How Alcohol Addiction Affect Your Marriage And Relationship

At a time when liquor stores have been deemed essential during the Covid-19 crisis, alcohol abuse can cause relationship problems that can destroy a family and leave lasting emotional scars for years to come. 

Alcohol addiction is an epidemic across the world. The CDC estimates that six people die every day from alcohol poisoning. Of the 15 million people that struggle with alcohol misuse, less than eight percent seek help for their addictions.

This can create a myriad of problems in a marriage. The decline of a partner’s health and experiencing belligerent, aggressive, and disrespectful behavior from a spouse is hurtful to experience.

Substance abuse is a serious threat to marriage that can affect partners in more ways than one. Here are the 6 ways that alcohol addiction causes serious relationship problems.

Emotional Distress 

When your spouse is sober, your relationship is wonderful. You have a great connection, a passionate sex life, and a deep emotional bond. But once your partner has a drink, your stomach sinks. The kind, compassionate, loving person you had just spent the day with is suddenly emotional, aggressive, and just plain mean.

Alcoholics may react to alcohol in different ways. They may become verbally insulting, emotionally abusive, may resort to crying and hosting pity-parties, or may be frequently unfaithful when under the influence.

Being the sober spouse of an alcoholic partner is an exhausting journey that can cause great emotional distress.

Neglecting the Marriage

An alcoholic is selfish when under the influence. They are only out for their own enjoyment. As stated above, this may result in infidelity and other blatant acts of disrespect towards the marriage.

In order to have a happy, healthy marriage, couples need to spend quality time together. They must work on communication and maintain emotional and physical intimacy. 

Studies show that the inability to communicate with a partner is one of the most common reasons for divorce. If you and your spouse can no longer communicate, sober or otherwise, it may be time for separation in marriage.

Negatively Effects Children

When a spouse is struggling with addiction, it is common for them to start neglecting their family responsibilities. Even something like having a game night with the children or watching a movie together becomes impossible and robs children of a loving household.

Statistics on children of alcoholics show that they are likely to

  • Seek romantic relationships with alcoholics or abusers
  • Be socially inept
  • Engage in dangerous or risky behavior
  • Fail in school
  • Have an unhealthy obsession with overachieving
  • Confuse sex with love
  • Have low self-esteem
  • Manifest a physical illness
  • Abuse drugs
  • Suffer from depression or other mental health issues

American Addiction Centers reports that children who grow up with at least one alcoholic parent are more likely to become an alcoholic themselves.

Living with an alcoholic can also be scary for a child. In some cases, they will be witness to the instability brought on by alcoholism. They are statistically more likely to experience physical, verbal, or sexual abuse while living in the home of an alcoholic. 

Children may also feel the effects of the financial ruin caused by alcohol addiction.

Financial Troubles

Alcoholics will do anything to feed their addiction. Some resort to prostitution in exchange for a drink, while others think nothing of draining the family banks accounts, savings, and piling up credit card debt all to get a fix.

Furthermore, alcohol acts as a depressant, which can cause an individual to have a poor judgment with regards to emotional and financial aspects of the marriage.

If you are experiencing relationship problems at the hands of an alcoholic spouse, but you do not want to consider separation in marriage, do your best to ensure all financial matters are in your care. Do not allow your spouse to have access to bank accounts or credit cards, as this could put your family in severe debt.

Abusive Patterns Form

Marital conflict is hard to live with on a daily basis. Abuse often occurs in a relationship with an alcoholic.

Research shows that each year, more than 10 million women and men will experience physical abuse at the hands of a romantic partner.  Physical violence may manifest itself when an intoxicated partner becomes aggressive or confused.

Verbal abuse can be just as painful as physical. Common side effects of an abuser include:

  • Control the spouse’s social life
  • Express severe jealousy and possessive behavior
  • Resort to physical aggression and abuse, resulting in damage to the home, car, or leave a spouse in the hospital
  • Verbally abuse and belittle 
  • Cause embarrassment and shame
  • Make a spouse believe they are worthless
  • Inflict severe stress to a marriage

These are deeply unhealthy behaviors that no one should tolerate. If you feel you are in an abusive or toxic relationship, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or text 1-800-787-3224 for help to get out of that dangerous situation.

Unhealthy and Dangerous Behavior

Serious alcohol addiction can create troubling patterns of control that make it difficult for them to leave safely. In fact, most violence toward women occurs when she tries to leave an abusive situation. Other troubling behaviors that make it hard to separate from a spouse may include:

  • Severe guilting or blaming the victim for the drinker’s behavior
  • Threatening self-harm if a partner says they are considering separation in marriage
  • Unfairly using the children against a spouse, “Please, let’s keep our family together” or “You aren’t allowed to see the children if you’re willing to break up our family like this.”
  • Keeping finances, identification cards, and other material needs from a spouse to prevent their leaving 

Betty Jo Barrett, an associate professor at the University of Windsor says that, regarding intimate-partner violence, “the risk of domestic homicide becomes highest during the period of separation.” She goes on to say that this is a form of power and control.

Being with an alcoholic is bound to cause serious relationship problems. You deserve to be with someone who loves and appreciates you. If your spouse is unwilling to get help for their addictions, it may be in the best interest of you and any children to seek help apart from your spouse.

Loyola Medicine Psychologists Offer Tips and Resources for Coping During COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has quickly and drastically changed day-to-day life in the U.S., causing fear and anxiety. Loyola Medicine clinical psychologists Elizabeth Simmons, PsyD, and Laura Wool, PsyD, provide tips for coping and staying positive during this time, as well as resources for securing additional help and care, in two, new Loyola Medicine videos: “Practical tips for staying positive during COVID-19” and “Coping during COVID-19.”

Simmons and Wool say it’s important to allow yourself to feel anxiety and fear during this stressful and unprecedented time. While “nobody likes to feel anxious or scared,” says Wool, it’s important to “work on inviting those feelings in,” while also realizing that those feelings can coexist with other, more positive feelings.

“You can feel anxious and have fun with your kids,” says Simmons. “You can feel uncertain about what’s coming next and find comfort in playing with your dog or going out for a walk with your dog. You don’t need to get rid of that anxiety in order to also feel joy, happiness and calm.”

Tips for staying positive

To help maintain an emotional balance, Simmons and Wool recommend:

  • Choosing activities that make you feel good. These can include “calling a friend, taking a walk, listening to music, reading a book, engaging in a craft,” says Wool.
  • Checking the facts. “At a time like this, when we really don’t know what’s coming next,” says Simmons, “it’s important to check the facts,” or “decatastrophizing,” keeping a check on our thoughts and focusing on the information that we have access to “and what it’s telling us.”
  • Focusing on what you do have control over. “When people are feeling a loss of control, focusing on what you do have control over can be very helpful,” says Wool. For example, “following the strong recommendation right now to socially distance yourself can feel very empowering.”
  • Maintaining a regular sleep/wake cycle and daily routine. “We take for granted that we have these built-in routines in our lifestyle in terms of getting up in the morning and getting dressed,” says Simmons. It’s important to continue to wake up and go to bed at the same times every day.
  • Taking walks and getting outside. “Make sure that you’re not too sedentary,” say Wool. Get up, take walks and “try to get outside for 10 minutes every day.”
  • Practicing simple breathing exercises to stay calm. “Simple breathing exercises where you count your breaths, and pause between each inhale and exhale, can help slow things down and help calm anxiety.”
  • Watching what you eat. Make sure that you are eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, and that you are not eating too many processed foods, says Wool.
  • Maintaining social connections by phone and video. “We know that body language facilities a lot of the connection we experience socially,” says Simmons. “The more you can see people’s faces, the more you can see people smiling, the more that will combat the loneliness factor” of this pandemic.
  • Taking a moment to be mindful. “Mindfulness helps you stay in the present moment,” says Wool. She said there are apps, such as Headspace, Insight Timer, and Calm that can help with mindfulness.

When coping is difficult or impossible

Simmons and Wool explain that for some individuals, the stress of COVID-19 may result in prolonged or acute feelings of depression and/or anxiety, which may require additional resources and/or immediate professional help.

“When you notice that for a significant period of time, let’s say at least two weeks, that you are starting to just feel down or depressed all day every day, or you’re noticing that the anxiety is at a level that is really starting to impair your sleep and your appetite—you’re sleeping less or sleeping more, or eating less or eating more,” says Wool. Or, “you are starting to feel hopeless, having thoughts of suicide, or noticing an increase in substance use, “that would be a time to either reach out to a local hotline or to reach out to your primary care provider for a referral.”

If you have a plan or intent to harm yourself, or others, please call 911, says Wool and Simmons.

Additional resources

  • Disaster Distress Helpline: Call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Call 800-273-8255 or Chat with Lifeline
  • Crisis Textline: Text TALK to 741741

To make an in-person or telehealth appointment with a psychologist, or for more information, contact Loyola Medicine at 1-888-584-7888 or visit www.loyolamedicine.org/psychology.

To learn more about Loyola Medicine, visit loyolamedicine.org.

About Loyola Medicine and Trinity Health

Loyola Medicine, a member of Trinity Health, is a quaternary care system based in Chicago’s western suburbs that includes Loyola University Medical Center (LUMC)Gottlieb Memorial HospitalMacNeal Hospital and convenient locations offering primary and specialty care services from more than 1,800 physicians throughout Cook, Will and DuPage counties. LUMC is a 547-licensed-bed hospital in Maywood that includes the William G. & Mary A. Ryan Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine, the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, a Level 1 trauma center, Illinois’s largest burn center, a certified comprehensive stroke center and a children’s hospital.

Having delivered compassionate care for more than 50 years, Loyola also trains the next generation of caregivers through its academic affiliation with Loyola University Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine and Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing. Gottlieb is a 247-licensed-bed community hospital in Melrose Park with 180 physician offices, an adult day care program, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, the Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research facility at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center.

MacNeal Hospital is a 374-licensed-bed teaching hospital in Berwyn with advanced inpatient and outpatient medical, surgical and psychiatric services, including acute rehabilitation, an inpatient skilled nursing facility and a 68-bed behavioral health program and community clinics. MacNeal has provided quality, patient-centered care to the near west suburbs since 1919. For more information, visit loyolamedicine.org.

Trinity Health is one of the largest multi-institutional Catholic health care delivery systems in the nation, serving diverse communities that include more than 30 million people across 22 states. Trinity Health includes 92 hospitals, as well as 106 continuing care locations that include PACE programs, senior living facilities, and home care and hospice services. Its continuing care programs provide nearly 2 million visits annually. Based in Livonia, Mich., and with annual operating revenues of $19.3 billion and assets of $27 billion, the organization returns $1.2 billion to its communities annually in the form of charity care and other community benefit programs. Trinity Health employs about 129,000 colleagues, including about 7,500 employed physicians and clinicians.

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