Kate's Blog

How do I cope with a partner who drinks?

Sarah writes: “I have found my main barrier to change has been my husband. When I announced I was going to stop drinking he was horrified. He doesn’t drink that much but he has no desire to stop and he doesn’t think I need to either. I’m finding it really hard to be around my husband and his fridge full of beer.”

Can you help Sarah? Are you in the same boat right now? Please share your support and advice in the comments below. Here are my thoughts:

Dear Sarah,

This is a tricky one. In an ideal world, you want your home environment to be your nest. It should be your safe place. Living with a partner who is unsupportive, or consuming alcohol, can certainly make life harder.

I have to confess that when I was stopping drinking, I was single and living on my own. I was very much in charge of what happened in my home – it was my little bubble. So I don’t have direct experience of this. However, I do hear from a lot of women in your position. The good news is that many of them do manage to make this work.

The first thing I’d suggest is having a proper talk with your husband about this. I don’t know what you’ve said to him so far, but if you’ve played down your drinking in the past then he might not realise how you really feel about this. Perhaps he thinks it’s just a fad or a detox? Explain to him how drinking has been making you feel. Explain that you’re serious about making this change. You’re not asking for his approval or opinion, just his love and support. 

If you can, be brave and outline some boundaries. We’re not always very good at asking for things we need, but it is entirely reasonable for you to ask your husband to drink elsewhere. You’re not stopping him from drinking in a bar or at a friend’s house. Think about it this way – if he was overweight and trying to slim down, I bet you’d support him by cooking healthy meals and not keeping bars of chocolate lying about the place! If he does insist on drinking at home, can he keep it limited to one room? Can he store his booze somewhere away from the kitchen, so you’re not coming across it all the time?

The final thing I’d suggest is getting some support from elsewhere. It’s really important to have someone on your side. Someone who you can confide in, who knows your home situation and understands what you’re going through. Is there a friend or relative you could talk to?
Good luck!

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Hi, I'm Kate

I founded The Sober School to show you there’s another way out of your shame that doesn’t involve AA or rehab. 


19 Responses

  1. My husband was thankfully very supportive and to start with he agreed to not drink in the house and his drinks are in his own designated fridge in the garage where I can’t see it! When he is having a beer I make myself a tasty non alcoholic cocktail. My favourite is a ‘cranberry fizz'(Cranberry juice, dash of soda water and fresh lime served in a champagne glass) so I don’t feel that I am missing out. I think in the beginning he was a bit unsure of how our social life would cope but he has actually commented it is much nicer being around me when I am sober – ha!

  2. Hi Sarah, it’s very tough to live with someone who is drinking but it’s doable. I don’t live with my boyfriend (because of his drinking) but i often stay in his house which is full of wine. He was not too supportive but he did know that red wine was my big temptation at the beginning so he didn’t drink that in front of me. He drank white or rose or beer. In my first sober months, I did a lot of staring at his glasses.. What helped me was to always have a nice non-alcoholic drink for me. I’d either bring something with me or go to the supermarket immediately to stock up. I still do this at 15 months sober. If I don’t have a sober drink, I feel deprived. And I always treat myself to something nice (a lovely dessert maybe) when I overcome a big craving/wobble. He brings alcohol to my house but mostly beer which doesn’t tempt me. After a fairly tough first year sober, it is getting easier for me these days. And I have recently had a nice surprise – my boyfriend has stopped drinking! Hugs to you xx

      1. Great minds Doug! I drink one that i like very much. I think it tastes nicer than ‘real’ wine ever did. Thanks

  3. I am trying to not drink alcohol as I feel I’ve huge anger issues when I drink. I’m single and live on my own. It’s just as hard for me. You go to the local shop or supermarkets and there are huge off licence sections. So will I just pop a bottle of wine in my trolley to have when I’m lonely. I stay in my married brothers at weekends – if there’s beers or wine in the fridge – oh sure I’ll have a glass. The point is temptation is every where. We have to fight to resist the temptation. It’s a life long battle. You made the choice to stop drinking. Your husband didn’t. It makes your battle harder but if you win that hard temptation battle I would say the chance of a relapse would be very slim.

  4. I am really lucky my husband has been totally supportive of my decision. My problem was wine and so he will just have a couple of bottles of lager on a weekend. I hate lager, so the temptation is never there for me. It must be really difficult when you have no support though. My 100 day sober mark is next week I’m so relieved alcohol is finally out of my life. Look forward to your posts every Monday Kate thank you xx

  5. If your partner doesn’t drink that much, I see that as a good thing for you..I had to take drastic measures for my own well being and sanity and move my husband out of the marital bedroom because I decided that I didn’t want to sleep with a drunk every night..Now I’m sleeping heaps better and not being disturbed late at night and therefore waking up in a better mood in the morning..Although my husband is a “good drunk” (if there’s such a thing)alcohol has done more damage than good to our marriage of 10 years..However, we run a successful business together and love our blended family and hopefully that will be enough to keep us together, only time will tell..We have a bar fridge in the house and sometimes whilst I’m putting my ginger beer/coke zero in, I’ll stack some beer on the shelf for him..I made the decision 11 weeks ago to give up alcohol, he didn’t..I haven’t received much support from him because he doesn’t understand certain emotions/feelings nor can he express himself to myself or others real well (except on an intellectual level)..No matter where you are or go there will always be temptation..I’m into my 11th week of abstinence and coping well..There is “NO WAY” that I will allow this to be a life long struggle, I’ll give it 12 months maximum, then it’s all down hill from there..Cheers from “Down Under”..

  6. Hi Sarah, I am 25 days sober and my husband drinks everyday. At the moment I am a little nervous of talking to him about my drinking for two reasons. Firstly, like your husband, I think he will be aghast at the idea of us never drinking together and also I am worried that he might take my abstinence as an attack on his drinking. It is quite likely I am overthinking this!
    What has helped me a lot is remembering some brain training from when I stopped smoking 6 or 7 years ago. Cigarettes were everywhere so I used to say to myself, I have no power over other people’s bodies but I have complete control over my own. I’m not stopping for anyone else, not even my husband, this is something I am doing for myself.
    Good luck xxx

    1. The brain training stuff makes a lot of sense and it definitely applies to alcohol too. Congratulations on your 25 days! x

    2. My husband has been a heavy drinker for over 20 years and will take my not drinking personally. He will be my biggest barrier to not drinking so your post and this blog really touched a nerve.

  7. Pg 84 the big book….we have ceased fighting anything or anyone …even alcohol.for this time sanity will have returned.we seldom be interested in liquor.if tempted ,we recoil from it as from a hot flame.we react sanely and normally,and we will find this has happen automatically.we we will see that our new attitude towards liquor has been given us without any though or effort on our part.it just comes! That the miracle of it.we are not fighting it,neither are we avioding temptation ….we have been placed in a position on neutrality….so long as we keep in fit spiritual condition……

  8. My partner drinks moderately and it’s never been a problem as the difference now is that I don’t want to drink … So it’s not temptation .my daughter is a social drinker who is very supportive and I enjoy my sobriety much more as it’s in a normal atmosphere of drinkers and non drinkers mixed . Similarly I have no problem in pubs or at social events BUT I don’t go on nights out where booze is the primary focus. : no point : I choose things where for some it’s an option alongside maybe music food a quiz theatre cinema … I couldn’t live with a heavy drinker for whom drink was their only hobby and who might think I was judging them

  9. I have made a very recent decision to stop drinking and am thinking that being married to a drinker may be a problem for me. I am not someone who has ever drank during the week, but have always been a Friday night/ Saturday night binge drinker. I met my husband about seven years ago (we have been married for two) and our main commonality has been going out to eat together and then going to a bar. My husband wants me to learn to “control” my drinking, but doesn’t think I should quit all together. My husband is not willing to quit. I am very worried about how our relationship is going to play out, since a large part of it will be changing. We will need to find new ways to spend time together, and I worry that he won’t really want to put in the effort to do that. We don’t keep any alcohol in the house (all of our drinking has been done at friends’ houses and bars) so there isn’t temptation there. I’m just worried that the only way I will be able to spend time with my husband, is if I agree to go out to dinner with him or to a bar with him, and I feel like this will put me in an uncomfortable position and will be risky for my sobriety. At this point in time, I don’t feel like my husband will be willing to support me or try other ways for us to spend time together. I guess that may be someone telling about our relationship in general?

  10. I recently made the decision to quit and my husband drinks every single day (military), I have bi-polar disorder/manic episodes and really never had a notable problem until I moved from the city to the desert with him (together 11 years, married 2). I did tell my husband that I know I need to stop and I’ve been saying it for quite some time. I’m just finally ready now.
    We also “bonded” over food and alcohol. He loves beer and I loved wine. It is difficult for me because I just relapsed after a week with 2 sips during an “episode” and it could have been worse but I poured out the glass, thankfully.
    I say that to say you aren’t alone and yes it is hard but once I had that “taste” of wine again, I knew I was done. It’s just not where I want to be anymore. Stay strong, trust me I know how you feel, the whole top shelf of my fridge is filled with beer and he has a bar full of wine bought for me and other alcohol.
    The struggle is VERY real. Best of luck.

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