Is your partner's drinking ruining your relationship?
Most of us will come across people who are drinking too much in social situations. And to be fair, who hasn't — from time to time — had one (or three) too many drinks at their own birthday party? The summer season is nearly upon us. It's time for holiday celebrations and barbecues at which keeping the wine and beer flowing is part of being hospitable.
For some of us, however, this season highlights a much more commonplace and personal issue because our close relationships are already overshadowed by the spectre of problem drinking. We view celebrations with growing dread as they provide our problem drinker with what they consider to be a legitimate excuse for excess.
The following is a quick guide to managing drunken behaviour wisely and minimizing its destructive impact. If you are out at a social occasion try to remember that if your partner is behaving atrociously, he/she is embarrassing him/herself — not you. Don't give yourself a hard time if you decide to leave early, take the car and leave your partner some money for a taxi home later. It's simply putting up a boundary which is a very wise thing to do.
However, the real problems accelerate behind closed doors. Your drunk partner enters the house where social norms no longer demand his/her natural restraint and the real problems begin. So what do you do? As a relationship expert, here's my advice:
Avoid Confrontation In The Moment
This is hard, particularly if you are in close relationship with the person who is drinking. For a start, you will be feeling understandably angry that your partner has moved to that point where the drink appears to be taking over. OK, we've all laughed at amiable, giggling drunks in our time, but the joke soon wears thin when it's your partner doing it over and over again. Amusement is quickly replaced by concern, annoyance and — if it goes on and on — a deep rage, which those who live with compulsive behaviors will really understand. At that point the temptation to sit your drunk down and give him a large piece of your mind feels almost irresistible, and it's highly likely you have done just that!
However, more often than not, it's like sticking your finger in a wasp's nest. Out come the verbal insults and twisting half-truths that sting, frustrate and offend. You may feel better for a moment, but an argument with a drunk can quickly escalate to a new level of tension, aggression and non–compliance. And even if your drinker is amiable and garrulous and wants to "talk deeply" (how often I've fallen for that one) the chances are he/she won't remember a thing in the morning. There is a time to talk things through and express how disappointed, hurt and angry you are, but not when he/she is still intoxicated!
Most people who turn to us at Bottled Up genuinely love their drinking partner and want to work at the relationship before walking away from it completely. So strategies to cope are really important. When you're in a situation where a loved one is drinking heavily, do a quick safety check to ensure he/she is not in needless danger, but then take remove yourself from the situation as much as humanly possible.
You may not be able to control what is happening, but that doesn't mean you have to sit and watch it. Do yourself a favor! Go to another room or floor or leave the situation altogether. (Even if you get stuck in the same space, get your headphones on and listen to some nice music to tune out what's happening). Don't get further hooked into the already chaotic dynamics around the drinking behavior.
Care For Yourself And Your Family
When your partner lets you down you're hurt and angry, of course. However, if the problem drinking is a regular occurrence, then this is the time to do something nice for you.
Think ahead on this one. If it's the end of a long, hard day, make sure you pamper yourself with a long hot soak in the bath. Save your favorite book or TV program to retreat into. Be prepared to move out to the spare bedroom if you have one. A snoring drunk beside you is hardly a brilliant aphrodisiac! If it's daytime and you have a family, take them out for a walk or meal. Play a board or video game you put aside for these occasions.
That's why I love our Bottled Up forum, because if you are short of ideas other members may come up with some brilliant suggestions to help out here! It may be the worst time for your relationship with your drinker, but you can work on making it a good time for you. This may well feel counter-intuitive (and, in some ways, it is) but don't allow the alcohol to wreak even more damage than it already has!
Be proactive, be creative or even take the offensive! This is your partner's problem — it doesn't have to be yours. This is where detaching in love is crucial, sensible and poignantly relevant.
I've walked this path personally and these strategies are lessons painfully learned over a long period of time so go easy on yourself. Do what you can a little at a time and take back control of your life and situation. It won't always be easy but every new change brings a new sense of empowerment and a new hope for a more lasting change.
Don't go into this summer season unprepared. If your partner regularly comes up with inappropriate behavior, figure out some appropriate boundaries and responses. You may not be able to control their behavor, but you can certainly exert control over your family and your own choices; and if, in the end, you decide that "enough is enough," know that you have applied all that is possible to make your relationship work.
Find out more about how to live with an alcoholic by going to Bottled Up where you will find videos, articles and audios on this topic.