Alcoholic Boyfriends

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Key Takeaways

  • Excessive drinking puts strain on romantic relationships
  • One or more signs of alcohol use disorder (AUD) could indicate an existing or worsening problem with substance use
  • There are several things you can do to improve your situation if you’re in a relationship with an alcoholic
  • Sometimes, the best thing you can do to help a loved one with AUD is help yourself
  • A healthy, fulfilling relationship with an alcoholic is possible, but it comes with challenges

How to Tell if Your Boyfriend is an Alcoholic

Caring about someone with an alcohol problem is difficult. It’s especially challenging when you’re in a romantic relationship.

It’s not always easy to know if your significant other has alcohol use disorder (AUD). Many people have clouded judgment when it comes to their partners. 

Men who consume 15 or more drinks per week or about 2 drinks per day are considered to have AUD. Additionally, regular binge drinking is an indication of alcoholism.

However, you might not know exactly how much your significant other drinks. Their drinking behavior might be inconsistent. 

You might suspect something is wrong but are reluctant to admit the severity of the problem. You may not want to put the relationship at risk or deal with what it means to love an alcoholic. 

Behavioral Signs of Alcoholism

If you suspect your significant other has a drinking problem, an objective assessment of the situation can help. 

Some of the behavioral signs of AUD include:

  • Hiding or lying about drinking habits
  • Blacking out after drinking
  • An inability to stop drinking
  • Drinking in dangerous situations
  • Neglecting responsibilities
  • Struggling to maintain their relationship with you and others
  • Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not drinking
  • Unsuccessfully trying to quit drinking

Other Signs

Many people dating someone with a drinking problem notice their significant other changes when drinking.

Your boyfriend might be a kind, considerate man when he’s sober but behaves aggressively or abusively when he consumes alcohol.

However, communication can be difficult, even when he’s not drinking. People with AUD are typically reluctant to discuss their situation. This is especially true if they feel guilty about how they act when they drink. 

Alcohol changes brain chemistry. It’s common for people with AUD to seem completely different when drunk. 

Men tend to misuse alcohol more often than women. This means people in relationships with men find themselves making excuses for their partners. 

Further, more men have undiagnosed mental health problems than women. In many cases, these disorders increase the risk of or exacerbate existing problems with alcoholism.

How Does Alcoholism Affect Relationships?

AUD has a significant impact on relationships, especially intimate ones.

For many couples, alcoholism is the problem that ends their relationship.

Some of the most common problems people experience when in a relationship with an alcoholic include:

  • Financial challenges
  • Uneven balance of household responsibilities
  • Frequent arguments over alcohol use
  • Communication problems
  • Neglect of children
  • Lack of partnership
  • Domestic violence
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8 Tips for Dealing with an Alcoholic Boyfriend

  1. Avoid covering up or making excuses for your boyfriend.
  2. Never stay in a situation in which you or someone else is at risk of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse.
  3. Understand that you can’t control your boyfriend’s behavior or stop him from drinking.
  4. Know the risks of alcohol detox and withdrawal and seek medical attention when needed.
  5. Seek support for yourself. Turn to friends and family and arrange professional therapy to help you with your situation.
  6. Learn how to set healthy boundaries that protect your health and well-being.
  7. Make sure that your health and the health of your children are your priority.
  8. Create a daily routine or schedule and do your best to stick to it. This helps the youngest members of the household but is also beneficial for adults. 

When to Confront Your Boyfriend (+ Tips)

Confronting your boyfriend about his drinking is one of the first steps to building a healthier, sober relationship.

Despite the benefits that come from confrontation, the idea of discussing alcohol use can feel daunting. 

No matter when you choose to bring up the topic, do so when your boyfriend is sober and both of you’re free of distractions.

These tips can help you take the best approach to this important discussion about alcohol addiction:

  • Conduct research about alcoholism and addiction in advance
  • Look into treatment options in your area
  • Explain the impact of your boyfriend’s drinking on you and those in your home
  • Let him know you love him and will offer support, but not tolerate abuse
  • Have realistic expectations; recovery doesn’t happen overnight
  • Don’t judge, blame, or shout
  • Don’t accept blame for your boyfriend’s drinking

How to Get Your Boyfriend Help 

There are several things you can do if your boyfriend is open to receiving help for alcohol abuse. 

For example:

  • Do not enable drinking
  • Listen honestly and with compassion when your boyfriend speaks to you about the problem
  • Express love and concern without making excuses for poor behavior
  • Limit serious discussions to when your boyfriend is sober
  • Research treatment options
  • Set healthy boundaries
  • Ask for help from loved ones
  • Seek help for yourself

There is nothing you can do for your significant other if he won’t accept help. Your only option might be to end the relationship.

It’s important to remember that the only thing you can control is your own choices. 

If your boyfriend won’t accept your help or enter substance use treatment then you can’t help him. You can only help yourself.

How to Get Help For Yourself

Unfortunately, physical and sexual abuse are common components of relationships that involve alcoholism. If you are in immediate physical danger, get out of the situation and/or contact law enforcement.

There are also several things you can do to help yourself if you choose to remain in the relationship.

Most people find that they must stop drinking alcohol if they are involved with someone with AUD. Even if you do not have a problem with addiction, sober living is a great way to support your partner.

This avoids triggering your partner to use alcohol. It also breaks old patterns of drinking with him.

It’s important to build a strong support system for yourself. This includes both professional and personal support. Ideas that might help include:

  • Spending time with friends and family
  • Working with a therapist familiar with addiction and its impact on relationships
  • Getting treatment for your own mental health
  • Learning about addiction
  • Understanding your role as a significant other of an alcoholic

One of the biggest challenges in relationships that involve AUD is establishing healthy boundaries. The more you do to achieve this the better it is for you and your partner.

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Signs It’s Time to Leave an Alcoholic Partner

There is no guarantee a relationship with someone with AUD will be successful and fulfilling, even if you do everything you can to make it so.

For many people, there comes a time when they must leave their alcoholic partner. Timing is different for everyone, and only you can determine what is right in your situation. 

Signs it might be time to leave include:

  • Physical abuse
  • Fear that your children could be hurt accidentally or intentionally
  • Emotional abuse
  • Partner is unwilling to explore recovery options
  • Ongoing dishonesty
  • Denial that alcohol is a problem
  • Neglect of your own mental and emotional health

Sometimes the decision to leave is based on several factors. 

A partner of an alcoholic might just decide he or she has had enough. They might feel emotionally exhausted and believe that ending the relationship is their only option.

It’s important to get the professional support needed to move on from a relationship with someone with AUD. Just because leaving your partner is the right decision for you doesn’t mean it’s easy. 

Therapy can help you grieve the relationship and rebuild your life.

Is it Possible to Have a Relationship With an Alcoholic?

Yes. 

However, it’s far more likely to be successful if your partner is in recovery.

Someone with AUD is never cured. They manage their disorder and choose to live soberly every day.

When you are involved with a partner committed to sober living, even if relapse occurs, it’s possible to have a healthy relationship with an alcoholic.

Just as you can have a relationship with someone with depression or anxiety or a physical health disorder, you can do the same with someone with AUD. But this doesn’t mean it won’t be challenging. 

The best thing you can do if you want to sustain a romantic relationship with someone with AUD is to learn how to support them. You can do this by seeking therapy individually and by building a strong support system of your own.

Updated on December 20, 2021
6 sources cited
  1. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) |.” Nih.gov, 2017, . 
  2. Alcohol Problems in Intimate Relationships: Identification and Intervention - a Guide for Marriage and Family Therapists.” Nih.gov, 2019. 
  3. Harvard Health Publishing. “Alcohol Abuse - Harvard Health.” Harvard Health, Harvard Health, 5 Dec. 2014. 
  4. Alcohol’s Effects on the Body.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), 14 Sept. 2011. 
  5. The Role of the Family in Alcohol Use Disorder Recovery for Adults | Alcohol Research: Current Reviews.” Alcohol Research Current Reviews. . 
  6. Reinaldo, Amanda Márcia dos Santos, and Sandra Cristina Pillon. “Alcohol Effects on Family Relations: A Case Study.” Revista Latino-Americana de Enfermagem, vol. 16, no. spe, Aug. 2008.

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