At some point in your life, you met your someone special. You went on dates together, laughed and cried together, learned to love each other unconditionally, and promised—in one way or another—to spend the rest of your lives together. You are partners. You would travel to the ends of the earth with and for each other—which makes seeing your partner succumb to alcohol addiction all the more difficult. You want to help, but you don’t know how.

Approaching the topic of alcohol addiction is very difficult, no matter how strong your love is. You don’t know how your spouse will react or how it will affect your relationship. And that’s OK—there are careful steps you can follow when learning how to help an alcoholic spouse. These steps will make you feel more equipped for such an important discussion. You will have educated yourself about alcohol addiction and its treatment, and will have chosen the best time to have this discussion. You will also have learned the wisdom behind taking care of yourself—a vital component to your partnership—and how it leads to a more productive conversation about alcohol addiction.

Educate Yourself

Communicate with your spouse

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Before having the alcohol addiction conversation with your spouse, be sure that you are well educated on the topic. Going into the conversation blind will hurt your ability to have a productive conversation. Observe your partner’s behavior. List specific examples and scenarios that worry you. Know what options are out there for your partner. Research alcohol addiction treatment centers and how they differ from one another. It’s important to have a good idea of what type of alcohol addiction rehab would work well for your partner based on your relationship together. This educational process will help when you discuss alcohol addiction with your spouse.

Have an Open Discussion

The next step is to have the alcohol addiction conversation with your spouse. Find an appropriate time to sit down and chat. It should be a comfortable location and situation, such as the privacy of your living room. Bringing up the subject of alcohol addiction in a restaurant or other public setting might not yield desirable results. Also make sure your spouse isn’t already upset by something else, otherwise it’s not prudent to add the alcohol addiction conversation to the mix.

Have an open discussion

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Once you have found the appropriate time and place, it’s very important to be supportive. Don’t start the conversation in an accusatory tone with judgment. You must keep your spouse comfortable and willing to engage in an open discussion. Ask questions that will help your spouse talk about alcohol addiction. Be attentive to their answers. If it seems like you’re not interested, they’re not going to open up.

Here is where the specific examples of your spouse’s behavior will come in handy. Having examples of worrisome behavior due to alcohol shouldn’t be approached in a demanding manner. Use the examples as a time to encourage your spouse to continue the conversation. Demanding answers for certain behavior will either ignite a fight or cause your spouse to recluse. Always be supportive. It will take time, but it’s important for your spouse to admit there is a problem before a solution can be started.

Take Care of Yourself

This is often an overlooked aspect of confronting of your spouse’s alcohol addiction. You are not the reason why your spouse is drinking. Don’t let the blame fall on you. Always remember this. Don’t enable the addiction, either. Don’t keep alcohol around the house, or attend functions together where free drinks will be served. These are things that can easily be blamed on you. Don’t put yourself in these situations. If you’re having trouble talking to your spouse alone, don’t be afraid to bring in reinforcements. Involve a close friend or family member if you need some support. This is too important of a conversation to put off because of your own trepidations. Make sure you are just as comfortable with the situation as you hope your spouse is.

Alcohol addiction is a serious problem. It’s not easy for partners to address head on with their loved ones. But if you follow these careful steps, you can have a productive and effective conversation with your spouse about alcohol addiction and seeking treatment for it.