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Signs Your Husband is an Alcoholic

There are several telltale signs your husband has developed a problem with alcohol or is an alcoholic. For example:

  • Alcohol affects a person’s ability to think clearly. If your husband is exercising poor judgment, lacks inhibitions, and seems different to you, alcohol consumption could be related.
  • Some alcoholics can control their emotions, but most tend to have erratic and unpredictable mood swings. They might cry, be angry or abusive, or experience bouts of hysteria. Others develop depression and/or anxiety.
  • Alcoholism isolates both parties in a relationship. You might feel you cannot trust your husband or that he treats you disrespectfully. If your husband drinks too much, it’s bound to affect your relationship in a negative way.
  • Alcohol affects a person’s physical coordination, sexual function, and overall health. Stumbling, slurring words, loss of coordination, unexplained illnesses, and worsening of existing medical conditions are signs that someone is abusing alcohol.

There might be other explanations for these things if someone is experiencing mental illness or dealing with other health problems. But if you know your husband drinks a lot, and these symptoms are also present, it could be a sign that he is an alcoholic or dealing with substance use. If you’re wondering how to help an alcoholic husband, understanding whether or not he has a drinking problem is the first step.

It’s also important to note that not all alcoholics are unable to maintain their daily responsibilities. Living with a high-functioning alcoholic husband has a different set of challenges because it might seem to the outside world that there is no problem. If you are in this situation, you still need to know how to deal with an alcoholic husband.

How to Deal with an Alcoholic Husband 

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) puts a huge strain on a marriage. If you are living with an alcoholic husband and you want to improve your marriage:

  • Don’t launch conversations about his drinking while he’s drunk or hungover. It’s best to discuss the issue and any serious topics when everyone is sober.
  • Don’t enable him or make excuses for him. This ranges from calling in to work for him to bailing him out of jail.
  • Be honest about how his drinking affects you and the rest of the family.
  • Don’t make threats, but explain the consequences of his drinking and follow through with those consequences.
  • Tell him you want him to get help and that you will help him get treatment, but don’t nag him about it.
  • Get help for yourself. Consider attending Al-Anon meetings or participating in other support groups that offer support for loved ones of alcoholics or begin individual therapy.

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How Does Alcohol Ruin a Marriage?

Alcoholism has devastating effects on a marriage. For example, heavy drinking:

  • Interferes with communication
  • Triggers frequent arguments
  • Creates a lack of trust
  • Increases the risk of infidelity and sexual problems
  • Interferes with family bonding
  • Creates financial problems and legal problems
  • Increases the risk of domestic violence
  • Leads to separation and divorce

How Do I Stop Drinking When My Husband Drinks?

Many couples bond over drinking. It is part of their social life and something they enjoy doing together. But when one spouse develops a problem with alcohol, enjoying a drink together is no longer a healthy option.

If your husband drinks too much, you might want to stop drinking as a way to discourage his drinking and support his recovery. You not drinking is a powerful tool to help you learn how to help an alcoholic husband stop drinking. If you’re ready to give up alcohol, it helps to:

  • Remove all alcohol from your home so nobody is tempted by convenient access to drinking.
  • Create a backup plan for social settings where you know there will be alcohol or alter your social life completely to avoid settings with alcohol.
  • Set boundaries for yourself with drinking and explain them to your spouse.
  • Be patient with yourself – if drinking alcohol is something you’ve enjoyed for years, it might be difficult to completely change your behavior, even without AUD.
  • Focus on yourself and on improving your overall health. You’ll be setting a good example for your spouse when you take care of yourself and establish that you deserve respect.

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How to Help an Alcoholic Spouse Stop Drinking

Watching a loved one struggle with alcohol addiction is one of the most difficult experiences a person can go through. This is especially true when that loved one is a spouse. There are things you can do to help an alcoholic spouse and improve the chances of recovery. 

As the spouse of an alcoholic husband, you have a great deal of influence and opportunity.

If you’d like to help your husband stop drinking, consider:

Effective Confrontation

Confront him and let him know how his drinking affects you and other family members. Avoid blame and focus on using “I” statements, such as “I feel hurt when you drink too much and neglect our relationship.”


Consider planning an intervention with the help of an addiction professional. An intervention brings together the people who care about the person who is drinking too much and confronts the person with the support of an addiction specialist. That specialist serves as a mediator and resource and helps everyone deal with a difficult situation.

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) 

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a 12-step program that has helped many alcoholics deal with recovery. It’s a community program that allows people to speak openly and honestly about their AUD and get support from their peers.

Residential Treatment

Residential treatment programs or inpatient treatment offers a full-time option for people struggling with AUD. These programs provide medically supervised detox and round-the-clock care and attention from addiction specialists. 

People in residential treatment programs focus entirely on recovery, away from the stress and challenges of their everyday lives. These programs are ideal for people who have attempted recovery in the past or who have the option or need to make recovery their full-time focus.

There are many treatment options available for alcoholics and their family members, including individual and family therapy. If you have an alcoholic partner, you can speak to an addiction specialist about the various resources available to help families dealing with substance abuse.

Paying for Addiction Treatment

Both the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act and the Affordable Care Act require health insurance providers in the United States to pay for addiction treatment. This includes all types of programs, including time spent at a full- or part-time treatment facility, prevention programs, early intervention, and treatment for co-occurring disorders. 

People who do not have health insurance coverage also have options for treatment. Community programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous are free to attend. Many programs offer scholarships or sliding pay scales that make them affordable for uninsured and/or low-income individuals. It’s also reasonable for some people to ask for financial support from friends or family members. 

Is Alcoholism a Reason for Divorce? 

For some couples, yes. Ideally, it isn’t the first option if you are married to an alcoholic, but if you’ve tried everything to help your spouse and nothing has worked, divorce might be your only option. 

The important thing to remember is that your safety and the safety of your other family members is your main priority. For many, the solution for how to deal with a mean drunk husband is leaving the marriage.

If an alcoholic spouse poses a threat to you or your children, physical distance from him is appropriate and justified. The thought of ending a marriage with an alcoholic husband and starting fresh is overwhelming for many. However, it may be the best decision.


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Deniker, P., De Saugy, D., & Ropert, M. (1964). The alcoholic and his wife. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 5(6), 374–381. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0010-440X(64)80047-X

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