Dating an Alcoholic: What to Know
It’s hard to know what the people around us are thinking or feeling if they’re not telling us. Maybe you have noticed your significant other drinking more frequently or in higher amounts than they used to.
Or maybe you have met someone new, but you are concerned that they always seem to have a drink close by. Not everyone who drinks alcohol has a problem with it. But if you’re wondering if you’re dating an alcoholic, that feeling won’t go away.
And living in a state of constant worry isn’t sustainable.
Understanding the Far-Reaching Effects of Alcoholism
It’s important to understand the signs of alcohol addiction because it does not only impact the individual. Alcoholism also impacts the people who care about the person suffering from it. It can and often does take its toll, emotionally and physically, on the individual.
But that person’s spouse, parents, siblings, and friends may also suffer. Dating an alcoholic can affect your emotional well-being and health, too. The effects of dating an alcoholic can eat away at you over time.
In the following sections, we will outline warning signs to look for, potential challenges, and ways that you can protect both yourself and the person you care about.
How to Tell if You’re Dating an Alcoholic
Alcoholic behavior in relationships isn’t always straightforward. But there are many warning signs of dating an alcoholic that you can watch for. These warning signs will help you distinguish between social drinking and red flags.
Someone who has a problem with alcohol may regularly:
- Drink more than they had originally planned.
- Experience significant personality changes while drinking.
- Try and fail to cut back on their drinking.
- Drink to cope with stress, anxiety, depression, or other negative emotions.
- Experience hangovers and blackouts.
- Find themselves in conflict with family members or friends.
- Become irritable when they can’t drink.
Other Signs of Dating an Alcoholic
Legal issues, financial troubles, and work conflicts are also common. When you’re dating someone who has a drinking problem, you may notice that they have a higher tolerance to alcohol than others, and they structure their social life around drinking.
They may even go as far as avoiding social events that do not include drinking. Going out of the way to involve alcohol in a situation that doesn’t call for it is a sign that someone has progressed beyond social drinking.
When it comes to things like drug and alcohol abuse, our first instincts are often correct. If something feels like a red flag, it usually is. But that does not mean that we should all jump to conclusions or go on the attack.
What to Expect Dating an Alcoholic
Dating someone with a drinking problem isn’t always easy. But that also doesn’t always mean that it won’t work out. In most cases, an individual isn’t knowingly starting a relationship with an alcoholic. Often, alcoholism develops over time.
Support from spouses, family members, and friends are crucial in addiction recovery. This type of support can also prevent the problem from getting any worse. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to what to expect from dating an alcoholic.
But when someone you care about has a drinking problem, it can be a constant distraction. And it can impact your life in surprising ways.
How Alcoholism Can Change Your Relationship
Everyone is different. But over time, the effects of this chronic disease will only get worse. This can mean different things for different people. Not everyone experiencing alcoholism will become violent or experience other significant personality changes, although this is a possibility.
The bigger and more life-altering impacts of dating an alcoholic are clear; the potential for job loss and financial troubles, anger and violence, and other significant events are the ones that we talk about the most.
But what about the more subtle ways that alcoholism can impact your relationship? Here are a few to consider:
- Reciprocal drinking.
- Lower long-term relationship satisfaction.
- Higher distress levels.
A Breakdown of Reciprocal Drinking, Codependency, and Distress
Reciprocal drinking is the term we use when talking about the ways that a person’s drinking patterns may influence their partner’s drinking habits. If you date someone who drinks too much, studies show that your drinking patterns and behaviors may be influenced by theirs.
Over time, this can negatively affect your health. Codependency is another common concern in many addicts’ relationships. Codependency, in an addict’s relationship, involves the non-addicted individual becoming too wrapped up in taking care of their loved one and forgetting to take care of themselves.
This kind of imbalance can cause identity issues and lower long-term relationship satisfaction. It can also cause higher levels of distress or emotional suffering and extreme anxiety. Although the link is currently considered tenuous, it also appears that domestic violence is more common in relationships involving one excessive drinker.
And studies show conclusively that there are higher divorce rates in marriages with one heavy drinker. One study looked at alcohol consumption per capita and found some interesting results. A consumption increase of 1 liter of alcohol per capita brings about an increase in the divorce rate of about 20%.
Can You Have a Healthy Relationship with an Alcoholic?
If your boyfriend, girlfriend, or spouse has a drinking problem, that does not mean that they don’t love you or that you can’t build a healthy relationship. But it is important to be honest and true to yourself, too.
Both short and long-term problems can arise while dating an alcoholic. Being aware of the potential consequences and how you can help avoid them could help you both live a happier and healthier life.
Risk Factors for Alcoholism
When you are dating a recovering alcoholic or functioning alcoholic, you may wonder how they got here. This is a fair and important question to ask. Understanding and addressing the root of the problem is a significant piece of the recovery puzzle.
Family history is one of the most significant indicators. Family and behavioral therapy can help improve this risk factor. Others include emotional triggers like stressful relationships or high-pressure jobs. And environment plays a significant part, as well.
How to Build a Better Relationship with an Alcoholic
Negative emotions like stress and anxiety are often linked to heavy drinking. For an addict in recovery, treatment programs like ours teach individuals to choose healthier coping mechanisms and build healthier habits.
For example, while having a drink may ease these negative emotions in the short term, things like a healthy exercise routine, nutritious meals, proper hydration, and adequate sleep are more long-term ways to boost our emotional health. You can help them work toward these goals.
Meanwhile, it can be very difficult for an alcoholic to recover when they spend time with other alcoholics. Participating in a recovery or support group is one thing. There is plenty of evidence boasting the benefits of such meetings.
But a recovering alcoholic spending time with people who still drink heavily is far less productive. You can help your loved one change their environment by suggesting healthy, sober hobbies and activities and helping them build sober social circles.
Getting Help for a Loved One at Circle of Hope
Sometimes, we have done all that we can for our loved ones. This is when it is time to call a professional. You can help by offering support and understanding while they work toward their recovery goals. Call us today at 818-391-5259 for more information.