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Marriage and Alcohol

Alcohol relaxes us. This can be a great thing for your marriage if you're anxious about something that might go badly at work tomorrow. You'll be more ready for quality time together or some much needed physical touch.

If it relaxes you so much that you forget to pick up your spouse at the airport, it can make a mess of things.

Alcohol also reduces our inhibitions. This is wonderful when it lets you get naked with your beloved. Or when it lets you dance in public with a life partner who loves to dance.

But when it reduces your inhibitions about using your intimate knowledge of a partner's vulnerabilities to get what you want through cruel words, it shuts off future intimacy.

And when it affects your inhibitions about hurling the TV across the room in anger at the man or woman you promised to love and cherish, it permanently harms your relationship even if the TV misses, even if the anger is warranted.

Should it lower your inhibitions about raping or hurting your partner when he or she refuses sex, you introduce terror into your relationship, terror that will return every time you initiate sex or have a drink to relax yourself.

When you take a drink again after such an event, knowing it lowers your inhibitions enough to do any of these things to someone you love, you automatically qualify as an alcoholic, an alcohol addict. It is irrelevant what you drink or how much you drink. This awful disease has its grip on you.

Alcoholism is called a disease because it follows a predictable path of harming your body and your relationships. For most people, the only way to stop it is to stop drinking and build a support system to get you through all the good and bad situations that trigger your taking a drink.

If you want to enjoy being married, please seek help as soon as you cross this line of unhealthy lowered inhibitions. No apology, no explanation, no excuse will fix your marriage or protect your wellbeing until you do. Please see a doctor, see a counselor, join AA, or do all three right away.

If you are married to someone who has crossed this line, please understand that you cannot make this decision for them, and their inhibitions are not coming back until they make it. You must protect yourself to protect the relationship and your spouse from this disease. Don't take on the role of therapist. Don't take on the role of reputation-protector or secret-keeper. Take on the role of body guard and get yourself to safety. Whether or not you forgive your mate. Al-Anon offers help from others who have been through this.


Addiction hurts the ability to enjoy being married. Period. If the addict's behavior is dangerous, it's more obvious that there's something destructive happening.

But sometimes it's quieter. If an addict is "functional" and non-violent, don't be fooled, there is still something damaging happening to your relationship. And it's still the job of the one with the disease to seek help and the one living with an addict to get outside support.

Thanks for adding this, Rachel!

Patty, this is a great topic. The way you wrote about it so eloquently states how this disease progresses, what to look for, and when to seek help. Although I do enjoy drinks every once in a while, I am careful to monitor all of what you stated above. There is a history of alcoholism in my family, and it's destroyed waaaay too much good. I am so sorry for those who live with this day in and day out. I think your post will speak to everyone at some level. Thank you so much for writing.

Thank you, Tammy.

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Patty Newbold is a widow who got it right the second time...

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