How Are Intimate Relationships Impacted by Alcoholism?

a couple whose intimate relationship is impacted by alcoholism.One individual shared their story via about their experience with alcoholism and how it affected their social relationships. Jamie stated,

This past year I have gone to work drunk, blacked out in clubs and bars and can’t remember getting home…I have destroyed two relationships because I hurt them so much through my drinking, but I put drinking first.”

As the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) states, alcoholism can bring about a number of issues within relationship-contexts:

  • Violence
  • Marital conflict
  • Infidelity
  • Jealousy
  • Economic insecurity
  • Divorce
  • Fetal alcohol effect

Previous studies have shown that intimate relationships can experience vicious cycles of fighting and arguing, especially if one spouse is lying to the other or if one spouse isn’t happy with the others’ alcohol abuse. These relationships aren’t the only ones affected, however; children, relatives, coworkers, friends and more can all be strained when alcoholism is involved.

A 2016 study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships found that after assessing 181 couples where one had an alcohol use disorder (AUD), relationship satisfaction was shown to decline longitudinally. Another study assessed some of the relational issues that couples face when alcoholism is involved, and these were the five main themes discovered:

  • Emotional distancing
  • Increased conflict/arguments between partners
  • Regret/remorse for actions while intoxicated
  • Partners reaching out to friends/family members for support around partner’s problematic drinking, and
  • Unbalanced support or care between partners in the relationship

Even when a partner enters recovery, it’s difficult for many couples to get back on track with their relationship between so much damage has been done. In these instances, couples therapy is needed. A licensed therapist can work with couples to help them understand the nature of addiction and how it has impacted their relationship, which often serves as the basis for recovery groundwork. From then on, tools can be developed to help partners better understand and work with one another.

If you or a loved one have been struggling with alcoholism, it’s time to seek help. Don’t wait any longer to restore your mind, body and spirit.

Cumberland Heights is a nonprofit alcohol and drug-addiction treatment center located on the banks of the Cumberland river in Nashville, Tennessee. On a sprawling 177-acre campus, we are made up of 2 12-Step immersion campuses, 12 outpatient recovery centers and 4 sober living homes. We believe that each person has a unique story to tell – and that’s why we always put the patient first.