Alcohol Addiction and Relationship Problems 

Alcohol is a commonly used substance that can have a profound impact on relationships. Whether a night out with friends or a romantic evening with a partner, alcohol is often seen as a way to enhance social interactions and create a relaxed atmosphere. But while it can be a source of fun and relaxation, excessive alcohol consumption can lead to unintended and often harmful consequences, especially in relationships.1

In this article, we will focus on the complicated connection between alcohol abuse and relationship problems. We’ll delve into the ways in which alcohol can affect both romantic and interpersonal relationships and the impact it can have on our overall well-being. Additionally, we’ll explore the short and long-term effects of alcohol on communication, trust, and emotional bonds and how it can lead to conflicts and strained relationships.

How Does Alcohol Affect a Relationship? 

Alcohol is a powerful substance that can have a major impact on relationships, both romantic and interpersonal. When consumed in excess, it can lead to a number of negative effects that can strain or even end relationships. Some of the ways that alcohol can affect a relationship include:2

  • Neglecting important duties or obligations: Alcohol can impair judgment and lead to individuals neglecting important responsibilities, such as work, family commitments, or even household chores. This can cause frustration and resentment in relationships.
  • Frequently suffering from hangovers: One of the ways alcohol can affect a relationship is through hangovers, which can lead to mood swings, headaches, and general discomfort. This can negatively affect relationships by making individuals irritable and less capable of engaging in quality time with their partners.
  • Exhibiting physical aggression: Intoxication can lead to physical aggression, which can cause physical harm and result in a breakdown in trust and emotional bonds. This is particularly damaging in romantic relationships.
  • Having trouble communicating: Alcohol can impair communication skills and make it difficult to express feelings, leading to misunderstandings and conflicts.
  • Dealing with financial stress and conflicts: Alcoholism is characterized by the intense desire to procure and consume alcohol. Excessive alcohol consumption can be expensive, leading to financial stress and potentially causing conflicts in relationships.
  • Neglecting social activities: Alcohol abuse and relationship problems can also manifest through a lack of social activities. Having a social life is essential for mental health, and pursuing hobbies and similar joint activities provides a welcome stress release. Alcohol abuse can lead to people neglecting these activities, further straining their relationships.

What Financial Troubles Arise Due to Alcohol Addiction? 

Alcohol addiction can lead to financial troubles in several ways. A common symptom of alcoholism is the strong desire to procure and consume alcohol, which can result in excessive spending on alcohol and related expenses. This can become a major strain on an individual’s budget, potentially leading to missed payments, debt, and decreased savings.2

Alcoholism can also have a significant impact on a person’s ability to work and earn an income. It is estimated that alcohol use directly affects more than 15% of the workforce in the United States or close to 20 million employees.3

Furthermore, according to the data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, people with alcohol use disorder miss an average of 32 workdays per year and are 61% more likely to exhibit impaired work performance. In total, employees with AUD accounted for more than 232 million missed work days annually.4,5

These consequences can lead to a vicious cycle of decreased income, increased financial stress, and increased consumption, adding another link to alcohol abuse and relationship problems. It’s estimated that alcohol abuse costs the U.S. economy $249 billion annually, with a significant portion of these costs related to lost productivity and increased healthcare expenses ($179 billion and $28 billion, respectively).6

What are the Signs that Show Alcohol is Affecting Your Relationship?

Alcoholism can have a significant impact on personal relationships, and it’s important to recognize the signs that alcohol is affecting your relationship. Some common symptoms of alcohol abuse causing relationship problems are:1

  • Increased alcohol consumption: Drinking more alcohol than usual or drinking more frequently can be a sign of alcoholism and can strain relationships by causing arguments and leading to neglect of responsibilities.
  • Neglecting responsibilities: Alcoholism can cause individuals to prioritize drinking over their responsibilities, leading to missed appointments, forgotten commitments, and decreased involvement in family and social activities.
  • Irritability and mood swings: Chronic alcohol use can cause changes in mood, leading to irritability, anger, and aggression.
  • Financial difficulties: As discussed earlier, alcoholism can lead to financial difficulties, which can cause stress and strain in relationships.
  • Physical and emotional distance: Alcoholism can cause individuals to withdraw from their relationships, leading to decreased physical and emotional intimacy and an overall decrease in relationship quality.
  • Secretiveness and denial: Individuals struggling with alcoholism may become secretive about their drinking habits and deny their drinking is a problem. This can cause trust issues and lead to breakdowns in communication within the relationship.

It’s important to seek help if you or your partner is struggling with an alcoholism diagnosis, as this addiction can cause significant harm to relationships and overall well-being. Professional treatment, support groups, and couples therapy can be effective in addressing the issue and improving the relationship.1

How Alcohol Addiction Can Impact Entire Family Relationships? 

Alcohol abuse and relationship problems can have a profound and devastating impact on family dynamics. When a family member struggles with addiction, the entire family dynamic is often affected. One of the major effects of alcohol abuse on relationships is secrecy. Those struggling with addiction often feel shame and guilt about their behavior and try to hide it from loved ones. This secrecy can cause rifts within the family as other members may feel betrayed or misled. Additionally, when a loved one repeatedly fails to fulfill their obligations or makes poor decisions while under the influence, it can be difficult for other family members to trust them.2

Another major effect of alcohol abuse on relationships is financial instability. Addiction can be expensive, and many individuals struggling with alcohol abuse may begin to prioritize their substance over their responsibilities, leading to issues with debt, job loss, and financial strain. This financial stress can put a great deal of strain on a family’s relationship and can cause arguments and disagreements.2,3

Treatment for alcohol abuse is often necessary for recovery, but getting a loved one to accept and participate in treatment can be difficult. When a family member refuses treatment, it can cause feelings of frustration and helplessness for other family members. It may also spark conflicts and divide the family from their loved ones with alcohol abuse problems.7

How Alcohol Addiction Can Impact Relationships with Children? 

Parental drinking can have a significant impact on children and adolescents, both in the short term and long term. The effects of alcohol abuse on relationships with children can vary depending on the frequency and severity of the drinking, but some of the most common include:8,9

  • Neglect of basic needs: Parental drinking can result in neglect of a child’s basic needs, such as food, clothing, and medical care. Children may not receive proper nutrition, hygiene, or medical attention, which can negatively impact their physical and mental health.
  • Emotional and behavioral problems: Children who grow up in households with parental drinking may experience emotional and behavioral problems, such as anxiety, depression, and aggression. 
  • Increased risk of abuse and neglect: Children who live in households with parental drinking are at a higher risk of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse and neglect.
  • Poor academic performance: Children and adolescents who live with parental drinking may have trouble in school and may struggle with academic performance.
  • Increased risk of substance abuse: Children and adolescents who live with parental drinking are at a higher risk of developing alcohol abuse problems themselves. In fact, children of alcoholics are 2 to 4 times more likely to develop AUD themselves.

How Does Alcohol Affect Marriage Relationships

Alcohol abuse and addiction can have a major impact on married relationships. Financial instability is one of the most common ways alcohol can affect a marriage. According to US law, spouses are considered a single unit, meaning that financial problems caused by one spouse’s alcohol addiction can impact the other spouse as well.10

Aside from financial issues, alcohol addiction can also have psychological and physical effects on a marriage. Common problems include marital conflict, unplanned pregnancy, and domestic violence. The emotional toll of alcohol abuse and relationship problems can also lead to codependency, in which one partner becomes overly focused on their addicted spouse and neglects their own needs.2

Codependency is a complex emotional and psychological condition that can occur in relationships with a person struggling with addiction. The guilt and shame associated with codependency can prevent individuals from seeking help, but evidence-based treatments are available.10,11

In addition, couples with at least one partner with AUD are more likely to suffer from infidelity. In some cases, 20-40% of men and 10-25% of women who drink heavily may also be more likely to cheat in their relationships, increasing the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases as well.12,13

Finally, alcohol abuse and relationship problems are reflected in the couple’s intimacy, as it can lead to a decrease in sex drive, impotence, and infertility. These side effects can have a major impact on healthy sex life, making it important for individuals struggling with alcohol addiction to seek help in order to preserve their relationships.12

How To Reduce the Alcohol Abuse Effects on Your Relationship?

The consumption of alcohol can have numerous negative effects, but these problems can be resolved. Before attempting to repair alcohol abuse and relationship problems, you should reevaluate your relationship with alcohol. When reducing alcohol consumption, consider the following:14,15

  • Monitoring your alcohol intake to ensure compliance with US Drinking Guidelines.
  • Develop a plan to gradually reduce alcohol consumption.
  • Establishing specific goals and creating plans for achieving them, including goals that may have been previously hindered by excessive alcohol consumption.
  • Identifying triggers and avoiding them as much as possible.
  • Finding alternative activities to replace alcohol consumption, as replacing a habit is often easier than trying to eliminate it.

If you are dealing with relapses or withdrawal symptoms, and if these issues keep you from reaching your goals, you should seek professional help. Bringing alcohol consumption under control is the first step toward repairing damaged relationships.14,15

How to Get Help to Prevent the Alcoholism Effect on Relationships

Preventing alcohol’s effect on relationships can be a challenging process, but getting help is essential for success. Alcohol abuse and relationship problems can be devastating, but with the right support, individuals can overcome them and build healthier relationships. There are several effective treatment options available, including:16

  • Behavioral therapy: This type of therapy focuses on changing the individual’s behavior related to alcohol consumption and helps them develop coping skills to avoid alcohol.
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT is a form of therapy that addresses negative thought patterns and beliefs that contribute to alcohol abuse and relationship problems.
  • Motivational Interviewing: This type of therapy helps individuals identify their own reasons for wanting to change their drinking habits and develop a plan to achieve their goals.
  • Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT): MAT is a combination of medication and therapy that helps individuals overcome alcohol dependence by reducing withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
  • Group therapy: Group therapy provides a supportive environment for individuals to share their experiences and receive feedback and support from others who are facing similar challenges.
  • Inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation programs: These programs offer comprehensive treatment for individuals struggling with alcohol abuse and relationship problems. Inpatient programs provide a structured and supervised environment, while outpatient programs offer more flexible support.

It is important to remember that alcohol abuse and relationship problems can be overcome with the right help and support. Whether it’s through therapy, medication-assisted treatment, or rehabilitation programs, there is a range of effective options available to individuals who are seeking to overcome these challenges.16

As a multifaceted disease, alcoholism varies in terms of its causes and its signs and symptoms. Therefore, there is no universal treatment solution since the effectiveness of alcohol abuse treatment, and the chances of recovery can vary with the stage of alcohol abuse and the type of AUD (e.g., binge drinking or chronic alcohol abuse).

Depending on the individual, alcohol has different effects, so effective therapy needs to be personalized. For more information on alcohol treatment options, the cost of treatment, and more, contact an alcohol abuse hotline. They can provide additional information about various treatment options, as well as treatment costs.

Frequently Asked Questions