How Alcoholism Affects Relationships

Written by Theresa Valenzky

& Medically Reviewed by Jenni Jacobsen, LSW

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Last Updated - 06/16/2023

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Updated 06/16/2023

Someone with an alcohol addiction has difficulty quitting drinking, even when it causes significant problems and affects relationships.

Alcoholism, an informal term for an alcohol use disorder, can harm every area of a person’s life, including their relationships. Someone with an alcohol addiction will have difficulty giving up drinking, even when it causes significant problems in the person’s life, which can include conflict and disruption in important relationships.

Why Alcohol Leads to Relationship Problems

When a person misuses alcohol and develops an alcohol use disorder, they experience brain changes that make it difficult to stop drinking. This leads to compulsive alcohol use, which can cause relationships to fall by the wayside. Certain factors can lead to alcohol-related relationship problems.

Dishonesty

Research has shown that dishonesty is common in people with addictions, most often because they are ashamed and fearful of being negatively judged by others. Given this fact, a person struggling with alcohol addiction may lie about their drinking and whereabouts, which can destroy the trust in a relationship.

Lack of Intimacy

When alcohol consumption becomes the focus of a person’s life, intimacy may be non-existent within their marriage or relationship with a significant other. Furthermore, research on men addicted to alcohol has found that over half struggle with sexual dysfunction, with lack of desire and arousal being the most common problems in this group.

Legal and Financial Problems

Drunk driving and public intoxication can lead to legal problems for someone with alcohol misuse. Along with legal issues, a person may experience hefty fines, jail time or lengthy court battles, putting stress on the family. Financial problems in a marriage or serious relationship can result due to:

  • Court costs
  • Attorney fees
  • Lost work time
  • Spending money on alcohol

Domestic Violence

While not everyone addicted to alcohol is violent, alcohol misuse increases the risk of domestic violence. In fact, research has found that 30–40% of men and 27–34% of women are under the influence of alcohol when they perpetrate violence against their partners.

Signs Alcohol Abuse Is Causing Relationship Problems

If you’re worried that alcohol addiction is causing problems in your relationship, the following signs are clear indicators of problems related to alcoholism and relationships.

You Prioritize Alcohol Over Your Loved Ones

One of the signs of an alcohol use disorder is spending significant time using alcohol and/or recovering from alcohol use. Another sign is giving up important activities in favor of alcohol use. If alcohol is causing problems in your relationship, you will likely prioritize alcohol over everything else, including time spent with your loved ones.

Drinking Changes How You Act

Alcohol addiction is linked to changes in behavior. For example, people dependent on alcohol may become less conscientious, meaning they will not be as diligent in completing their work and attending to their responsibilities. Alcohol-related personality changes can lead to relationship problems, especially if these changes are undesirable.

You Hide Your Drinking Behaviors

If alcohol is beginning to cause relationship problems, you may hide your drinking altogether to avoid conflict. For instance, you may stay up and drink after your spouse goes to bed or claim to be working late when you’re really at the bar.

You’d Rather Drink Than Do Your Favorite Activities

If you’re withdrawing from your favorite activities, including hobbies that you and your partner used to enjoy, alcohol is causing problems in your relationship. Without quality time together, the relationship will begin to decline.

Get Help for Alcohol Addiction at The Recovery Village Palmer Lake

If you or someone you love is seeking alcohol addiction treatment, The Recovery Village Palmer Lake is here to support you. We offer a full continuum of addiction treatment options, including inpatient, partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient care. Located between Denver and Colorado Springs, our facility offers breathtaking mountain views and features 110 inpatient beds. Contact a Recovery Advocate today to begin the admissions process.

View Sources

Dictionary.com. “Sobriety.” Accessed April 30, 2023.

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “NIDA and NIAAA commentary strongly suppo[…] model of addiction.” July 29, 2015. Accessed April 30, 2023.

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Understanding Drug Use and Addiction DrugFacts.” June 2018. Accessed April 30, 2023.

Helm, Paula. “Sobriety versus abstinence. How 12-stepp[…]overy across groups.” Addiction Research & Theory, 2019. Accessed April 30, 2023.

Melemis, Steven M. “Relapse Prevention and the Five Rules of Recovery.” Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, 2015. Accessed April 30, 2023.

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