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Alcohol & Health
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Updated on September 14, 2023
7 min read

Dating an Alcoholic

What is Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) 

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) includes alcohol abuse, alcohol dependence, and alcoholism. People who abuse alcohol are one step beyond heavy drinkers. 

People with AUD continue to drink alcohol despite its toll on their physical and mental health. They also drink despite knowing the harmful effects it has on their relationships. 

People who abuse alcohol often drink to:1,2

  • Cope
  • Destress
  • Escape reality
  • Numb emotional pain

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10 Signs You’re Dating an Alcoholic

Alcoholism isn’t an uncommon disease. About 15 million people in the United States struggle with AUD.15

There are many reasons people drink. But, contrary to popular belief, not everyone with a drinking problem is an alcoholic.

However, if you’re worried that your partner may be an alcoholic, there are a few red flags. Here are 10 major signs that your partner is an alcoholic.4

1. They Can’t Control Their Drinking

People who struggle with alcoholism cannot limit their alcohol intake. They also seem to be unable to quit drinking altogether. This is especially true if they’ve attempted to quit before and failed.

They’ll even continue to drink alcohol despite the negative effects on their health and well-being. If your partner can’t control their drinking habits, it’s a sign that they have a problem.

2. They’re Preoccupied With Drinking

If your partner has an alcohol use disorder, most of their time will be devoted to drinking. They’ll drink frequently and heavily at any given time.

Most of their hobbies and social activities will involve drinking. They may even avoid certain social events if there is no alcohol available.

3. They Have A High Tolerance For Alcohol

People who frequently and excessively drink alcohol will develop a higher tolerance for it. They will often need to drink more alcohol to get drunk. If your partner has a high tolerance for alcohol, then they may be an alcoholic.

4. They’re Neglecting Self-Care

Alcoholism can have a toll on a person’s mental and physical health. Because of this, an alcoholic may not have the energy or time to take care of themselves.

People who struggle with AUD have a hard time maintaining nutrition or hygiene. If your partner spends more time drinking than bathing or eating healthy, it’s a sign of alcoholism.

5. They’re Secretive About Their Drinking

If your partner is an alcoholic, they may do things to hide their drinking problem. This may include:

  • Being secretive about where they go
  • Drinking alone
  • Lying about drinking
  • Making excuses to go drinking

If you start noticing these red flags, your partner may be an alcoholic.

6. They Can’t Maintain Social Obligations

If your partner is an alcoholic, you may notice that they’re letting their duties and obligations slide. You may notice that they have problems with:

  • Holding a job
  • Performing at school
  • Meeting familial obligations
  • Maintaining friendships and relationships

7. They’re Getting in Trouble With the Law

People who struggle with alcoholism will often be impulsive. They routinely engage in risky behavior and can harm themselves and others.

Because of this, they can cause problems for others or get in trouble with the law. If your partner has done any of the following, they may be an alcoholic:16

  • Driving under the influence (DUI)
  • Property crime
  • Aggravated assault 
  • Sexual assault
  • Robbery 

8. They Have a Family History of Alcoholism

Alcoholism is a genetic disease. Studies have shown that children of alcoholics are at risk of becoming alcoholics themselves.8

Your partner may be an alcoholic if they have an alcoholic parent or close family member. They can also become an alcoholic due to early alcohol exposure.

9. They Have a Co-Occurring Disorder

Often, alcoholism can occur alongside another mental health disorder, a co-occurring disorder. Alcoholism can worsen their mental health and vice versa.4

The most common mental disorders for co-occurring disorders include:

  • Anxiety and mood disorders
  • Schizophrenia
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Depression
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

If your partner is using alcohol to cope with their mental illness, then they may be an alcoholic.

10. They Experience Cravings or Withdrawals

If you think your partner is an alcoholic, they’ll experience problems while not drinking alcohol. They might have uncontrolled cravings, and if they go without drinking long enough, they may develop alcohol withdrawal syndrome.4

Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal syndrome include: 

  • Anxiety
  • Tremors
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Rapid sweating
  • Increased heart rate

What are the Side Effects of AUD?

Alcohol use disorder can have various harmful side effects. People can even become dependent on alcohol. The short and long-term side effects of alcohol use disorder include:2,3

  • Mood changes
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Diarrhea 
  • Chest pain
  • Impaired coordination and concentration
  • Impaired memory and learning
  • Insomnia
  • Weakened immune system
  • Alcohol withdrawal symptoms

People with alcohol use disorder will also have difficulties maintaining their social life. Their mood and behavior changes can drastically affect their relationships with friends and loved ones.

How Alcoholism Negatively Impacts Relationships

Alcoholism doesn’t only affect the person battling it. It also affects the well-being of the people in their lives. 

Dating an alcoholic can affect your mental, physical, and emotional health. An alcoholic partner can be:9

  • Physically violent
  • Mentally abusive
  • Emotionally manipulative
  • Self-centered

It can be hard to maintain a relationship with an alcoholic because they prioritize drinking above everything else. This means an alcoholic partner will neglect your wants and needs. They’ll even neglect any pets or children you may have.


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What to Do if You’re Dating an Alcoholic

If you’re dating an alcoholic, you should first consider whether or not the relationship is worth it. Ask yourself the following questions: 

  • Do their behaviors affect your physical and mental health? 
  • Are they aggressive or violent? 
  • Are you generally unhappy?

If you’re not in harm’s way and don’t want to leave your partner, reaching out for professional help is still advisable. Support groups are available for people with alcoholic loved ones, such as Al-Anon. Support groups can help you be a better supporter and cope with your partner’s alcohol addiction.

Tips For People Dating An Alcoholic

Here are some quick tips to remember if you’re dating an alcoholic:12

  1. Be aware of their drinking behaviors
  2. Be supportive of them in their path to recovery
  3. Do social activities that don’t involve drinking alcohol
  4. Hold your partner accountable for their actions and inactions due to alcohol abuse
  5. Set boundaries
  6. Reach out for professional help

If you’re in physical danger, call the Domestic Violence Support National Hotline: 1.800.799.SAFE (7233) for immediate, confidential, free help. 


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How to Help the Person You’re Dating Stop Drinking

Your partner needs a support system during their recovery journey. So do your best to be present, communicative, and supportive.12

The most helpful thing you can do is reach out for professional help so they don’t have to endure the road to recovery alone. Loved ones are important in helping an alcoholic start recovery but aren’t expected to be the only source of support.

Treatment Options For an Alcoholic Partner

There are various treatment options available to you and your partner. These treatment options include:

You can seek out couples therapy to work out your relationship problems. You can also join a support group like Al-Anon to help you cope with your partner’s addiction.


Dating an alcoholic can be a stressful and overwhelming experience. Many of the signs that point to your partner’s alcoholism are self-destructive.

Maintaining a relationship with an alcoholic partner can affect your self-esteem and confidence. It can severely damage your mental, physical, and emotional health.

If you have an alcoholic partner, seek professional help, especially if they’re violent. You can join a support group like Al-Anon to better cope with your partner’s alcoholism.

Updated on September 14, 2023
16 sources cited
Updated on September 14, 2023
All Alcoholrehabhelp content is medically reviewed or fact checked to ensure as much factual accuracy as possible.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable media sites, academic research institutions and, whenever possible, medically peer reviewed studies.
  1. Alcohol Questions and Answers.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020.
  2. Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD).” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2020.
  3. Alcohol Use Disorder.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2020.
  4. Alcohol Use Disorder: A Comparison Between DSM–IV and DSM–5.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2020.
  5. Drinking Levels Defined.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2020.
  6. Drinking Too Much Alcohol Can Harm Your Health. Learn the Facts.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2019.
  7. Wilson, D. & Matschinsky, F. “Ethanol metabolism: The good, the bad, and the ugly.” Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, 2020.
  8. Tawa et al. “Overview of the Genetics of Alcohol Use Disorder.” Alcohol and Alcoholism, 2016.
  9. How Alcohol Use Disorder Can Affect Romantic Relationships.” Discovery Mood & Anxiety Program, 2019.
  10. Preventing Chronic Disease.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2014. 
  11. Publishing, Harvard Health. “Alcohol Abuse.” Harvard Health, 2014.
  12. Sharma et al. “Living with an Alcoholic Partner: Problems Faced and Coping Strategies Used by Wives of Alcoholic Clients.” Industrial Psychiatry Journal, Medknow Publications & Media Pvt Ltd, 2016. 
  13. Skerrett, Patrick J. “Heavy Drinkers Aren’t Necessarily Alcoholics, but May Be ‘Almost Alcoholics.’” Harvard Health Blog, 2020.
  14. What Is AA?”
  15. Alcohol Facts and Statistics.” National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), 2022
  16. Sontate et al. “Alcohol, Aggression, and Violence: From Public Health to Neuroscience.” Frontiers in psychology, 2021.
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All content created by Alcohol Rehab Help is sourced from current scientific research and fact-checked by an addiction counseling expert. However, the information provided by Alcohol Rehab Help is not a substitute for professional treatment advice.
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