Alcohol and relationshipsThe unavoidable truth of alcohol and relationships is that the two often walk hand-in-hand. Therapists find relationship problems are common along those who seek treatment for alcohol addiction and alcohol problems are common among couple who seek relationship therapy.

Clearly the negative effects of alcohol take a toll on not just the drinker, but also the whole family – with recent data from the US showing that between a quarter and a third of children experience alcohol abuse or dependence in the family.


Alcohol abuse can affect couples negatively through a variety of issues:

  • Marital conflict
  • Violence
  • Infidelity
  • Jealousy
  • Economic insecurity
  • Divorce
  • Foetal alcohol syndrome

Those married to people with alcohol addiction disorders also report higher rates of stress-related medical and psychological issues and visit doctors and hospitals more often.

But it can also contribute to how a couple who are experiencing difficulties and seeking therapy, are able to talk through issues such as decision-making, intimacy, finances, management off family responsibilities, parenting and communication.

Without first addressing problem drinking – and all the barriers which that puts up between a couple – it is often difficult to get to the root underlying causes of a relationship breakdown.

Research is divided over whether couples’ drinking habits create a co-dependency because so many of the symptoms exist throughout the general population and there’s still difficulty in gaining a true diagnosis of co-dependency.

But a relationship which involves alcohol addiction often devolves to a relationship based on needs and anxiety rather than love and trust.

This can play out between two individuals who have problems with alcohol, in which case it’s tough to break the destructive cycle because they both rely on the other for emotional support as well as a drinking partner; or when only one partner has an issue, in which case the non-drinking partner can feel they retain control over the other or stay in the relationship due to low self-esteem.

The first step to addressing problem drinking is to seek help from a trained addictions specialist – but you might find it helpful to go through treatment as a couple. Certainly, drinking will have been a major impact on your relationship and facing it together will help you both realise the varied ways it impinged on your lives.

If you think you and your partner have an issue with alcohol, you can talk to a qualified couples or addictions therapist at Robert Street Clinic to discuss addressing the problem. For more information about the individual skills of our psychologists, psychotherapists and psychiatrists you can email us at, call us on 09 973 5950, or contact us via the website.