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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 to 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.

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

However, you might not know exactly how much your significant other drinks. In some cases, their drinking habits might be inconsistent.

Alcoholism is a progressive disease, so it might not be apparent early on. However, there are a few tell-tale signs of alcoholism that you can look out for.

Behavioral Signs of Alcoholism

Men tend to misuse alcohol more often than women. Approximately 21% of men report binge drinking, compared with 13% of women. This means they are more likely to develop an AUD compared to women.6

If you suspect your significant other has a drinking problem, objectively assessing 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
  • Unsuccessfully trying to quit
  • Drinking in dangerous situations
  • Neglecting responsibilities
  • Struggling to maintain their relationship with you and others
  • Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms

Other Signs

Alcohol changes a person's brain chemistry, and it's common for people with AUD to seem different when drunk. For example, your boyfriend might be kind and compassionate while sober. But they can turn aggressive or abusive while drunk,

Another sign of alcoholism is when they are reluctant to discuss their situation. Your boyfriend may have difficulty communicating, even when he's not drinking. This is especially true if they feel guilty about how they act when they're drunk.

Lastly, they can get irritable or defensive when you bring up their drinking habits. They can also get irritable and angry without alcohol for some time.

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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

8 Tips for Dealing with an Alcoholic Boyfriend

It can be hard to deal with a loved one who struggles with alcoholism. However, being able to support and empathize with them can help increase the chances of a successful recovery.

It's also important that you keep yourself safe. Here are 8 ways you can deal with an alcoholic boyfriend.

1. Avoid Covering Up for your Boyfriend

Making excuses and covering up for an alcoholic significant other won't help them. If anything, it can be a detriment to their recovery.

Avoid enabling their behavior while drunk, and make sure they understand the gravity of the situation. It'll be better for their long-term recovery if both of you acknowledge his drinking problem rather than brushing it off.

2. Keep Yourself Safe

Never stay in an abusive situation. If you or someone else is at risk of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, it's best to seek help.

Staying in an abusive situation can be dangerous for all parties involved. This is especially true for you, your pets, or your children.

3. Understanding Who Has Control

It's important to understand that you cannot control your boyfriend's behavior. You cannot force him to stop drinking or control his drinking habits.

Your boyfriend will have to make a conscious effort to stop drinking if they want to. They have to want to get better to improve their chances of a successful recovery.

4. Understand the Dangers of Alcohol

Alcohol detox and withdrawal both come with dangerous side effects. Without preparation and medical attention, these side effects can be life-threatening.

With that in mind, it's important to understand the harmful side effects of detox and withdrawal. This will help you properly prepare for withdrawal symptoms.

5. Seek Support

Dealing with an alcoholic can have a significant impact on your mental health. It's important to be able to speak to your loved ones for support and assistance.

Seeking professional help and therapy can also help you deal with the situation.

6. Set Clear Boundaries

It's important to know where to set your boundaries with your boyfriend. While providing empathy and support is important for recovery, you are not their emotional punching bag.

Understand that you are not professionally equipped to handle your alcoholic boyfriend. You are not their therapist. Setting up boundaries can help protect your health and well-being.

7. Prioritize Your Health and Your Children's

Alcoholism is a stressful ordeal. Dealing with an alcoholic partner can be mentally and physically draining.

With that in mind, it's important to prioritize the physical and mental well-being of everyone around the alcoholic person. This includes you and especially your children.

8. Create a Daily Routine or Schedule

A daily routine can be a healthy way of engaging in non-alcohol-related activities. This can give your boyfriend a way to distract themselves from cravings and triggers.

Consider replacing regular drinking days with non-drinking days. This can help you break some habits and replace them with new ones.

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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

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How to Get Your Boyfriend Help 

You can do several things 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

You can do nothing 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, 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.

You can also do several things 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.

Building a Strong Support System

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.

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.

Getting the professional support needed to move on from a relationship with someone with AUD is important. 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, you can 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.

Alcohol Resouces for Partners of Alcoholics

There are resources across the country designed specifically for individuals and loved ones impacted by the harmful effects of alcohol. These resources provide the tools and guidance you need to live an alcohol-free life.

Here are a few readily available alcohol resources:

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Updated on November 10, 2022
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