporting him financially for months to the tune of over 8, thousand dollars..after months of his stupid spendind..sleeping all day..up all night and a horrible person to me..calling names..telling me its my fault.. asking me i cant just say ” o honey youre drinking at home watching football and being responsible.. or just bantering at me all the time thinking i have everything to do with this…..i sent him a text saying i dont love you anymore and i cant change someone that doesnt see they need changing..i love him very much but im finding myself exhausted..not sleeping irritated and financially draind…did i do the right thing?

    Reply
  16. having lived this life for 30 years, I would not suggest staying in an alcoholic marriage. if you are young get out while you can. this approach would never work for me, interesting read though. living with an alcoholic is pure madness, no other way to describe it. get out while you can.

    Reply
  17. CB I absolutely agree with you. I’ve been living it for 32 years. This sounds like an enabler and a co-dependent to me. Get out before you waste your life. It’s lonely living with an alcoholic.

    Reply
  18. Laura Doyle-I wish your name didn’t pop up whenever I search for sound sane advice. You are a complete imbecile and need to find a new hobby. Your advice is wack and out of touch with reality. For the love of God (I really mean that) PLEASE STOP.

    Reply

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