Drinking Problem
Drinking Problem
Dear Tacit,

How can I tell if my partner has a drinking problem?

Signed: Drinking Problem

Dear Drinking Problem,

It’s always a tricky challenge to decide for another person whether or not they have a “problem”.  If you are getting worried or upset by your partner’s drinking, the problem is likely going to be yours more than it is his/hers, until he/she decides for themselves that they are unhappy with the results that stem from their drinking patterns.  When our partner has an issue, the ripple effects of their choices/behaviours will almost always impact us as well.  When we share a life (and a home, a family, finances, etc) with someone, all of our experiences echo in each other’s lives (at least to some degree).  There is a very real entwinement that develops. And when it’s a positive thing, it’s wonderful.  But when it’s a negative thing, it is stressful.

There is no exact measure that will define how much drinking is “too much” – or what drinking patterns will become a “problem”.  I am sure you have heard this said before (as it is the truth) – excess (or problematic or abusive) drinking patterns are the symptom of a deeper issue.  The drinking itself can soon become a very real problem of its own, left unchecked.  But it starts out as the solution to something else.  And it is that something else that needs to be recognized and addressed, if the problem drinking patterns can ever be resolved.

There is no end to what might be the root cause of the drinking patterns that your partner has developed – we cannot start guessing about that.  But here are some signs that might indicate your partner’s drinking is no longer a solution to anything but rather, it has become its own problem now:

  1. Regular Excessive Drinking: Your partner consistently consumes large amounts of alcohol, especially to the point of intoxication, on a regular basis.
  2. Increased Tolerance: Your partner needs more alcohol to achieve the same effects that they used to get with less.
  3. Loss of Control: Your partner drinks more than they intend to, or are unable to stop once they get started.  They might say they will cut down or take a break, but there is always a reason why they cannot stick to their plan.
  4. Cravings: Your partner feels a strong urge or a need to drink, on a regular basis (and perhaps struggles with mood swings or physical distress – headaches, nausea, shaking, sweating, etc – if they do not drink).
  5. Changes in Behavior: You notice significant changes in your partner’s behavior when they drink – such as mood swings, aggression, or becoming withdrawn.
  6. Neglecting Responsibilities: Your partner starts neglecting their responsibilities at work, home, or with family due to drinking.
  7. Drinking Alone or in Secret: Your partner drinks alone or hides their drinking from you or others.
  8. Prioritizing Drinking: Your partner prioritizes drinking over other activities or commitments, and it becomes a central focus in their life.
  9. Relationship Strain: Drinking causes frequent arguments, tension, or issues in your relationship.
  10. Physical or Mental Health Issues: You notice physical or mental health problems that seem related to your partner’s drinking, such as hangovers, blackouts, or mood disturbances.
  11. Financial Problems: You and/or your partner experience financial difficulties due to spending a significant amount of money on alcohol.
  12. Legal Issues: Your partner has encountered legal problems (e.g., DUIs) related to their drinking.
  13. Denial or Defensiveness: Your partner denies having a problem when confronted about their drinking or becomes defensive when the topic is brought up.

If you observe several of these signs in your partner, it may indicate that they have a drinking problem. It’s important to approach this issue with your partner with sensitivity and empathy. Talk to them about what you are seeing and why you are concerned.  Try not to blame or attack them or their behaviours.  Encourage open communication, express your concerns calmly, and offer support to help your partner to seek help if it is needed.

Encouraging your partner to speak with a healthcare professional or counsellor can be a positive step towards addressing their drinking habits and any underlying issues.  But be willing to go with your partner to access this help – and be open to speak to someone for your own support needs as well.  You will both need to know how to address this issue together, in a supportive and successful manner.  Remember – what is a problem for one partner very soon becomes a problem for the other, even if it is experienced in different ways.

Take care!

Do you have a question you would like us to address? Please feel free to reach out to us at counsellors@tacitknows.com. Your answer will be provided confidentially. 

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