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5 Tips for Talking to Your Spouse About Their Drinking Problem

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5 Tips for Talking to Your Spouse About Their Drinking Problem

Living with a spouse that has a drinking problem can be very stressful and emotionally draining.  If you have tried to confront your spouse about their drinking problem, only to find that it leads to a fight or seems to make the situation worse, you are not alone.

Talking to a loved one about addiction is awkward and requires a delicate balance of compassion and strength. If you believe your spouse may need professional help to stop drinking, you may be wondering how to best approach them about a recovery program.

While you can’t force someone to seek help, there are ways in which you can best support them in their decision and avoid making them feel attacked.

Here Are 5 Tips for Talking to Your Spouse About Their Drinking Problem

1. Pick the Right Time

There is never a perfect time to have the awkward conversation of confronting someone with their addiction, but there are inappropriate times.

Do not try to talk to your partner about their problem when they are drunk. This is when they are most likely to respond combatively, and it is unlikely you will be able to effectively make your point.

You also run the risk that they won’t remember the confrontation the next day. Choose a time of a relative calm in your household, possibly during a quiet morning.

It is also important to consider what other stressors your partner may be dealing with, and try choosing a time when they have a bit less than usual to worry about.

This does not mean, however, waiting for months for the right opportunity to present itself. The sooner, the better.

2. Consider Talking to Someone Else First

It can be helpful to rehearse your conversation with a trusted friend or an addiction counselor before going to your spouse.

Just by saying the words out loud to a friend you may be able to hear ways in which you should restructure your language, and get some feedback on your word choice.

An addiction counselor is experienced in facilitating interventions and will be able to provide you with great tips for how to talk to your partner in a compassionate but effective way.

Regardless of who you choose to talk to, this rehearsal conversation can also be a great way to vent all your anger and frustrations before having the conversation with your spouse, so that you can enter into open communication without becoming overly emotional and adding to the drama.

3. Be Direct

When it is time to have the conversation, be as straightforward as possible. 

Start by stating what recent and specific actions of theirs most concern you, and how they make you feel. 

If you have children, you can point out the specific ways in which your partner’s drinking affects them. It helps to focus on the most recent incident that involved drinking, and explain how their actions have consequences for the entire family. 

Try to refrain from listing every alcohol-induced episode, but instead be direct by pointing out that the problem is reoccurring. They may still respond defensively, or not respond at all, but you can eliminate excess drama by simply stating the facts.

4. Don’t Give an Ultimatum

A common misstep in addiction intervention is the presentation of an ultimatum.

For example, you may be tempted to tell your partner if they don’t seek professional help, you will ask for a divorce.

Unfortunately, this strategy usually backfires by making your spouse feel cornered and defensive. This tactic will make anyone immediately put their guard up and often begin verbal counterattacks.

The goal is to open the lines of communication and facilitate a conversation where both parties feel heard. The first conversation doesn’t need to result in any definitive plan or an “or else” scenario, but can just be a direct expression of your concern, followed by a cooling-off period for your spouse to process the situation.

5. Contact a Quality Treatment Center

The professionals at a recovery center can help you in every step of the process.

It can help to get as much information as possible beforehand about the options available to you and your spouse, and to educate yourself about addiction and the process of recovery.

You shouldn’t approach your spouse by attempting to force them into treatment, but after you have had the initial discussion regarding your concerns about their drinking, you may be able to come back to the conversation with information for them to consider about treatment options.

It is important that your spouse understands that a recovery program is not some form of punishment for their behavior, but is a necessary step in taking responsibility for their own health and happiness, as well as the wellbeing of their family.

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