Alcoholism is a serious disease affecting the brain, physical health and behavior. It affects not only the person who is an addict, but also the people around them. While all family members are impacted by alcoholism, the spouse of an alcoholic is often the person who has to deal with the biggest burden since they live with the person who has an addiction.
There are so many ways that alcoholism can affect a marriage, even beyond the most obvious.
“Distorted relationships are often found in alcoholic marriages, and they inevitably lead to the drying up of the communication which is vital to a good marriage,” according to an Al-Anon Family Group blog post.
When you have an alcoholic spouse, how can you cope? What should you know and what are the things that you can do that are helpful versus the things that might cause more harm to the situation? The following are some things to know about dealing with an alcoholic spouse.
Don’t Take It Personally or Blame Yourself
When you’re married to an alcoholic, it’s very easy to take the situation personally and also to blame yourself. You might take it personally that your loved one treats you a certain way or feels the need to drink. Alcoholism is a disease, however, and it’s not in the control of you or the person who is drinking.
You can’t blame yourself either. In a marriage where you’re taking it personally or blaming yourself, it’s inevitably going to lead to even more frustration, sadness and despair.
A lot of spouses of alcoholics find that it’s helpful for them to learn as much as they can about addiction and educate themselves on the components of addiction. This helps them understand more clearly that they shouldn’t take it personally or blame themselves.
Don’t Lie to Yourself or Others
When your spouse is an alcoholic you may feel compelled to constantly lie to cover for them and their drinking. You might lie to other family members, their boss or coworkers and your friends. You may, even inadvertently, may be lying to yourself. For example, you may tell yourself that your spouse isn’t an alcoholic, or that they will eventually change. Of course, the person may change if they seek treatment, but other than that, you’re not being honest with yourself.
It’s important to be honest with yourself and other people about what’s happening.
If you can relieve yourself of the burden of dishonesty, it will be easier to cope with other things in your marriage and your life.
Try to Avoid Being an Enabler
One of the biggest struggles a lot of people have when they love an alcoholic is that they become an enabler. When you’re enabling your spouse, you’re making it okay for them to drink and you’re working to eliminate the consequences they might experience as a result. This may be something you’re doing inadvertently, but learning more about enabling and related behaviors can help you stop doing that.
You want to make it as difficult as possible for your spouse to continue their patterns of behavior, and you want them to feel the full weight of the consequences.
Have An Intervention
One way to stop being an enabler and to show your spouse what the consequences of their actions are is to hold an intervention. An intervention is a time when you, as well as other loved ones can come together and share what you’re going through as a result of your spouses’ alcoholism.
An intervention can be a time when you share your boundaries and what you will do if your spouse doesn’t seek treatment.
Because of how difficult it can be to communicate with someone who’s an alcoholic, you might consider working with a professional counselor or interventionist.
Take Time For Yourself
Finally, make sure that you’re taking time for yourself. You need to work on building relationships with people outside of your marriage where you can find a sense of solace and support. If you don’t have friends or family nearby, a support group can be a good option.
You should also find things that you’re passionate about and interested in, and dedicate time to doing those activities.
If you can take time for yourself and invest in yourself then it’s going to help you alleviate some of your anger toward your spouse, and make sure that you’re not being too heavily affected by their alcoholism. It can also help you set and maintain boundaries with a more clear head.