How Can I Deal with My Alcoholic Spouse?

Ask Angie: I have been married to an alcoholic for 16 years. I have detached in love and have been very active in my church and creating a life for me and my children outside of the alcoholism. The alcoholic in my life doesn’t seem to mind any of this and it actually seems to relieve him from the responsibility to be a dad and husband. He does work hard on his job and so he feels that’s all of his responsibility and likes when he’s home to drink all day and play video games and ignore us. I hate being with him. It’s a very lonely marriage. My two older children are becoming more upset by his lack of desire to be with them.

Marriage Guidance: We’re sorry to hear that you are allowing the alcoholic to control how you feel. Part of detaching from the alcoholic is NOT allowing what the alcoholic does or says to control how you feel towards them. You are very lucky that your husband is functional enough to continue to provide for the family. In many alcoholic homes the husband can’t hold down a job long enough to make a living for his family and the wife has to go out and work.

Expect the alcoholic to ignore you. I know this is not what you want to hear, but alcoholism is a selfish condition. Having him focus on video games is much better then him getting in your face and being verbally abusive with you. Just ask any wife who is married to a verbally abusive alcoholic.

Alcoholism affects the mind and the emotions and your husband perceives that he is already involved with his family just by being home. And you are paying too much attention to his playing video games and drinking and he knows that. What you should do rather is gather up the children and do activities with them and let your husband be to himself. Take the kids and go hiking, or go out for ice cream, or go to the zoo, or go visit friends and family, whatever it is you like to do.

One of the big issues with loved ones of alcoholics is they think they have detached but actually they are still allowing the negative behaviors of the alcoholic to frustrate them and cause resentment. It’s bothering you so much you hate being with him. This is not detachment. Stop paying attention to what your husband is doing—he is probably enjoying all of this attention from you, negative or not.

I do not mean to down play your feelings, because I do understand what you are saying. But your expectations are too high. You think that because you have learned to “mostly” detach from your husband and because you have continued on with your life, detaching in love, that he should now be offering more of himself to you, and or somehow he should change. You are allowing yourself to be sadly disappointed. Remember, you are powerless over alcohol and you are powerless over the alcoholic. Alcoholism is a progressive condition and you need to NOT expect any thing from the alcoholic. They need to become responsible people on their own, not because you tell them they need to be more responsible. They need to figure that out on their own!

One source of frustration we seldom recognize is in expecting too much of others, or expecting too specifically what we feel they ought to be, say, give or do. If I expect another person to react in a certain way to a given situation, and he or she fails to meet my expectation, have I the right to be disappointed or angry? Every human being has his own individual drives and motivations, beyond my understanding and control. I may say: “But he knew what I expected,” not realizing that it may have been precisely for this reason that he rebelled and acted otherwise. — ALANON Book Page 217

Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. Hebrews 13:5

Today’s Reminder

I will not set a pattern based on my own experiences and wishes—and expect someone else to live up to it. This is interference of a subtle and damaging kind; it damages my peace of mind and dignity, and those I am smothering with my expectations. – Alanon

Another Today’s Reminder

IAm I expecting everything in life to be just the way I want? Maybe I ought to take a good look at those expectations and see if they are realistic for my situation. If I’m constantly reaching for the moon, I’m going to miss a lot of pleasant things right here in my little world. (being with and enjoying your children and enjoy being with your husband when he is not drinking).

I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. Philippians 4:11

Have You Really Detached From The Alcoholic?

You stated in your letter that you have made a life for you and the children outside of the alcoholism. If this is correct then continue doing that, and also you and the children should pray for your husband to seek God and get the healing he needs. Other than that you must continue with detachment and BE thankful to God every day that your husband is still working and able to provide for the family.

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. Philippians 4:6

It’s never easy being married to an alcoholic. In fact, it is one of the hardest things a spouse must do, especially if they want to do what is right by working on their own self-healing through Christ and remain married to the alcoholic. Being married to an alcoholic often involves suffering and knowing that you will be lonely for companionship sometimes, and you may even have feelings of resentment towards the alcoholic. Precisely why we must go to God with our sufferings and pray for contentment.

And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. Galatians 6:9

Don’t sit around sulking about the alcoholic. And by all means, do not nag or complain to the alcoholic, that’s not going to change anything. Take the kids out to pizza or ice cream. Go roller-skating, a movie, or bowling…etc, etc. It’s unfortunate that the alcoholic can’t join you, but perhaps they will realize just what they are missing out on—their family. You need to take care of YOU and the children, otherwise, you’re not really detaching.

And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7

I can do all things through Christ, which strengthens me! Philippians 4:13