6 Signs Alcohol Is Hurting Your Relationship

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Most people know that drinking too much can harm your mental and physical health. But alcohol abuse can also hurt the relationships you hold dearest to you—especially the connection between you and your romantic partner.

When you’re in a relationship with someone who drinks too much, their behavior can be hard to cope with. And when you’re the one with a drinking problem, it can be tough to recognize the harm you’re causing and make a change.

Below, learn about the effects of alcohol on relationships, along with six signs that drinking might be impacting yours.

How Alcohol Affects Relationships

So, how does alcohol affect relationships? Here are a few ways that drinking could be harming your bond with your partner:

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Less Connection

If someone in a relationship has a drinking problem, it can leave the other person feeling disconnected and distant from their partner. And even if both parties drink together, they might only feel a sense of connection while the alcohol is involved. This can lead to reduced intimacy and a disconnect in the relationship as a whole.

Unhealthy Codependency

Sometimes, a codependent relationship can grow between a person with an alcohol use problem and their partner. For instance, a codependent spouse may look to the drinker for constant validation, become overly involved in the person’s emotions, and try to “fix” them. Over time, they may even step into a caretaker or enabler role.

This codependency can quickly become toxic, leading to harmful ups and downs for both people involved.

More Arguments

The clouded judgment and aggression that comes with drinking can lead to more arguments and negative interactions in relationships.1 With that in mind, couples who drink a lot might resort to fighting about day-to-day challenges and responsibilities, instead of problem-solving as a team. 

Increased Risk of Domestic Violence

Alcohol abuse is a known risk factor for domestic violence.2 The American Psychological Association states that drinking and abusing drugs increases your chances of becoming a perpetrator—and victim—of intimate partner violence.3

Greater Likelihood of Divorce

The truth is that alcohol abuse can take a serious toll on even the strongest of relationships, to the point where they can fail. In fact, one Swedish study of over 670,000 people found that alcohol use disorder was linked to a higher likelihood of divorce.4

Read more: 14 Ways Alcohol Abuse Harms Marriage 

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6 Signs Alcohol Is Hurting Your Relationship

If you think that alcohol might be causing problems in your relationship but aren’t sure how to tell, here are six signs to look out for:

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Photo by Liza Summer on Pexels

1. You’re Fighting More

Have you been arguing with your partner more often lately? Or do you feel like you can’t seem to have a single good day anymore, no matter how hard you try? If so, it may be time to consider how alcohol is impacting your relationship. By taking a closer look, you might find that you or your partner’s drinking habits are at the core of many of your disagreements.

2. Your Sex Life Is Suffering

If your relationship involves heavy drinking and your sex life is suffering, alcohol may be to blame. While it’s true that alcohol can increase sexual desire in the short term, it can harm a person’s sex drive in the long run. This is because it can adversely affect your hormones, emotional well-being, and overall health.

3. You’re Spending Less Time Together

Too much drinking can lead to less time spent together—and the time you do spend together can feel less meaningful. For example, someone who drinks a lot might miss out on time with their spouse because they’d rather be at a bar or party. And when they’re home, they might choose to drink instead of being present with their loved ones.

4. Alcohol Comes First

For most people, being addicted to alcohol (or any substance) means prioritizing it over the more important parts of life—even if you don’t mean to. Quality time may get thrown aside for the sake of alcohol. You might spend extra money on booze, rather than shared activities with your partner or family. To the loved ones of someone with a drinking problem, it might always look like the alcohol comes first.

5. There’s Deception or Lying Around Alcohol

When it comes to how alcohol affects relationships, you might notice more lying or deception from yourself or your spouse. For instance, someone with alcohol addiction might lie to their spouse about where they are (e.g., a bar or friend’s house) because it involves drinking. Or they might hide how much they were drinking, who they were hanging out with, or what they were doing in order to avoid a fight.

6. There Are Fights About Alcohol Consumption

The effects of alcohol on relationships can mean more conflicts in general. But you and your spouse might also fight about the alcohol itself. For instance, a worried husband may voice his concerns when he sees his wife pouring wine after work every day. But in response, she may become upset and defensive. And when this dynamic is present in your relationship, it can lead to frequent, full-blown arguments about alcohol use.

Alcohol Affects Other Kinds of Relationships

So, how does alcohol affect relationships? The bottom line is that it can cause more arguments, hurt intimacy, and make a person unable to fulfill their role at home. But drinking too much can also take a toll on your friendships, family relationships, and even how you interact with your colleagues at work. 

Fortunately, there are more ways than ever to get support if alcohol is harming your life and happiness. Ria Health is one online program offering comprehensive help—from coaching meetings to anti-craving prescriptions—100 percent from your smartphone. With Ria, you won’t have to rearrange your life to start improving your drinking habits, relationships, and overall well-being.

Learn more about how it works or get started today.

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Written By:
Alicia Schultz
Minnesota-based freelancer and health advocate who aims to empower others through her work.
Reviewed By:
Evan O'Donnell
NYC-based content strategist with over 3 years editing and writing in the recovery space. Strong believer in accessible, empathic, and fact-based communication.
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