How Addiction Affects Marriage

Alcohol use is common among married couples in the United States. Both husbands and wives regularly drink alcohol (i.e., at least once per month or more) in roughly half of all relationships. Only a quarter of all couples do not drink regularly, while another quarter has a husband who drinks regularly while the wife does not. In a significant example of gender differences, only 5 percent of U.S. couples have a wife who drinks regularly and a husband who does not.

Heavy alcohol consumption—defined as 14 drinks per week or more for men and 10 for women—is less common among married couples. In 4 percent of married couples, both partners drink heavily, while in 79 percent of couples neither partner is a heavy drinker. Again, there are gender differences, with 12 percent of couples having only a husband who drinks heavily, compared to just 5 percent where only the wife is a heavy drinker.

How Addiction Affects Marriage

What are the Consequences of Heavy Drinking in a Marriage?

In most cases, people can drink moderate amounts of alcohol with relatively few negative consequences. However, heavier alcohol use can affect a marriage negatively. Heavy drinking, alcohol problems, and alcohol use disorders are all associated with lower marital satisfaction. This association is somewhat stronger when the husband is the problem drinker but is still apparent when the wife is the problem drinker. Alcohol use (by the perpetrator and/or the victim) is a contributing factor in domestic violence and aggression, both physical and psychological.

Alcohol and substance use are among the most common reasons given for a divorce—the third most common reason for women and the eighth-most common for men. It is also one of the most common reasons given for seeking marriage counseling. Couples in which one spouse has an alcohol use disorder (usually alcohol dependence) experience more negative interactions and fewer positive interactions than couples in which neither spouse has an alcohol disorder.

When Does Drinking and Drug Use Harm a Relationship?

Many arguments come from drinking or drug use, such as money problems, staying out late, not taking care of responsibilities in the home, and so forth. On different occasions, having to “cover” for a partner who has been drinking or using drugs too much by making excuses for him or her, such as reporting to a boss or co-worker that the substance user is “sick” and won’t be at work as a result. A partner reporting that he or she drinks or uses drugs to reduce tension or stress related to arguments and fights in the home about alcohol or other drugs.

Drinking and drug use is the only or one of the few things the partners like to do together. Episodes of domestic violence, or “angry touching” by either partner when a partner has been drinking or using drugs. Finding that one or both partners need to be drunk or high to show signs of affection or to talk about the problems in their relationship. The relationship or family become isolated from friends and relatives to hide the drinking or drug problem.

Outpatient Rehab at Recreate Life Counseling

Treatment is available and it can be effective in reducing or eliminating problems with alcohol or other drugs. We involve individual counseling, group counseling, self-help meetings, and support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotic Anonymous. So, if you have a problem with drinking or drug use, it is worth it to enter treatment, not only for you, but also for your partner, children, friends, and others.

If your partner has a problem with drugs or alcohol, getting him or her to enter treatment may be one of the best things you can do for him and your relationship. We encourage you to talk to one of our team experts in substance abuse to answer all your questions about getting help for yourself or an addicted loved one.