Alcohol is a touchy subject at the best of times, so it’s natural to feel anxious if you think your partner is drinking too much. Perhaps you’ve noticed they recently started drinking more or realized they always spend their weekends close to a bottle of wine. Habits like these can lead to alcohol dependency—or may be a sign your partner is already dependent.
In these instances, the best thing to do is to talk to your partner about your concerns and help them get treatment if necessary. However, starting conversations like these is never simple. Your partner may deny they have a problem, become defensive, or flat-out refuse to discuss the issue. That’s why it’s crucial to come to them with information, a compassionate mindset, and options for immediate treatment and long-term sobriety.
Most importantly, remember that addressing addiction is an incredible challenge, but the results are often well worth the effort. If things turn out well, you and your partner will enjoy many years of substance-free companionship.
Identifying Alcohol Abuse—How Much is Too Much?
Before talking to your partner about their drinking habits, it’s essential to determine why you feel they have a problem. For instance, if you prefer keeping a dry home and don’t drink at all, any amount of alcohol may seem like a lot to you—and that’s a valid stance. However, it doesn’t mean your partner is irresponsible with alcohol.
On the other hand, if your partner drinks every day, tries to hide how much they’re drinking, or becomes very defensive and angry when you mention their habits, it may indicate they have alcohol use disorder.
Here are additional signs that your partner may be struggling with alcohol:
- Difficulty stopping once they start drinking
- Talking and thinking about alcohol often
- Drinking alone, especially if it’s habitually to excess
- Imbibing alcohol first thing in the morning or during morning hours
- Becoming aggressive or argumentative when they drink
- Engaging in dangerous behavior, like drinking and driving
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms, like sweating, nausea, and shaking hands
Remember that individuals don’t need to drink daily to have a problem. Someone who remains sober all week only to overindulge on the weekends may need help just as much as someone who keeps a flask at work.
Approach Your Partner With Compassion
Once you’ve determined your partner needs help, you must approach them with the proper mindset. If you address your partner with accusatory language, make demands, and nag them about their drinking habits, you’re more likely to start arguments than solve the problem.
Instead, use compassion and speak to your partner clearly and plainly about your concerns (the gentle-start up is a good approach). Give examples of why you think their drinking is a problem, such as how it’s affected their health, job, friendships, and your relationship with each other. For instance, you may begin with, “I’m feeling very concerned about your health and our relationship. I’ve noticed you’re drinking and getting intoxicated daily. Would you share with me about the increase in drinking?”
When you ask your partner about problems underlying their alcohol abuse, you create a safe space for them to be vulnerable. By neutrally sharing what you’ve noticed and then empathetically explaining why it’s a concern, you’re placing yourself and your partner on the same team—both of you want to be happy and healthy in a harmonious relationship. Each stage of this approach reminds your partner that you love them and want to help them.
Set Aside Dedicated Time
Bringing up sensitive topics like this spur-of-the-moment—especially right before bed or during an event where they’ve been drinking—will only create anxiety and strain your relationship. Instead, choose a time and location for your discussion where you and your partner will have plenty of time and privacy. You might even set out some snacks, coffee, and water to make your conversation more comfortable.
Start gently, as discussed above, and give your partner plenty of time to respond. Listen to them closely, express understanding of their concerns, and—above all—try to keep your cool. If you remain calm, you may learn their motivation to drink excessively. Their drinking habits may make you angry, but no one willingly abuses alcohol on a whim.
If either of you begins to feel agitated or raises your voice, set the discussion aside so you can both calm down. Just be sure to follow through and try again.
Suggest Treatment Options (But Don’t Push)
No one drinks too much simply because they’re a bad person. Often, it’s the opposite—they’re hyper-aware of others’ suffering, attempting to escape trauma, or self-medicating a condition like ADHD or anxiety. There’s a particularly strong connection between ADHD and addiction because substance use produces dopamine in the brain, which ADHD brains lack. A combination of ADHD treatment and rehabilitation for alcohol abuse can help them manage their ADHD symptoms in a healthy, more beneficial way.
Whether your partner has ADHD, suggesting treatment options and supporting them through detox, medication-assisted treatment, and therapy is the best way to help them break free from alcohol dependence and develop healthy coping mechanisms. This support allows them to decide when they’re ready to change and what treatment options seem best.
In the meantime, your job is to be encouraging, express a desire for them to get better, and make the best choices for your well-being.
Therapy for Alcohol Dependency
Sometimes, the need for support extends beyond detox or rehab. Schedule an appointment today if you want to meet with a therapist who is experienced in substance abuse. We offer virtual and in-person sessions. Our therapists are available if you live in Arizona, North Carolina, South Carolina, or Texas. Contact us to get started.
Jenn Walker is a freelance writer, blogger, dog enthusiast, and avid beach-goer operating out of Southern New Jersey. She writes for Klarity, an online ADHD diagnosis service.