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How to act when you discover your spouse has a drinking problem

If you have a husband who can’t or won’t stop drinking, he likely has an alcohol use disorder. As the spouse of someone who struggles with drinking, you face a lot of negative effects, from abuse to your own mental health issues. It is important to take steps to help your spouse and to protect yourself. Identify and stop enabling behaviors that allow him to keep drinking, learn more about alcohol use disorder, have a calm but serious talk with your spouse, and if necessary, have a professionally-guided intervention and provide options for addiction treatment that he can start immediately.

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Alcohol use disorder is a serious disease that can range from mild to severe. If someone who drinks heavily tries but fails to stop or slow down, it could indicate that he has this condition, and it may even be moderate or severe. Partners of people struggling with alcohol addiction are in a difficult position. They often suffer as well, and they have the burden of trying to help and facing the decision of what to do if their help isn’t enough.

If you find yourself in this situation, avoid blaming yourself and avoid enabling his drinking habit. Have a calm but serious discussion about the issue and point out specifically how it is harming him, you, and your lives together. Learn more about alcohol use disorder and come up with options for treatment if he cannot manage his drinking. If he still doesn’t make changes, consider an intervention. And if that doesn’t work, you have to make the important decision about when to remove yourself from this harmful situation.

The Consequences of Living With an Alcoholic

If you are living with a husband who can’t or won’t stop drinking, you are probably living with an alcoholic. There can be very serious effects of living with a partner whose drinking is out of control. Spouses of alcoholics are at a greater risk of being victims of domestic abuse or emotional and verbal abuse. They are more likely to develop mental health issues, like depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts.

Partners of alcoholics may also become socially withdrawn, avoiding friends and family out of shame or embarrassment. They may find their own health deteriorates as they spend more time and attention on their spouse. Over the long-term, living with someone who cannot manage his drinking can lead to harm to children in the family, divorce and breakup of the family, trauma, and financial problems. Because the consequences of having an alcoholic partner can be so serious and long-lasting, it is essential to take steps to find a solution to the problem.

Never Take Someone Else’s Alcohol Abuse Personally

Many partners of alcoholics make the mistake of thinking that they are in some way to blame for the problem. You may think that if you were better able to meet his needs, or if you nagged less, or if you were able to take some of the stress out of his life, maybe by earning more or keeping the house cleaner, that he wouldn’t feel the need to drink. This thinking is damaging and isn’t true. No one else makes someone drink too much, to the point that it leads to an alcohol use disorder. Not only is this type of thinking harmful to you, it is unproductive because it doesn’t help solve the real problem.

Avoid Enabling Alcohol Abuse

Spouses with an alcoholic husband often blame themselves, and while they are never the cause of the drinking problem, they may be enabling it. To enable means to do or not do things that make it easier for a person to drink or continue with any type of problematic behavior. This is not a cause of a drinking problem, but it does help perpetuate it. If you have a husband who won’t stop drinking, check your own actions and behaviors and be sure you are not enabling him. Some examples of enabling behavior include:

  • Ignoring the problem
  • Covering and making excuses for him when drinking gets in the way of activities or responsibilities
  • Taking care of his responsibilities when he can’t because of drinking or a hangover
  • Not following up on stated consequences of drinking and always giving him another chance
  • Joining in with the drinking
  • Softening or ensuring he won’t experience the negative consequences of drinking
  • Allowing him to avoid scheduled plans for counseling or attending a support group

Does Your Husband
Drink Too Much?

Does Your Husband Drink Too Much?

Talking About Drinking

A critical way in which people often enable a partner’s drinking, without necessarily meaning to do so, is by avoiding the topic. It is uncomfortable but also important to talk about your husband’s drinking, the consequences it has for you and the rest of the family, and what you need him to do about it. Selecting a time to talk about drinking can make a big difference. Choose a time when there are no distractions, for instance when the children are not home, and when he is sober and not hungover. Make sure you have plenty of time for a discussion.

Remain calm and avoid preaching, lecturing, or becoming overly emotional or angry. What does help in a discussion with someone who struggles with drinking is to use facts. Talk about specific examples of behaviors that are problematic and the consequences that affect you and your family. It also helps to express worry that he is putting himself in risky situations and harming his own health.

Learn About Alcohol Use Disorder

Before you have that important talk, be prepared with information. You may think he has an issue with drinking, but it helps to know more about what that really means. When addiction and mental health professionals diagnose mild, moderate, or severe alcohol use disorder, they are looking for two or more of these symptoms:

  • Consistently drinking more than intended
  • Wanting to drink less, but not being able to stop or cut back
  • Spending a significant amount of time drinking
  • Craving alcohol
  • Not meeting responsibilities because of drinking
  • Continuing to drink even though it causes relationship problems
  • Avoiding activities in order to spend more time drinking
  • Continuing to drink even in situations that are dangerous, such as when he has to drive somewhere after drinking
  • Drinking even though it causes health problems
  • Experiencing tolerance and needing to drink more to get drunk
  • Having withdrawal when not drinking

If you can provide evidence that your spouse exhibits some of these behaviors, it may help make your case that he needs professional help to stop or slow down his drinking.

When an Intervention Can Help

There is only so much a loved one can do to convince someone that their drinking has become a problem that needs to change. If you have stopped enabling behaviors, let him fully experience the consequences of his drinking, and have had frank discussions of the issue, and he still won’t make a change or even agree that he has a problem, it may be time to turn to professionals.

An intervention is a gathering of multiple people who care for the person with a drinking problem. It is a gentle and loving confrontation to help him see why his behaviors need to change. Interventions can be risky, so it is best to use this as a last resort and to do it with the guidance of an addiction professional. An intervention should be planned in advance, so that everyone knows what to say, you have treatment options available, and you have decided on specific consequences in the case he does not accept treatment or help.

How to act when you discover your spouse has a drinking problem

Over my 25 years of experience as a psychologist, I gradually came to realize that drinking may be one of the most common yet least talked about causes of marital conflict. Unfortunately, in the couples I’ve worked with this issue is often swept under the carpet. And when it does arise it usually devolves quickly into a scenario something like the following:

“You’re an alcoholic.”

Needless to say, this kind of interaction leads to nothing other than perhaps anger and alienation between spouses. For some it can be tantamount to marital Armageddon. Sadly, this does not have to be dead end it so often is. The reason why this scene is so common — and futile — has to do in part with the way society (and health professionals) have traditionally viewed drinking problems, which is as a dichotomy, as represented by the diagram below.

How to act when you discover your spouse has a drinking problem

Viewed from this perspective, the “drinking world” is neatly divided into two mutually exclusive categories: alcoholics, and the rest of us. But is this reality? No, it is not. In fact, while drinking does contribute mightily to marital problems, the vast majority of men and women who have what might be termed a “drinking problem” are not alcoholics. Rather, they fall somewhere in the almost alcoholic zone that is depicted in the following diagram.

How to act when you discover your spouse has a drinking problem

From this perspective the drinking world is a spectrum as opposed to a dichotomy. And as you can see the almost alcoholic zone is fairly large, and even within that zone there are varying degrees. In other words, a person may have only recently made the move from what I call “normal social drinking” into the “almost-alcoholic” zone; alternatively, they may have been living fairly deep in this zone for years, yet still not meet the criteria for a diagnosis of alcoholism.

The greatest risk of living in the almost-alcoholic zone is that people may not “connect the dots” (or want to connect the dots) between their drinking behavior and its consequences, including its consequences on their relationships. Being an almost alcoholic can most definitely, however, have effects on our health, our emotions, and our ability to realize our potential as workers, parents, and spouses.

A New Approach

If you agree that it gets nowhere to get into a “diagnostic standoff” as described above, then here are some suggestions for addressing this issue more effectively:

Avoid the “A” and “D” Words

Calling someone an alcoholic has a nearly 100 percent chance of getting their hackles up. Despite the fact that there is less stigma associated with alcoholism today than there once was, it is still a clinical diagnosis — and an unflattering one. Aside from that, most men and women who are experiencing drinking-related consequences fall somewhere in the almost-alcoholic zone. It’s better to leave a diagnosis of alcoholism to qualified professionals and keep it out of a marital dialogue.

The same rule applies to the “D” word: denial. For years it was popular among alcoholism counselors to declare that any clients of theirs who expressed doubt that they were alcoholics were in “denial,” in other words, refusing to face the truth and admit it. This kind of confrontation undoubtedly led to many people dropping out of treatment, refusing to attend even a single AA meeting, or both. A spouse who asserts that his or her partner is in denial is again likely to engender nothing more than resentment, followed by little if any change.

Don’t Talk About Forever

I wish I had even a nickel for every man and woman who woke up after getting drunk and declared that he or she would never drink again! I’d be a rich man indeed. Spouses who try to get a commitment from their drinking partner never to drink again are usually asking someone to make a promise they can’t keep. Again, that sets the stage for disappointment and further conflict. The fact is that only the individual can make the decision that drinking is out of control and that the pursuit of abstinence is their best option. For all those millions of men and women who are in the almost-alcoholic zone, it may be quite possible to reverse course and “shift left” on the drinking spectrum.

Connect the Dots

Rather than do any of the above, a more successful approach is simply and matter-of-factly point out the connection between your partner’s drinking and its consequences. These consequences can be physical, behavioral, and/or psychological. Here are a few very common examples:

• “Have you noticed that over the past six months or so you tend to fall asleep early on the couch after having your evening drinks?”

• “You’ve been waking up in the middle of the night and having a hard time getting back to sleep. Have you noticed that that’s been happening ever since you increased your drinking?”

• “I noticed that you’ve cut way back on your exercising since you started having three or four glasses of wine every night.”

• “You say that you’ve been feeling kind of depressed and tired. That seems to have gotten worse as you’ve been drinking more.”

• “Do you think your doctor’s concerns about your blood pressure going up could be connected to the fact that your drinking has increased over the past year?”

Accept “Progress Over Perfection”

Even for true alcoholics who come to the conclusion that drinking has made their lives unmanageable and that they must give it up, change is typically hard. AA has long recognized this, and while it celebrates the individual who has years of unbroken sobriety it also celebrates the individual who has days or weeks of sobriety. Again, spouses need to avoid seeking promises that are unlikely to be kept. Better to say something positive to the spouse who has had several drinks a day for years, but who for the past month has had more sober days than drinking days, and who drinks less on those days when he or she does drink.

Meeting Halfway

The above approach is much more likely to create a bond between spouses than a confrontational approach or one that seeks perfection over progress. It represents a collaborative effort that can lead to very positive change, especially for all those men and women who occupy the almost-alcoholic zone.

How to act when you discover your spouse has a drinking problem

It’s not always easy to tell if your partner’s drinking habits are totally normal or a sign of a bigger issue. But a few key factors, such as how often he slings a drink and how much he downs, can clue you in.

“People who have a healthy relationship with alcohol don’t drink often enough or to the point of excess where they could have a problem,” says Jasmine Aranda, addiction counselor and clinical director at The Foundry Treatment Center in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

But alcoholics function differently. “An alcoholic is psychologically and physically dependent on the chronic consumption of alcohol and often can’t stop drinking once they’ve started,” says Randall Dwenger, M.D., psychiatrist and medical director at Mountainside Treatment Center in Canaan, Connecticut.

It’s important to know that even those with healthy, happy lives can fall into the trap of addiction. If you suspect your partner has a problem, these signs can help determine whether your S.O. should seek professional treatment.

1. They drink to feel happy. There’s no doubt that alcohol can seriously up your mood, but if your partner relies on a six-pack to feel better about life, it may signal some bigger issues. “A healthy person relies on hobbies, exercise, or just sheer relaxation to rejuvenate them at the end of the day,” says Aranda.

RELATED: 9 Scary Ways Too Much Alcohol Affects Your Body

2. They drink with the goal of getting drunk. If you notice your partner’s constantly drinking to the point of inebriation and verbalizing a desire to get drunk, fast, that’s a sign of alcoholic behavior. “Often alcoholics will drink even before going to an event where there will be more drinking, so as to get ahead of the game,” says Dwenger. “This may be their way of reducing any anxiety over the event or the people who will be there.” Talk to your partner about drinking in excess and the toll it’s taking on your relationship, health, and finances, says Aranda.

3. They have an alarmingly high tolerance. For most people, their weight, gender, and diet determine how much alcohol they can consume. But an alcoholic’s tolerance spikes because of their increased alcohol consumption. This can lead to serious alcohol dependence, organ damage, and even death, says Tiffany Louise, L.C.S.W., life coach and therapist for a top treatment center for addictions. “If your partner can consume a relatively large amount of alcohol and still appear relatively normal, this may indicate their body is creating a tolerance,” she says.

RELATED: Should You Take a Break from Alcohol?

4. Drinking is above everything else. When getting drunk becomes the top priority in their life, alcoholism is to blame. “When you’re dependent on alcohol, drinking alone is more important than spending time with loved ones,” says Dwenger. These signs should instantly signal the need for professional help. “Tell your partner that they need to meet a professional, and that you’re willing to support them along the way,” says Aranda.

5. They start sneaking around. If your partner tells you he has to stay late at work but comes home hammered, he could be on the road to alcoholism—or is already there. “Dishonesty about the amount or frequency in which your partner is drinking can escalate much further as his or her condition worsens,” says Dwenger. “Soon you may start noticing that vodka becomes their drink of choice, as its scent is easier to conceal than other types of liquors.” A lot of partnered alcoholics will also hide supplies of alcohol in unusual places to make their partner think their drinking is still “normal.” Try talking to your partner about why he or she is being dishonest, mention your concerns, and discuss how you can address this issue together, says Aranda.

6. They display symptoms of withdrawal. If your partner takes a break from drinking only to experience withdrawal symptoms, like headaches, nausea, tremors, anxiety, irritableness, or even hallucinations or seizures that send him or her back to the bottle, seek help immediately. “Withdrawal means that they experience negative physical effects when they stop using alcohol for a period of time,” says Louise. This is why people who are physically dependent on alcohol won’t go a very long time between episodes of using. “If hallucinations or seizures occur, call 911 and seek the help of a medical professional immediately,” says Aranda. “And if withdrawal symptoms are milder, get a medical evaluation by a doctor.”

RELATED: It’s Scary How Many Women Are Becoming Addicted to Prescription Painkillers

7. They continue to drink, despite life consequences. If your S.O. has experienced multiple DUIs, lost his or her job, or cut ties with friends or family while continuing to drink, that’s a problem. “An alcoholic has difficulty maintaining responsibilities at home, work, or school,” says Dwenger. “So if your partner was always on top of his or her schedule and suddenly can’t remember to pick up the groceries or show up at a monthly meeting because of their drinking, this change in behavior may indicate a problem with alcohol.” Not only does this put his safety and health at serious risk, but it can also have severe impacts on yours.

8. They won’t admit they have a problem. “Unfortunately, true progress can only be made if your partner is willing to admit a problem and seek help,” says Aranda. “If your partner remains unwilling to change and move forward, know that you cannot be held responsible for guiding your partner to health.” It’s your partner who must take the first steps towards recovery. If your partner isn’t open to getting better, it may be time to consider a professional intervention.

Is your better half always drowning in alcohol? As a result, do you often find him skipping work? Is your joint account getting thinner and thinner by the minute? Is he unable to perform his duties as a parent the way he used to? Before this gets even worse, you need to speak to him regarding his drinking issues. Here are some tips that can help you talk to your spouse regarding alcoholism.

Table of Contents

1. Make sure you have all the info you need.

A soldier doesn’t go ill-prepared to a battle, doesn’t he? Without the proper knowledge, you might not be able to have an effective conversation with your partner.

As such, you need to equip yourself with all the info that you need. Explore this website to learn more about alcoholism, and how it can affect the body and the mind. More importantly, navigate through all the treatment options for your better half. The more informed you are, the better chances that you have in helping your significant other.

2. Choose the right time.

Talking to an alcoholic at any given time is not a smart thing to do. He’s more likely to be argumentative, even violent, if he’s intoxicated or if the effects are starting to wear off. Choose a time when he’s sober and ready to talk. This will help both of you achieve a serious and fruitful conversation.

3. Don’t be confrontational.

How to act when you discover your spouse has a drinking problem

You may be confronting your spouse regarding his alcoholism, but it’s best if you don’t give an aggressive attitude. Speak to him in a peaceful manner. And, if you can’t help it, taking a deep breath can help you ‘relax’ right before you talk to your partner.

4.Don’t talk down to him.

He may have made a mistake, but it does not mean that you can act all high and mighty will you preach your sermon. Remember, your spouse is your equal. The vow even goes ‘for better or for worse.’ Yes, he might have committed a few infractions along the way but that doesn’t give you the right to look down on him. And because of that, you have to treat him with respect, instead of condescension.

According to Kate Nasser, a people skills coach, you can avoid sounding condescending by asking him about what he feels. Do not make statements such as “I know it feels…” as this presumes that you know how he feels. Talk to him with the utmost respect and there’s a good chance that he’ll listen to you.

5. Avoid using negative terms such as ‘drunk’ and ‘alcoholic’.

Given that he is indeed a drunk and an alcoholic, these terms might make your partner more defensive about his problem. When talking to your partner, make use of his name, or your pet name for him. This individual approach may help him be more accepting of the fact that his drinking problems are taking a toll on the relationship.

6. Avoid pointing fingers.

Blaming is never good. According to Dr. Bernard Golden in his article with Psychology Today, this defense mechanism is a means of preserving your self-esteem. However, it leads to the disownment of your possible faults in the process. To wit, you might be co-dependent and you might not even know it.

With that being said, it’s best to avoid the blame game when it comes to talking to your spouse. You need to be compassionate and respectful. Speak encouraging words to motivate him to change his ways. Offer to be with him through every step of the way as he tries to stay away from alcohol.

7. Tell him how his drinking affects your relationship and your family.

Talking to an alcoholic is never easy, more often than not they don’t think they have a problem. As such, a good measure is to let him know about the consequences of his behavior. Recount the days when he was not able to attend his daughter’s recital – and how your little girl was devastated by it. Tell him about the fear that you felt when he got into a car accident while driving under the influence. Maybe, just maybe, the impacts that alcoholism has on your lives will prod him to change for good.

8. Hear his side of the story.

The reasons for alcoholism differ accordingly. Some spouses might take a bottle to sleep, while some might do so to relieve stress. Some might find this a way to socialize. Whatever his cause may be, recognizing his triggers can help you get the treatment that he needs.

For one, ask your spouse why he drinks, or what causes him to drink. If he says that it’s because of his stressful work, then help him find better alternatives for stress relief. For one, you and your partner could engage in a new hobby – or you guys can do yoga or meditation right at the comfort of your own home. Veering away from these triggers will most likely be the key to his sobriety.

9. Don’t expect the change to occur overnight.

As with any other addiction, abstinence from alcohol does not happen overnight. He will undergo stages – from being a cold-turkey to maybe quitting once and for all. With that being said, avoid placing high expectations on your husband. Accept that recovery may happen slowly, but surely.

10. Seek the guidance of a professional.

If your numerous attempts at talking to him do no good, then it’s time that you seek the help of a professional. You can consult with a therapist, or seek the help of Al-Anon groups of Alcoholics Anonymous, for tips on how to deal with your spouse. More often than not, they have techniques that make ‘the talk’ all the more effective.

Talking to an alcoholic spouse can be a harrowing experience. But this shouldn’t stop you from conversing with your partner. By doing so, you can help him recognize his shortcomings – and perhaps give him the motivation to go through an appropriate treatment for his condition.

Drug and alcohol use can have profound effects when it comes to divorce and child custody cases.

Oftentimes, Private Investigators are brought into these cases, not only to help prove that the spouse has a drug and/or alcohol problem, but to watch the children covertly to make sure they are safe and secure.

The ways that Private Investigation can help with substance abuse issues during child custody and divorce proceedings:

Drug Sweep of Home

Private Investigators with former law enforcement experience are adept finders of drug and drug paraphilia. If you feel your spouse is hiding drugs in your (and your children’s) home, this may provide you with the knowledge to make informed decisions on your next course of legal action.

Drug Testing

If you feel your spouse is using drugs but is insistent that they are clean. You may want to have them tested. This can be done both covertly and overtly.

  • Overt drug testing means that your spouse has given their consent to be tested. There are several ways to drug test with various bodily byproducts such as urine, blood, hair or saliva. A hair follicle sample is preferable. Depending on the types of drugs, the detection period can be between a 1-30 days for a urine sample. A hair follicle test can cover a period of 90 days. The detection period for hair is limited only by the length of the hair sample. Most courts order urine tests.
  • If you are already in court proceedings and would like the court to order a drug screenings, a request is not enough. You have to have some form of evidence of drug use. By providing the court with the findings of a covert drug test, they may order drug counseling and mandatory tests.

Most times a sample is obtained from the person’s hair brush. A hair follicle test can show what, if any, drugs are being used. This also provides knowledge to make informed decisions.

Domestic Surveillance (CCTV – Closed Circuit Television )

While this can be a grey area that you’ll need to discuss with your legal counsel, we at the CMP Protective and Investigative Group have installed cameras throughout the common areas in the home. This is allowed to be done providing; Both spouses live together in their shared marital home, the cameras are only in common family areas (no bedrooms or bathrooms) and they do not record audio (if you are not privy to conversations you are not allowed to record it or listen to it, even if it’s in your own home). Sophisticated CCTV systems can be hidden throughout the house and virtually undetectable (to the trained eye). You can watch your home remotely on your computer, tablet and/or smart phone.

Surveillance

Following someone who is a habitual drug/alcohol user may not only provide proof to the courts of their issue, but act as a safety measure if your children are being supervised by the spouse.

How to act when you discover your spouse has a drinking problem

Some of the most complicated relationships in life can be those we actually choose: the people we date, the people we live with, the people we marry, the people we have children with. Unlike our relationships with parents or siblings or cousins and so on – we actually seek out and are selective about those with whom we are romantic. Somehow, however, those relationships can take the most work.

One factor that can throw the biggest loop in a marriage or long-term relationships is drug or alcohol addiction.

Addiction In A Marriage

Anyone who has been married or in a committed relationship with a person who is addicted knows, without a doubt, that addiction is destructive. In some committed relationships, addiction isn’t something that comes up right away. Addiction in a marriage:

  • May not be apparent at the beginning of the relationship
  • May seem like normal drinking behaviors early in the relationship
  • May develop after a short time together
  • May develop after years together
  • May have been there all along
  • May have been hidden from you by your partner

In a marriage, the drug of choice may vary – alcohol, illicit drugs such as heroin or cocaine, or prescription drugs like Xanax or OxyContin. Regardless of the drug or drink a person is addicted to, the pursuit of the substance can eventually come before all else. When a person is addicted, he or she will choose drugs or alcohol before their marriage, before their partner, before their children – before anything.

When a spouse or partner is actively addicted, it can be difficult to recognize or remember the person you fell in love with. While it may take years to figure out what is really going on, there can be numerous problems along the way. Things like missing income or lost jobs, unusual absences from family gatherings or events, increased arguments or decreased interest in the relationship.

With so many new and unforeseen challenges in the marriage, for some spouses, find that the only answer is to leave their addicted partner.

What To Do If You Love An Addicted Spouse

When addiction takes over a marriage, you may hardly recognize the person that you once fell in love with. Perhaps he or she was once supportive and loving – now he or she isn’t present or available for you physically or emotionally. He or she may once have been patient and kind – but now their mood keeps the entire family walking on eggshells.

If you’re married to a person in active addiction, here are seven things you need to consider and do – whether or not you plan to stay in the marriage.

How to act when you discover your spouse has a drinking problem

Your husband drinks too much and you are worried about him. His drinking is not only harmful to his health, but negatively impacts your relationship. As drinking gets worse, it takes time away from a couple, creating an emotional distance that is tough to overcome, according to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. You want your husband to seek the help he needs and get your marriage back on track. Confronting him won’t be easy, but being prepared may boost your confidence and help the conversation flow smoothly.

Circumstances

The ideal time to talk to someone with an alcohol problem is soon after an alcohol-related incident, such as a big argument, according to This Emotional Life on PBS.org. Pick a time when your husband hasn’t been drinking. Choose a private location where you can talk uninterrupted, such as your home. Know what you want to say ahead of time. It might be beneficial to gather your thoughts, write them down and look over them as you talk. Tell your husband how you feel and that you are worried about him. Don’t make accusations, lecture or argue. Stay calm, focused and be nonjudgmental. Listen to what he has to say without interrupting.

Denial

Your husband may deny having an issue with alcohol. Denial is common among people who drink too much. It is a major obstacle to overcome before help is sought. The desire to drink is often so strong that people rationalize their drinking, even when it is clearly causing issues in their life, according to HelpGuide.org. Your husband may minimize the amount he drinks, make light of the consequences of his drinking or claim you are being dramatic. For example, he may say he only has a few drinks each night to unwind from the stress of his job and that doesn’t equate to a drinking problem. Be prepared to discuss specific alcohol-related incidents and the consequences of his behavior. If he is in denial, don’t give up on him. Let him know that you are there for him if he should decide he wants to seek treatment.

Enabling

Don’t make excuses for your husband or cover for him. For example, don’t call his boss and tell him your husband is sick when he has a hangover. When you cover for him, he doesn’t suffer the consequences of his drinking and the behavior will continue. You can’t make him quit drinking or fix his problems for him. He has to do it himself. If he decides to seek treatment, be patient. Recovery takes time. If he continues to drink, boundaries need to be set. For example, you might skip social events where he will be drinking.

How to act when you discover your spouse has a drinking problem

When couples resort to screaming, yelling, and swearing at each other, the respect at the foundation of their marriage will deteriorate.

Under no circumstances does your spouse have the right to subject you to this or any other kind of emotional abuse.

The end result of a husband or wife with unchecked anger management issues like this is that the person who is being screamed at will eventually become numb to and resentful of their spouse. All of the love, affection, and respect they had for each other will vanish.

And when both spouses disrespect each other in this way, neither person’s point gets heard, making it difficult, if not impossible to resolve the problem at hand.

Screaming and swearing at your spouse is one of the worst forms of dysfunctional communication that can arise in a marriage.

Screaming and swearing are the behaviors of a bully who is trying to dominate and control the other person.

The person doing the screaming may think that they have gotten the other person to change or agree with them in the past, but the truth is that they just bullied their spouse and forced them into a corner. No one likes to be screamed at or called names.

The person who uses this type of communication usually has low self-esteem and a lack of proper communication skills.

Trying to change your spouse’s behavior will not work. You must start by changing your own role in the pattern if you want to save your marriage.

Unfortunately, when there is a difficult problem threatening a marriage, one or both spouses will often look to the other to change the situation in order to avoid addressing their own part in it.

Here’s what to do when your husband or wife yells, shouts, and/or swears at you.

1. Stop taking the abuse.

If your spouse treats you in this manner, then you must put a stop to it. This is unacceptable behavior and must not be tolerated.

The only way to change a marriage in which one spouse screams, calls names, and puts the other down is to walk away from them, pack up your bags and go.

Unless you change the way in which you respond to them, they will continue to bully you. You have to stand up for yourself and not allow this to happen.

Many times, the spouse who is being abused will try to justify the bullying spouse’s behavior, saying their husband or wife can’t control themselves or that they just have a short temper or any other excuse they can think of.

The truth is that most people can control their temper, but they choose not to because they have been allowed to get away with their bad behavior for so long.

2. Ask these 3 questions.

One way to prove that your angry husband or wife does indeed have the ability to control themselves is by asking yourself these three questions:

1. Do they fly off the handle like this at work?

2. Do they act this way around their friends?

3. Do they act this way in public?

If you answered “no” to any of these questions, then the person who is bullying you is perfectly capable of controlling their temper, they just choose not to control it around you.

3. Leave.

If your spouse truly can’t control their temper, then you need to leave and stay with someone safe. That is a sign of a person who allows themselves to get out of control and who may become violent. This kind of situation might even be more likely if they drink or take drugs.

Most people are able to control themselves and their anger if and when expected to.

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The majority of bullying that occurs between spouses can be controlled by the person who is doing the bullying.

If you want the name-calling and yelling to stop, then you must do something dramatic to let them know that you are serious and you have had enough. Living in a marriage with a spouse that yells at you and calls you names is not normal and can be very damaging to your self-esteem and to both your physical and mental health.

It’s also toxic for any children you are raising to live in that kind of environment.

Tell your spouse calmly and directly that you will leave the next time they behave in this manner, and that they must put an end to it now. Then make sure you have a plan and are prepared to leave should the abusive behavior begin again.

This article was co-authored by Ran D. Anbar, MD, FAAP. Dr. Ran D. Anbar is a pediatric medical counselor and is board certified in both pediatric pulmonology and general pediatrics, offering clinical hypnosis and counseling services at Center Point Medicine in La Jolla, California and Syracuse, New York. With over 30 years of medical training and practice, Dr. Anbar has also served as a professor of pediatrics and medicine and the Director of pediatric pulmonology at SUNY Upstate Medical University. Dr. Anbar holds a BS in Biology and Psychology from the University of California, San Diego and an MD from the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. Dr. Anbar completed his pediatric residency and pediatric pulmonary fellowship training at the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School and is also a past President, fellow and approved consultant of the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis.

There are 7 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.

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If your spouse has been diagnosed with cancer, what you never expected and never wanted to happen has just become all too real and all too personal to both of you. As much as you might want to wish it away, to reset everything back to the way it was before, you can’t. There are, however, many things that you can do to make the process easier for your spouse and yourself.