Being a Partner of Someone Who has a Problem with Alcohol

As someone who facilitates a group practice in Dallas that focuses heavily on helping people with addictions, I see the impact that addictions can have on partners. It’s common for partners of addicts to feel burdened and even responsible for making change happen in partners who aren’t ready to change. In fact, this effort can lead people away from focusing on their own boundaries and needs.

You can’t make your partner change. You can only take care of yourself. Even if it means that you have to let your partner know you may need to walk away, it’s still up to your partner to make decisions on whether or not he/she/they is going to make a life change.

So you have to be clear about your boundaries. Identify the deal breakers that will get you to leave the relationship. Think about this clearly and I suggest discussing your boundaries and concerns with a couple of close friends who are not necessarily close to your partner. I understand that this can be difficult, but there are reasons for this. When we are talking about the problems of someone that we love, the chances of us rationalizing the behavior greatly increase. Therefore, finding a more neutral party can help you sort through thoughts that you are having, many of which may be contradictory.

I also stress the importance of talking with more than one friend. If you talk to only one person, they may pick up on apprehension that you have regarding your own boundaries, and may answer in a way that does not help you set boundaries that would promote change. By speaking with more than one friend you’re more likely to come to some final conclusions about what decisions you need to make and feel more comfortable with them.

As you think about your boundaries, you may realize that you’ve been gaslit to believe that there was no problem at all or that you’re somehow responsible for this. If you’ve been gaslit, it can be difficult to identify your boundaries and needs. In these situations, I recommend you consider finding a therapist who is skilled in working with partners of addicts.

On the other hand, if you are clear about your boundaries, and your partner or spouse is not respecting them, then you need to inform your partner of them and follow through with the consequences of not respecting this. Set your expectations by naming what you’re going to do until the expectations are reached, along with timeframe that you’re going to allow for the goals to be reached.

Your partner may or may not change, but you have to be clear on your boundaries to promote change in your spouse’s drinking habits. Do not give up your personal rights to rationalize someone else’s behavior. And before careful to notice the positives that range from minor to major changes. Finally, consider professional help if you are unsure of your boundaries, if your partner says that they are unreasonable, or if you are having difficulties coping with resentful feelings as a result of your partner’s problems.

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