Alcoholism is a condition characterized with drastic and dramatic negative effects on all areas of life, including marriage and family relationships. If you are married or engaged in any form of relationship with an alcoholic partner it can feel like a ship lost in a sea of depression, anxiety, and resentment in times of active alcoholism. The great majorities of alcoholics have become used to this kind of home life, and often have experienced these symptoms of discontent in many, if not all, of their relationships. There are several ways to approach a conversation with a spouse who suffers from alcoholism, and there are a variety of elements that are necessary to take into consideration before making the attempt to confront the issue of alcohol abuse.
Understand the Probable Past
Alcoholics are often used to a dysfunctional family setting. More often than not they have experienced some form of alcoholism in their parents, or they were brought up in a house-hold with frequent disputes. In most cases an alcoholic partner grew up in a family where basic truths were not okay to talk about, or the harmful communication and fears were ignored or ridiculed.
So when approaching a conversation about alcoholism or behavioral issues, keep in mind that coming across too critical too quickly can cause the alcoholic to shut down or act out defensively. Try to recognize and relate to the fact that they may have preset expectations of these issues with their drinking being shameful, or something that is not to be discussed.
Try to Remain a Team
When an alcoholic partner is attacked as the one who causes too many problems in the family or house-hold, they are even more prone to become defensive and aggressive. To talk to your alcoholic partner and keep the communication open and calm, you should not make them feel blamed for everything.
Empathy is so very important when trying to communicate with your alcoholic partner about their issue with substance abuse. It may be hard to muster up this kind of self-control and humility, but it is important to try and keep the conversation with your alcoholic partner a ‘WE’ conversation. Address the issue as ‘OUR’ problem, not ‘YOUR’ problem. By letting your partner know you still consider the two of you as a team, you show them support and compassion.
The disease of alcoholism is the common threat. It is not who they are, it is an affliction that can be treated if the proper steps are taken, so do not use guilt as a tactic to shame them into getting help. Instead use your combined strength and love as kinetic energy to propel the conversation towards an actual solution, without rushing them or pressuring them to action immediately. See what it is you can contribute to their recovery.
Tell Your Truth
While it is important not to place the blame directly onto the shoulders of the alcoholic in your life, it is also important that you remain honest and open about the way you feel as simply and constructively as possible. The truth needs to be put on the table, and as long as it is presented in a way that is considerate of the alcoholic individual and promotes their recovery.
They say the truth hurts, but honestly it does not always have to. If you are in a relationship with an alcoholic partner it is not about keeping score and getting back at them, it is about helping them understand how their alcoholism is effecting the ones who love them the most, and how it is hurting the chances of emotional growth with the two of you together.
Be honest about how you feel, be true to how you are affected, but try to do so in a way that maintains the togetherness and understanding. Letting them take in the truth and not pressuring them to have an answer right away can give them a chance to digest the information, and you can take time to co-create a solution as a couple.
Be Prepared and Patient
Going into this conversation with you frustration but no information is ineffective and possible counter-productive. It is very helpful to be informed and possibly supported with second opinions. If you have a chance to release your frustrations and confusions on a friend or counselor it gives you a chance to see if there is anything you are overlooking or under-appreciating.
Simply talking with someone outside the home can give you an opportunity to seek a second opinion, or think through the situation after calming down. Especially when speaking with someone familiar with alcoholism or addiction it is a good way to better perceive the situation and have information to offer your alcoholic partner about their drinking.
When they are quick to get defensive, stick to denial, or rushed to recover you should stay calm and avoid ultimatums unless absolutely necessary. Assure your partner that you are willing to help them however you can to design a solution or plan of action, without putting too much pressure on the plan being executed immediately in cases that are not an emergency. Patience will provide an atmosphere for the two of you to discuss and develop the best way to go about getting help for your partner without disrupting the house-hold or damaging the relationship too much with unneeded stress. There is plenty of hope in finding treatment and learning how continued recovery is possible. Remember, alcoholic or not, this loved one is your partner, and partners work toward a better future together.
Alcoholism is frequently referred to as an affliction of the mind, body, and spirit. Relationships, especially intimate ones, suffer the most in the grips of active alcoholism, but there is still great hope available to those who seek to make the change. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.