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How Alcohol Affects Relationships  

How Alcohol Affects Relationships

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a common addiction, affecting nearly 15 million adults in the United States. While alcohol dependence can be devastating to one’s health, it can also impact a person’s relationships, including the most meaningful people in their life.

Alcohol use disorder can lead to lost friendships, estranged marriages and family conflict. Keep reading to learn about the connection between alcohol addiction and relationships and how to prevent or manage relationship issues caused by a drinking problem.

Why Alcohol Causes Problems in Relationships

The impact of alcohol on relationships is widespread and can affect every single relationship a person is a part of. From intimacy problems and lack of emotional availability to the financial burden and negative effects on children, alcohol use disorder can affect partners, their children and other family members.

A breakdown of these reasons is as follows:

1. Lack of Intimacy

The connection between alcohol misuse and relationship problems is widely-documented. Alcohol can cause intimacy issues that lead to breakups, estranged marriages or lost friendships. Intimacy is defined as closeness or familiarity in a relationship. Your partner’s alcohol use can damage these aspects and cause you to lose trust in the relationship.

Parts of intimacy affected by alcohol addiction can include:

  • Stability: People with addiction may opt to drink and go to bars rather than be with loved ones, causing a lack of relationship stability. Without consistency and a solid foundation, relationships can become strained.
  • Expectations: A partner of a person struggling with alcohol addiction may feel they can no longer depend on their loved one when they need them most. When a partner’s expectations aren’t being met in the relationship, resentment can grow. The commitments made to each other to be consistent and present for their partner may be lost entirely, becoming replaced by unhealthy drinking habits.
  • Commitment: As alcohol begins to take a toll on a person’s mental and physical health, they may lose sight of what matters most, including those closest to them. They may make false promises to change their drinking habits or forget to attend important events, such as anniversaries or birthdays. This can result in broken relationship commitments.
  • Affection: Alcohol addiction severely alters an individual’s personality. People affected by the disease may feel more irritable or angry while intoxicated or going through alcohol withdrawal. They may neglect their relationships and show less affection and care for those they love.
  • Shared values: Those affected by alcohol use disorder may replace their hobbies and interests with staying out late drinking or partaking in risky activities. They might eventually lose the values they shared with others, leading to disconnection and social isolation.
  • Respect: When combining the above issues, alcohol use disorder can lead to a complete lack of respect in a relationship. For instance, a lack of consistency and never meeting a partner’s expectations is a sign of disrespect that can significantly impact a relationship.
Deception and Mistrust

2. Deception and Mistrust

Alcohol use disorder severely impacts an individual’s personality and, as a result, can make them unrecognizable from the person they were before they started drinking. People with alcohol addiction often become secretive over time to hide their dependence out of fear, shame or guilt.

They may lie to their partner or family about where they are, who they spend their time with and what they did during the day. As the addiction progresses, they may devise more elaborate excuses to hide their drinking problems. A friend or partner may constantly hear reasons for being late, disappearing or mood swings.

Trust is essential for a healthy and functioning relationship and can be challenging to repair once damaged. Constant dishonesty can lead to sadness and resentment between partners.

3. Codependency and Abuse

The connection between alcohol, interpersonal violence and codependency is widely documented. Constant conflict or neglect can severely impact children of parents with alcohol addiction. They may experience loneliness, depression, guilt, anxiety, anger issues and an inability to trust others.

One of the many complex aspects of alcohol use disorder is when codependency and alcohol misuse intersect. Alcohol codependency occurs when a person becomes reliant on someone and their alcohol misuse hinges on their partner’s behaviors. A partner of someone addicted to alcohol may believe they’re helping the other person by enabling the addiction to continue. In reality, they’re doing it for themselves while encouraging an unhealthy dynamic.

Additionally, alcohol has been associated with violent crimes and domestic violence worldwide. One study found that those prone to aggression are more likely to commit violent impulse crimes, especially while under the influence of alcohol.

4. Financial Troubles 

Alcohol addiction can cause financial troubles, a common source of relationship strain for couples. Just the cost of alcohol itself can lead to financial difficulties, though alcohol use disorder can also cause:

  • Unwise spending while under the influence: You may be tempted to buy drinks for friends or strangers at the bar while under the influence. You may also spend extra on food and snacks. Those who drink at home might make online purchases they may not have otherwise considered when sober.
  • Job loss: Those who drink frequently are more likely to show up to work sick or call out. Both can affect your job performance or even lead to unemployment, significantly impacting your finances.
  • Increased medical expenses: Alcohol can impact your immune system and make you more susceptible to illness. You might also gain health issues such as liver and pancreas problems, leading to costly medical expenses as the addiction continues.

Addiction can cause you to value spending money on alcohol instead of prioritizing financial health for yourself and your family. This can cause immense issues and even lead to separation or divorce.

Signs That Alcohol Is Causing Issues in Your Relationships

Drinking problems can adversely change marital and family functioning, but they may also increase due to family problems. Therefore, drinking and family functioning are strongly linked.

If you’re unsure whether alcohol is creating issues in your relationships, read about the following signs of concern:

1. When Alcohol Becomes More Important Than Your Relationship

Even when you have a strong connection with your significant other, your feelings can be reduced due to a strong need and desire to drink. For example, if you’ve forgotten important dates due to drinking or canceled plans from a severe hangover, your drinking may be causing relationship problems.

Even if you believe your partner is more important than any substance, your actions will likely prove otherwise if you have alcohol use disorder. Heavy drinking affects the mind and body, and the one struggling is often the last to recognize the damage’s extent.

2. You Become a Different Person When You Drink

Alcohol can turn you into someone else entirely when you drink. While every person’s response to alcohol is different, your reaction may make your partner uncomfortable. Perhaps you become withdrawn or aggressive when you drink. You might act inappropriately in public or appear irritable due to alcohol withdrawal. All of these are causes for concern in a relationship.

You're Dishonest About Your Drinking

3. You’re Dishonest About Your Drinking

If you’ve begun hiding how much and how frequently you drink from your partner, drinking has become a significant aspect of your relationship. If you feel the need to be dishonest about your drinking, you may want to ask yourself why. Strong relationships are built on honesty and trust — secrecy is a red flag.

While shielding your partner from the truth may seem an innocent defense mechanism, it can eventually lead to consistent lies and more and more mistrust in the relationship.

4. You’ve Replaced Certain Activities With Drinking

When you increasingly choose to drink rather than doing previously enjoyed activities with your significant other or friends, you may need to examine your motives for these choices. Partners and friend groups should have activities they enjoy doing together. It’s also essential to have healthy outlets.

When drinking becomes the focal point of every activity, alcohol addiction is a concern.

5. Your Sex Drive Has Changed Drastically

Sex is an essential element of a healthy romantic relationship. When your drinking causes blackouts, memory loss or sickness, it can significantly impact intimate activities. Drinking can take away the time and desire for sex and even lead to sexual dysfunction. When sex goes away due to alcohol misuse, your partner may follow.

How to Prevent or Manage Problems With Alcohol in Your Relationship

How to Prevent or Manage Problems With Alcohol in Your Relationship

Alcohol use disorder is a complex condition that can wreak havoc on relationships. Fortunately, there are several ways to address or prevent alcohol problems in your relationship.

1. Know the Signs

Alcohol problems can quickly damage relationships, though it’s often more challenging to determine whether you have one if you’re dealing with an addiction. Therefore, one of the best ways to prevent alcohol from altering your relationships is to recognize the beginning signs and stages of addiction.

Alcohol use disorder tends to occur in four stages:

  1. Occasional binge drinking
  2. Increased drinking
  3. Problem drinking
  4. Alcohol dependence
  5. Addiction

Cutting the drinking off before it can develop into addiction can help prevent its devastating outcomes. Attending educational programs can help you or your loved one identify the signs and negative effects of alcohol to avoid addiction.

2. Put Yourself First

Self-care can get thrown out the window in relationships with alcohol addiction. That’s why it’s important to help yourself first to provide the best possible support for your loved one. While you might think it selfish to distance yourself from a friend or family member, it’s essential to look out for your own well-being before you can help someone else.

Keeping a distance will also prevent your loved one from influencing you to allow the addiction to continue or crossing boundaries.

3. Avoid Codependency

It’s essential to avoid becoming codependent if you feel you’re in a relationship impacted by alcohol addiction. As stated above, keeping a distance is necessary to avoid enabling and ensure you don’t become emotionally dependent on helping them.

Those who prioritize the needs of their partner above their own often suffer from mental health issues like depression and low-self esteem. When you feel affected by codependency, it’s helpful to take a break or distance yourself from the relationship.

4. Join a Support Group

Support groups can help people with alcohol addiction and those who are codependent on someone with alcohol use disorder. A 12-step support group can often help people recover from a codependent relationship. Other support groups are available for family members who need help navigating the challenges that occur from alcohol addiction.

These groups allow members to speak in a safe environment about the impact alcohol has on their lives. Peers can provide advice and comfort to help one another through tough times. Support settings often provide several therapeutic benefits for attendees.

5. Intervene

In addition to self-care, partners of those affected by alcohol addiction can intervene by helping them find rehabilitation services. While it can be challenging to convince a loved one to seek professional help, identifying how sobriety would benefit their lives can often help them take that first step.

Since many people with substance use disorder believe they’re healthy, an intervention can help. By communicating openly with patience and compassion, friends and family members can convey the importance of sobriety to their loved ones.

6. Inpatient or Outpatient Treatment

Regardless of whether the person is high-functioning, alcohol addiction is a severe disease. Getting professional help is the best way to combat addiction’s mental, emotional, physical and social problems.

Several types of professional programs and levels of addiction services can treat alcohol use disorder, ensuring your loved one can seek one out that best fits their needs and lifestyle. While 12-step programs and inpatient rehabilitation are standard options, thanks to years of research, everyone can find a solution to help them reach sobriety.

Alcohol addiction treatment services include:

  • Withdrawal management: Stopping alcohol use suddenly — going “cold turkey” — can be extremely dangerous and cause significant health issues. That’s why it’s essential to receive professional medical detox to withdraw from alcohol safely. Addiction experts can administer certain medications to reduce or prevent uncomfortable symptoms of withdrawal to support your recovery journey.
  • Individual and group therapy: Whether on your own or through an outpatient or inpatient treatment center, individuals can attend group or individual therapy sessions. Mental health professionals can help you identify the triggers of your addiction and establish healthy coping mechanisms to help you reach sobriety.
  • Residential inpatient care: Inpatient care services allow people with addiction to live with peers in a supervised treatment center. Individuals can expect nutritious meals, social activities, therapy sessions and support groups to support their overall health and wellness.
  • Outpatient services: Outpatient care allows individuals to receive addiction care during the day and leave the center at night to care for other obligations, such as childcare or work.
  • Partial hospitalization programs (PHP): PHP combines medical services with addiction treatment. Individuals often receive partial hospitalization care in a hospital, clinic or rehabilitation center. Medical professionals can treat the physical health problems caused by addiction as you attend therapy programs and support groups, all in one setting.
Get Alcohol Addiction Treatment at Gateway Foundation

Get Alcohol Addiction Treatment at Gateway Foundation

Relationship problems are a common byproduct of alcohol addiction, though there are several ways to combat it. Professionals can provide family support for loved ones affected by addiction and help individuals reach recovery at the same time. After all, partners and families are part of the journey and deserve help returning to normalcy.

Gateway Foundation provides high-quality, effective and cost-efficient treatment programs for those struggling with alcohol addiction. Our team of experts can help you get your life back on track while addressing the mental, physical and relationship issues associated with alcohol use disorder.

To learn more, we invite you to contact us today.

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