our everyday life

How to Support an Alcoholic Spouse Who Is in Denial

by Stacey Elkins, studioD

Your spouse drinks too much and you've tried to discuss it with him. He doesn't see his drinking as an issue. Unfortunately, as long as he's in denial, his drinking will continue. Supporting your alcoholic spouse when he's in denial is hard, but with continuing support, he may come around. Seek education on alcoholism and a support group in order to find your footing and help your spouse.

Educate Yourself

Learn about addiction and its control over a problem drinker. An alcoholic generally realizes she has a problem, but denies it because the urge to drink is too great, according to Patrick Niebauer, a licensed clinical social worker who wrote "When Someone You Love Has a Drinking Problem," on the LifeWorks website. You can't force your spouse to quit drinking. She must make the decision. As you become educated, you'll realize your spouse's drinking problem isn't your fault. Educate yourself about treatment options and support groups. If your spouse decides to seek treatment, you will be prepared. A psychologist can help you discover how to motivate your spouse to change, according to the American Psychological Association in "Understanding Alcohol Use Disorders and Their Treatment."

Be Honest

Your spouse's alcohol problem not only affects him, it affects you. Alcoholism often causes relationship issues. Be honest and open with your spouse and tell him how his drinking affects you. For example, you may feel embarrassed, miss spending quality time together or dread social events where alcohol is served. Talk to your spouse when he is sober and tell him you worry about him. Don't threaten him or be confrontational. Discuss the link between his drinking and the consequences.

Avoid Enabling

Enabling supports denial and prevents someone with an alcohol problem from getting help, according to The Alcoholism Guide.org. Acknowledge that your spouse has a drinking problem and don't enable his behavior. Don't buy beer for him. When he is hungover, don't call in sick for him. Don't make excuses for his drunken behavior or let him rationalize his actions. Never drink with him. Set boundaries and stick to them. For example, you might not attend social functions if he plans to drink.

Seek Support

Even if your spouse refuses treatment, you can get help and support for yourself. Some people find support groups beneficial. They allow you to share feelings, concerns and offer encouragement. You also have the opportunity to talk with others going through the same experience. Support groups can help you cope. If you are more comfortable with one-on-one interaction, a therapist could be helpful.

About the Author

Stacey Elkins is a writer based in Chicago. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale and a Masters in social work from the University of Illinois in Chicago, where she specialized in mental health.

Photo Credits

  • George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images