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How to deal with an alcoholic partner

Posted by Mandy Donnison
on 11 Apr 2021

Dealing with an alcoholic partner is not easy; an alcoholics behaviour and actions make little logical sense to others, they are often selfish and inconsiderate.


As someone who loves them, it is likely you will struggle to understand why they seemingly continue to choose alcohol over you and over others. Surely, if they loved you they would reduce their drinking or stop altogether? 

This is where it’s important to understand alcoholism as an illness. When it comes to alcohol – willpower or even the greatest desire or need to stop is not enough for an alcoholic to regain control. An alcoholic, once past a certain point, will never regain control over their drinking.

Alcoholism affects not only the body but the brain of an alcoholic on a colossal level. The brain becomes chemically changed and damaged as a direct result of repeated exposure to alcohol. The changes that happen in the brain of an alcoholic are profound and can never be fully repaired.

The only successful treatment for alcoholism that is proven, is complete abstinence from alcohol. 

For an alcoholic partner, the mere thought of a life without alcohol is unthinkable and feels far from achievable. This is why inpatient treatment is often the only an alcoholic can safely stop drinking and more importantly, learn how to stay stopped. 

Dealing with an alcoholic partner – What is enabling? 

Enabling is a term used to describe when a person is helping someone’s alcoholism. When you have a partner it is natural to want to protect them from harm. When your partner is alcoholic however, this natural instinct can actually prevent them from getting the help they desperately need to recover.

Dos and Don'ts drug abuse marriage (1)

There are many ways in which you can enable your alcoholic partners alcoholism, not all are as obvious as buying them alcohol. 

Enabling can be a very damaging and destructive behaviour when it comes to a person suffering from an addiction.  Yet in the vast majority of cases, it happens to some degree. 

Forms of enabling your alcoholic partner may include:

  • Calling in sick to work for them when they are drunk or nursing a hangover
  • Giving them money to buy alcohol
  • Pay their bills as they have spent their money in alcohol
  • Support them financially whilst they sit at home drinking
  • Make excuses for their drunken behaviour
  • Often buying them alcohol
  • Keep their drinking a secret from family and close friends at their request
  • Continually saving them from natural consequences that arise out of their drinking and behaviour
  • Putting their wants before your own needs (codependency)
  • Allowing them to manipulate you to lie for them, cover up for them, or give them money
  • Turning a blind eye to their drinking and behaviour as it is easier than challenging them
  • Continually forgiving them, or giving them lots of chances over the same damaging repeated behaviour

Living with an alcoholic partner, it is unlikely that you are not enabling their drinking in some way. Of course, we realise that your intention is not to harm them but to save them from harm. This is where it important to understand that no one can save an alcoholic. Only they can make the decision to stop drinking, seek help and get well.

Continually saving an alcoholic partner from the consequences of their drinking, only enables their drinking to continue, to progress and to become more and more dangerous. 
They come to rely on you to provide a ’safety net’ and the means to drink without the consequences. 

If you are enabling your alcoholic partners drinking, it is important to seek help and support for yourself so that you can learn to recognise and stop the enabling behaviour. 

Your alcoholic partner is far more likely to seek help if they feel the pain of the consequences of their own drinking.

Does my alcoholic partner treatment? 

Some alcoholics are able to stop drinking in the community with the help of their local drug and alcohol team or a mutual aid support group such as Alcoholics Anonymous. 

However, it is important to recognise when and if your alcoholic partner needs rehab treatment and an inpatient detox. 

It is not always possible or safe for an alcoholic to stop drinking without intensive medical and therapeutic intervention.

Your alcoholic partner needs rehab urgently if :

  • They are unable to stop drinking despite trying various methods 
  • They are alcohol dependent and show withdrawal symptoms when they have run out of  alcohol or have not yet drank enough. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms are very dangerous, they are resolved once an alcohol dependent person has consumed enough alcohol to match their level of dependency
  • They have lost their driving licence or a job as a result of their drinking
  • They are a danger to themselves or others
  • They are seriously unwell through drinking
  • They are addicted to more than just alcohol making an alcohol detox more complex and dangerous, (i.e: alcohol and prescription drugs or alcohol and drugs)
  • They have health conditions that would complicate a detox in the community
  • They have lost complete control over their drinking
  • They are deeply depressed, anxious or have suicidal thoughts
  • They have previously made an attempt at taking their own life

Undergoing alcohol treatment at a CQC registered rehab, such as our addiction treatment and behavioural wellness centre here at Delamere, Cheshire, your partner will undergo a full medical alcohol detox, which will not be painful nor uncomfortable. All of our guests are fully supported 24/7 within our purpose built detox clinic by our qualified nursing staff and distinguished therapists.

How do I get my alcoholic partner to accept help? 

At Delamere we receive numerous calls from people who are, quite rightly, worried about how to deal with their alcoholic partner and need advice on getting them to accept help.

Getting an alcoholic to accept help can be very challenging, especially if the alcoholic feels they have time before they need to quit drinking, or they deny they have a problem.

We feel we can offer some useful tips when it comes to speaking to an alcoholic partner on the subject of alcohol treatment.

Tips on encouraging an alcoholic partner to seek help:

  • We suggest that you pick a time when they are not heavily intoxicated to discuss your concerns regarding their drinking. Pick a time when you also feel emotionally calm and in control. The conversation is less likely to get out of hand or end badly this way.
  • Pre-plan what you need to say. This way you are less likely to react emotionally or become side tracked by their response. Having details of a suitable treatment programme will also be very useful. You can call us here at Delamere for advice on the best alcohol treatment plan for your partners individual treatment needs.
  • Give clear and definite examples of times when your partners alcoholism has affected you and others
  • Tell them you know how much they drink, i.e you have found empties in the car, garage or hidden around the house
  • Tell them how their drinking affects you on a daily basis, of the fear and stress their drinking puts you under.
  • Tell them what you know of alcoholism – That alcoholism is medically recognised as a psychiatric illness and disease of the brain. That hardly anyone can recover without help and that they will only ever get worse over time.
  • Encourage them to tell family and close friends about their struggles with alcohol
  • Give them hope. Tell them that their condition is treatable with the right help and support
  • Encourage them to accept alcohol treatment. Tell them you will support them in getting the right help but that you can no longer support them inactive addiction.
  • Encourage your alcoholic partner to call us here at Delamere, where our professional addiction treatment counsellors are in recovery themselves; they have overcome their own battles with addiction. Your partner may be more inclined to be honest with someone who understands their alcoholism but is not affected by it.
  • If the conversation escalates and they become defensive or angry, leave the conversation and try again another time.
  • If they are unwilling to accept that they have a problem or are unwilling to accept help, we suggest you put in place some clear boundaries where you will no longer enable their drinking or addiction behaviours

If the family are aware of your partners drinking, the conversation may have more impact if others are also able to back what you are saying. Consider involving others in the conversation.

If they are willing to accept help, it is vital to act swiftly. Moments of clarity and willingness can be few and far between when it comes to active alcoholism. Not acting promptly, you may lose the opportunity to help your alcoholic partner, they may drift back into a place of resistance or denial.

If your partner is very sick from alcoholism, you may well need to consider walking away from the relationship until they are able to see for themselves the havoc drinking is causing in their life.

It is important to remember when discussing an alcoholic partners alcohol problem, regardless of what they say or what excuses they offer, that nothing justifies them destroying themselves with alcohol. It is also NOT your fault that they drink the way they do. They have a choice in whether they continue as they are or to undergo treatment to help them to recover.

Getting help for yourself when your partner is an alcoholic 

Just as important as getting your alcoholic partner to accept help is for you to access the correct support. Even if your partner is not interested in stopping drinking, you can change the way that you deal with them.

Alcoholism is an illness that affects all those that love and care for the alcoholic in a very detrimental way. You may have found yourself over time becoming more accepting of their behaviours and forgiving their mistakes time after time. This will have undoubtedly taken its toll on your own mental health.

Here at Delamere, we believe in treating the whole family so that our guests have the best chance of recovery. Not only that, but the family also deserve peace of mind and freedom from their partners alcoholism. 

If your partner is unwilling to accept help with us and change for the better, we suggest that you contact Al-Anon, who are there to offer mutual support and guidance to each other and share a common plight. All that attend Al-Anon have been affected by someone else’s alcoholic behaviour. 


Al-Anon Family Groups provide support to anyone whose life is, or has been, affected by someone else’s drinking, regardless of whether that person is still drinking or not. 

Helpline: 0800 0086 811

Website:  www.al-anonuk.org.uk

How we at Delamere can help your alcoholic partner to recover from alcoholism

Our alcohol treatment programmes are carefully tailored to each individual guest that walks through our doors. We provide a luxurious yet family oriented experience that is non judgemental and extremely supportive. 

Once an alcoholic has been freed from their physical dependence to alcohol through one of our prescribed medical detoxes, we then focus our attention on behaviour. 

Our purpose built behavioural wellness facility is one of a kind in the UK. Here, our guests can undergo a complete transformation in their thoughts, outlook and actions through undergoing an intensive evidence-based treatment programme

All inpatient programmes, detoxes and aftercare are completely bespoke with Delamere. No two treatment programmes are exactly the same, just as no two of our guests are the same.

Our programmes reflect our respect for each guest’s individuality and the need for intricately tailored personal rehabilitation. 

For details of Delamere’s treatment programmes for alcoholism, and for help on dealing with an alcoholic partner, call our team of experts today.

About the author: Mandy Donnison

Mandy manages our admin, HR and finance functions here at Delamere. Find out more about Mandy on our team page.

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