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Alcoholism's Negative Effects on My Marriage and Family

Updated on April 25, 2017
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I lived with an alcoholic spouse for 22 years, during which I experienced depression, disappointment, and feelings of helplessness.

What Is Alcoholism?

Alcoholism is a chronic health condition that develops through internal and external influences. Some of these influences include: the individual's genetics, family history, mentality, social environment, and the degree of stress in his or her life and how they cope with that stress. Alcoholism can have a detrimental impact on marriages and families. It has a severely destructive path with consequences that can potentially last a lifetime.

Alcoholism is defined as a dependence or strong craving for alcohol with continued use, despite the complications to one's health and the destructive behavior toward family and friends. Over a period of time, alcohol abuse can affect the brain and how it functions, causing serious harm to the organs in the body and the overall mental state of the person. The onset of withdrawal symptoms will occur with the decrease or absence of consumption of alcohol.

Alcoholism's Far Reach

It is estimated that over half of all adults have had to deal with some form of alcoholism in their lives. In the United States alone, over 17 million people are alcoholics, and studies show that 43% of these alcoholics have had one or more family members who were affected by this disease, as well.

Impact on Marriages

Alcoholism threatens the stability of marriages and breaks down the foundation of families. Some alcoholics may temporarily hide their addiction for a short while, functioning at a somewhat normal level as they continue to perform their duties and responsibilities in everyday life. However, the addiction will soon overcome the person as their alcohol level increases. His or her behavior patterns will eventually begin to disclose the severity of the disease. Some marriages will survive, although continued abuse of alcohol consumption often leads to the demise of the marriage and the downfall of the family.

It is easier in the beginning for the non-alcoholic partner to be supportive and show compassion with love and understanding. Though, as the disease progresses, the supportive partner can grow impatient and reach his or her limit of patience and forgiveness, just desperately wanting them to stop. The alcoholic will often make empty promises such as, "That was the last time," or "I can stop on my own, I promise." Satisfying their partner with these broken promises gives them more time so they do not have to deal with the problem. With the continued effects brought on by the alcoholic's behavior, it becomes increasingly difficult to be tolerant of his or her actions. Eventually fights worsen, communication is lost, trust is broken, and intimacy is gone. There is no way to have a healthy, functioning relationship with an alcoholic that refuses to seek help for the addiction.

Feeling the unfairness of the situation, the non-alcoholic partner may become resentful of his or her partner due to the actualization of what this has done to their on life. At this point, conflict is almost inevitable as the communication may start to fracture. Soon the marriage may begin to crumble under the pressure as each spouse starts pulling away from each other. This usually leads to the deterioration of emotional and sexual intimacy. The non- alcoholic partner may experience feelings of emptiness and an unsatisfying or unfulfilled relationship.

One of the negative side effects of too much alcohol consumption for men is the way in which it can hinder their ability to perform sexually.This can cause added stress on an already unsteady relationship. The non-alcoholic spouse may start to develop negative feeling toward the alcoholic due to his or her undesirable appearance or the smell of stale alcohol on their breath. One may feel repulsed or even disenchanted toward the spouse or partner. In addition, when there are feelings of resentment and anger toward the partner, the desire to be intimate may be lost and sexual attraction for them may gradually disappear. Unfortunately, this opens the door for infidelity in the marriage by one spouse or both. The non-alcoholic spouse may turn to someone else for comfort and to feel loved and wanted again. The alcoholic may betray the marriage for these same reasons or from the result of a wrong decision made while intoxicated and away from home. The hurt felt from this betrayal of trust in a marriage often times causes the end of the marriage.

Alcoholism can cause added financial worries. Money being used for alcohol takes away from the family and everyday expenses, which may cause bills to go unpaid. Additionally, the alcoholic may get arrested for DUI's and in turn have to pay substantial fines and a court cost. The alcoholic's mistakes cost the entire family, adding to the stress for the non-alcoholic spouse or partner. They may have to take on more financial responsibility to ensure the bills will be paid.

Children growing up in an alcoholic home may develop emotional problems, such as anxiety and behavioral outburst. Research shows that a child growing up with an alcoholic parent has a four times higher rate of developing an addiction to alcohol. They will often have low self-esteem, which can make it difficult for him or her to fit in with peers. This can make a child feel sad and lonely that can lead to chronic depression. Sometimes children of alcoholics develop fears of abandonment and feel helpless with a situation. Grades may drop in school because of the inability to concentrate on his or her school work at home under the circumstances. Also, because of his or her lack of social skills and surroundings, the behavior of the child may become inappropriate at times simply due to the fact that he or she does not know how to act suitably. A child of an alcoholic is forced to grow up and bear the stress and other consequences of the environment.

Alcoholism does not just affect the alcoholic. It affects the entire family. Those individuals that are sincere in reaching out for help and truly have the desire to end the abuse should be supported and treated with patience. Sometimes a marriage can be saved depending on the amount of damage that has been done. This journey will not be easy and will require much understanding to start the healing process and mend the hurt that has been caused. However, if the alcoholic refuses to receive any help and continues with harmful behavior towards themselves and his or her family, the non-alcoholic spouse or partner may be forced to make some very tough decisions in order to do what's best for the family.

My Personal Story

This subject is very personal for me. I lived with an alcoholic spouse for twenty-two years, and I went through years of sadness, physical and emotional pain, depression, disappointment, and helplessness.

I loved my husband very much and just wanted him to stop and be the husband and father to our children that he should be. Unfortunately, this did not happen. Many nights I sat up crying and waiting for him to come home. I was so unhappy, but I was too scared at that time to do anything. I felt as though I would not be able to have a life without him in it.

Thanks to faith and support, I found that I could. Because of this realization, I am happier than I have ever been in my life. Finally after two decades of enduring so much pain, I found the strength to make him leave.

I have been divorced now for almost five months, and I feel like I can breathe again without the worry and pain embedded in my stomach. Both my children and I have emotional scars that may never go away, but in time we will heal to a point where it can no longer affect us. I truly regret not leaving and taking my children out of that environment so many years ago but I am focused and steadfast on the future and what it has in store for my children and me.

I am blessed to have a strong support system from my loving family and friends. I thank God for my second chance in this life and the new beginning it brings each day.


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      AJ 17 hours ago

      I Really thinking about leaving my husband it has been almost ten years on and off drinking, more on then off. Well his drinking is making me feel not cared about even tho he say he loves me all the time, He lies, hides, and totally is loud and you can not even get a straight answer out of him when you ask a question. And I am the one that is the wrong by even wanting to talk about the drinking issue. He even read this article and was so proud of himself, but did not want to even talk about it. He doesn't want to make any type of improvement whatsoever. He just called and want me to talk with him, I feel like he just wants me to forget that he is putting are family throw this pain and watching him destroy himself. Truly at the end of my rope here. I have put up with so very very much from this man. He is a good man, he just has so many bad habits like drinking and drugs use when around it not to count out the Anger issues he has. I do love him, but not really sure why I continue to stay with him. We could truly be happy if all of this would stop. The bad thing is that he is going to school 4 hours away from us and i can not even talk to him on the phone because half the time he is drunk. He is trying to take care of us by bettering himself in a job throw schooling but So do I have to worry about when the money starts rounding in is he going to spend it all because of the drinking issues ? Someone tell me what to do? This was a very help article and I feel sorry that you had to go throw so much to get to the new being for you, kind of what I am going throw. Thanks for letting me vent.

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      N_jv 3 days ago

      This was an interesting read. My husband is an alcoholic who admits it but says it's not a problem. After 8 hours yesterday afternoon and another 5 hours today at a bar, I just wish I had a normal life. I came to the realization that I dont know what a "normal" relationship would be. We found out we cannot have children so now thats become an excuse to not change behaviors. I wish i had the strength to make him leave.

    • profile image

      PATRICIA 2 months ago

      After 37 years of marriage I am now raising my 2 granddaughters in the same household and with the same alcoholic as when I raised my 2 now adult daughters. My husband is an alcoholic who works in federal law enforcement so his level of manipulation has improved over the years. His alcohol use has cost me many many personal goals. People like me and because of that my spouse has benefited from not being prosecuted for DUI charges, assault charges on me, and when when first married he was forced out of the military when he suffered the 1st of 2 psychological breakdowns both alcohol induced. He has been suspended from work, and went to rehab after being placed in a lock down mental health unit due to an outrageous alcohol induced episode where he attempted to beat me up. I believed he was sober for 12 years then learned he lied. How long did he lie? Who knows but it may have been for all 12 years. Who cares? Sex stopped 3 years ago at my choice and despite that I am a vibrant attractive successful well kept woman his smell and loud rants after a 12 pack makes me gag. With these 2 girls I must make it right and not lose one of them to drug abuse like I have their mother. My spouse is a jerk, a drunk, and despite all that I feel concern for him. We married at 19 and I've essentially been his mother for all these years but bow I MUST LEAVE and take my girls with me. Bless you sweetheart for this article.

    • Dwilson41993 profile image

      Danielle Wilson 3 months ago from Hattiesburg, Mississippi

      Thank you so much for this article. I am currently in a relationship with someone who drinks too much. I have been so scared but after reading this I have hope and courage to make a change.

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      Lisa 4 months ago

      Good read and it sure hit home. I was married to a functional alcoholic for 22 years and left him six months ago. Until I attended therapy I did not realize that I was emotionally abused for all these years. I was depressed, emotionally and physically exhausted. I became physically sick over the years and have developed many long term side effects. I lost my soul and who I was because I used all my energy on taking care of everything. I realize now I was in a relationship by myself and it is the loneliness place to be. I thank God everyday for this second chance. I raised a son, ensured he was educated and he now has a good job in his field. I am now focusing on me and I am so enjoying who I am. I forgot that I can laugh and have fun and be happy content. I have all I need right now.

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      Maria 6 months ago

      My husband of 21 years did stop drinking and is sober for 1 year. I thought everything would be amazing and all of our problems would be solved. I found that we still do not get along and he is a narcissist. He goes to meetings 4x per week and they have taught him that it's all about him. I feel almost more alone than when he drank. He is condescending, has little interest in my opinions or what I have to say. He embellishes every story he tells and has very low energy and doesn't help around the house like he used to. He is very disrespectful and thinks I'm too sensitive. I frankly do not like who he has become. I'm wondering if too much damage has occurred over the 20 years and I can't heal.

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      SIJP 12 months ago


      Thank you for your post and I am glad to have come across it. I'm currently undergoing this very painful many times I've contemplated leaving but the excuses that I come with are endless...he'll be the best husband/father up until the 2 days of the week where he's off from work, then he turns into this who is slowly burning our family down to ashes. I am finding courage in reading similar experiences noted in her. Thank you.

    • rls8994 profile image

      rls8994 13 months ago from Mississippi


      Thank you for reading, although I am not sure I am understanding your comment. This article is not about pointing fingers. It's about a disease called alcoholism and how it can hurt those living with the alcoholic.

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      Rich 13 months ago

      Well done article . But remember when you point fingers at someone ,make sure your hands are clean. Apply the same standards to ourselves that we do to others. Or as a Jewish Hippie once said ," let he without ,sin cast the first stone ",!

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      kfauc 21 months ago

      So this topic is haunting my mind the past few days and I'm searching on an opinion please...recently my boyfriend and I had a guest over and we were drinking pretty heavily. The guest came to me days later and said that my boyfriend hit on her asking for her to kiss him and when she declined and asked what it would do to me he stated she'll never know .I confronted him on this and he says he doesn't remember it and is so sorry. He would never my question is....yea I get you may not remember (I've had memory loss from a drunken night) but can your character and loyalty be compromised as well? I find it unsettling and fear it's a behavior that could happen again

    • rls8994 profile image

      rls8994 22 months ago from Mississippi


      So good to see you here again. It has been awhile! :) I have not been very active on Hubpages in last couple of years but I'm now trying to participate more again.

      Thank you so much for your kind words. I do appreciate it so much :)

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 23 months ago from Chicago

      Your fine Hub touched me. It is so sad and yet in the end filled with hope and faith and thankfulness. Well done!

    • rls8994 profile image

      rls8994 2 years ago from Mississippi

      Akriti Mattu

      Thanks so much! :)

    • Akriti Mattu profile image

      Akriti Mattu 2 years ago from Shimla, India

      This is a must read post. Voted up :)

    • rls8994 profile image

      rls8994 2 years ago from Mississippi

      Fla Lady

      I am so sorry you are going through this, again :( My heart goes out to you and your son. When someone that we love is addicted to alcohol or drugs, it can bring so much hurt and heartache in our lives. I hope this article was in some way helpful to your situation and you can find the peace that you deserve. :)

    • profile image

      Fla Lady 2 years ago

      My first (late) husband suffered from alcoholism. In hindsight I should have left him years before and sparred our son, and myself, the emotional pain and heartache. I loved my late husband, but he would not/ could not help himself. Unfortunately my second husband suffers from alcohol and substance abuse. I love him but feel like I'm going through hell all over again. Thanks for the excellent and informative article.

    • rls8994 profile image

      rls8994 2 years ago from Mississippi

      So confused

      I am so sorry to hear that you are going through this right now. I really feel for you. Each situation is different and only you can really know what is best for you and your children. It is so hard to know what to do sometimes cause of the love we feel for them. Do you have a pastor or someone like that you could talk to there locally? Maybe they could help him or just help you and whatever decision you may have to make. I wish you the best and will be praying for you.

    • rls8994 profile image

      rls8994 2 years ago from Mississippi

      Yes, it really does. And it just amazes me at the stories I have heard that are similar to mine. Thank you so much for reading! :)

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      So confused 2 years ago

      I am in the middle of this situation now. I am so torn about what to do. I do not want to hurt my children anymore than they have been hurt. My husband did go to rehab about 6 years ago and has been clean since; however about a week ago, he was dragged home intoxicated to the point where I had to call an ambulance. My children witnessed the entire thing. I just don't understand. After 6 years of being clean, how can he go back to this? I want to believe that he will not do this again, but I am having trouble convincing myself that this will be the last time. I am so confused about what to do.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 2 years ago from Shelton

      what a strong hub.. alcoholism does create havoc and articles like this keeps us all aware on how it can damage marriage and family.. thank you for sharing :)

    • rls8994 profile image

      rls8994 2 years ago from Mississippi

      I do not blame you at all. I would've "pre-screened" potential partners as well if I were you. I grew up in a household that did not believe in drinking alcohol so I was never around anyone drinking until I started dating. Even then, I never saw anyone really get drunk. When I met my ex, I did not know his drinking would eventually turn him into an alcoholic.But, unfortunately it did.

      I am doing great now and so are my children. Thank you so much for your comment! :)

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

      I'm happy that you are finding strength and healing now. My mother grew up with an alcoholic father and her family endured some horrible impacts. She also married an alcoholic before she married my dad. As a result of her experience, I "pre-screened" partners for substance abuse issues. That may be cold but it just wasn't worth repeating the suffering. I also choose to avoid alcohol myself; no sense in tempting the genetics element of addiction. I wish you continued success as you move on.

    • rls8994 profile image

      rls8994 2 years ago from Mississippi

      Hi Elizabeth,

      First of all I am sorry for not responding sooner. I have been busy with other things going on in my life and have not been checking this cite like I should be but i'm trying to catch up on everything now.

      I am very sorry you are having to go through this.

      I can feel how painful this has been for you

      through your words and I can honestly say I know

      exactly how you feel. Please don't feel bad for

      what you are feeling and talking about it. You

      have every right to express how you feel. It

      sometimes helps us to sort our problems out when we can talk them out loud or write them down.

      I know it has been several months since you wrote

      this post so I pray that you have found peace and

      are in a better situation now, whether you and

      your husband are still together or not.

      I wish you all the best and please feel free to

      message me if you need a friend to talk to. :)

    • profile image

      elizabeth 3 years ago


      I came across this article because I am in a very similar situation now and having to make one of the toughest decisions in my life to be quite honset. Reading this article clarified as to why I feel the way I do. My father is a functional alcoholic and I have married one as well. My husband is an amazing man, amazing father, with an amazing heart and has been through a bit in life. I have stood by his side for eight years hoping this is a phase. I have cried, argued, begged, enabled, all of the above, you name it. I have lost complete interest in the intimacy category. There is now a thin line between being his mother and wife @ this point. There is constant bickering, with anger and resentment towards each other. I have just gotten to the point where I am not going to sit back silently unhappy to appease him. Right now I am feeling selfish for finally voicing my feelings. I have threatened to leave. Unfortunately, the whole "i will get help, i promise, only a beer or two an evening" lasted a short while, multiple times @ that. Now I must stick to my guns & hurts me I am hurting him. I have now become attracted to other men (have not had "relations" or a "relationship") but i sure as heck am feeding those thoughts now. I never thought I would be in this situation with my husband, ever. I will say this though...and as much as it kills me...if it means me leaving my husband for him to get a hold of him...i will do so. Because at this point, staying in the same household is doing nothing anymore. Forgive me for sharing this information. I take much pride in being a wife and mother at the age of thirty but fearful at this point due to uncertainty. I want to clarify, i love my husband. If he and i do not work out, i will be the cat lady with no cats.

      thank you for sharing.

    • rls8994 profile image

      rls8994 3 years ago from Mississippi


      First of all, I just want to say how happy I am for you and your decision to get the help you needed. I understand it is not an easy thing to do and I commend you for your bravery and determination to get sober!

      After reading your comment a few days ago, I have also been searching the internet for information or statistics on how many men stay with an alcoholic wife. I have come to the conclusion that you are right, it must really be a secret because I can not find any info on this either :(

      I do know, as you have also learned through your experience, more women than men do seem to stay with their alcoholic spouse. I'm not sure why this is most often the case but it does seem to be true.

      I do know there is much info out there on how the damaging effects of alcohol can affect a women's body sooner than in a male. Perhaps that could be a good motivator! I do pray these women in your group take control and beat this terrible disease.

      Thank you so much for reading and your sincere comment. I'm so glad that you found this hub and hoped it helped you in some way :)

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      Lynn 3 years ago

      Thank you for this article. I am an female alcoholic in recovery. I owe my recovery to the grace of my Higher Power and the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous. I have much experience with both male and female alcoholics and through my personal experience with them, have noted that a very small number of men stay with an alcoholic wife while many women stay with an alcoholic husband. I have been scouring the internet and all of our literature to find actual statistics on the divorce rates among alcoholic spouses (husband vs wife), but it seems to be a secret. I cannot find anything. Most of the women I know in AA were abandoned by their spouses. Most of them men had their wives remain and are still married. Do you have info on this? I would like to share with my Sponsees (alcoholic wives) who believe that they can keep continue their behavior because once married, married for better or worse, including alcoholism. Actual statistics my be an awakening for many an alcoholic wife.

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      unknown 4 years ago


      I know what it is like on both sides of this fence. I lived with an abusive alcoholic parent who is now sober and turned to God. I also am a recovering alcoholic. When i was 13 I started drinking by the time i was 25 I hit rock bottom. I had been pronounced dead twice due to alcohol poisOn. I was abusive to friends & family. I looked for trouble every night i wanted to fight. I didn't care who you were or what you did. What changed my life was God support and the Army. I am deeply regretful for the things i did and didn't do during that time of my life. I join the army after getting straight been here for ten years now. Alcohol cost me a great wife and kids. the army taught how to be a man and at least get a start on helping repair some of the scars. I now see my kids as much as possible. they ask me why on a lot of what i did. some things i can't answer due to black outs from alcohol but for the most part i have earned their trust and love again THANK GOD. THANK YOU FOR THIS ARTICLE. I AM SORRY FOR THE PAIN AND SUFFERING THAT YOU OR ANYONE HAS TO ENDURE FROM ALCOHOL.

    • rls8994 profile image

      rls8994 5 years ago from Mississippi


      Thank you so much for your sweet words. I sincerely hope this can help someone else that may be going through a similar sitiuation. Things are difinitely getting better for both my children and I. I'm meeting people and having fun,something I never was able to do before. It's a whole new life and I'm enjoying it :) I appreciate you stopping by and taking time to read this article and for your words of encouragement :)

    • rls8994 profile image

      rls8994 5 years ago from Mississippi

      Thank you James for such kind words. I am so much happier with my life now and my children are doing good. I do thank God for my strong support of friends and family. They have been great. Thanks so much for taking the time to read this. I really do apprciate it :)

    • Jangaplanet profile image

      A James Di Rodi 5 years ago

      Hi rls8994 :) First I would like to commend you for putting together a very honest, deep and emotional hub. With so much information on alcohol dependence. I think many who find themselves in a similar situation will benefit greatly from this article, as it explains things in such great depth. I have never been affected personally, but I can imagine the emotional impact it had on you, and your children. I am sorry you had to endure, and go through this. It is difficult. I hope things are getting better for you each day. I give you so much credit for being strong enough to walk away. Alcoholism destroys so many families, and the effects on the self esteem are so deep. You can't change the past, but you can change the future for you and your children.

      God bless.

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago

      Thank you for sharing your painful story. I can feel the terrible toll this has taken on you and your children. But in the end it is a message of hope that with faith in God and support from friends and loved ones you can make a new life for yourself. God Bless You.


    • rls8994 profile image

      rls8994 5 years ago from Mississippi


      I believe that some of us are just more prone to having an addiction. A person's character, their home environment growing up and their relationships with family and friends may be factors that contribute to an alcohlic addiction. Thank you for your insightful comment. I appreciate it very much :)

    • rls8994 profile image

      rls8994 5 years ago from Mississippi

      Thank you Brett for the kind words. I just hope the knowledge I have may be used to help someone else in this situation. Thanks so much for stopping by and reading! :)

      Billybuc thank you for reading my article and your comment. I will definitely visit your site and read yours as well :)

      Chamilj I agree with you. Alcohol manufacturers benefit greatly from those who drink a lot. I appreciate you taking the time to read my article and leaving your comment. Thanks so much! :)

    • cebutouristspot profile image

      cebutouristspot 5 years ago from Cebu

      This is an interesting topic you cover. Everything done in excess is bad. :) But aside from alcohol the person character its important. I know a lot of people that drink often yet is a good family man. I guess knowing one's limit is also important

    • chamilj profile image

      chamilj 5 years ago from Sri Lanka

      Excellent article. Actually drinking alcohol is very useless. No one will benefit from it except Alcohol manufacturers and traders.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Very informative hub about a disease I know all too well. If you want to visit my site I might be able to give you some insights you haven't thought of...if it helps you heal in any way then I'll be happy. Blessings to you on your new journey.

    • Brett.Tesol profile image

      Brett Caulton 5 years ago from Thailand

      It is a shame you have had to live through this, but you really used that knowledge well in this article! It takes in the big picture and don't attack the alcoholic, but highlights the overall negative impact of this disease.

      shared, up, interesting and useful.

    • rls8994 profile image

      rls8994 5 years ago from Mississippi

      Hi Nell, Yes I am so glad that I am free from that siuation! I love my life now and looking forward to what's ahead. Thank you so much for your kind words :)

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 5 years ago from England

      Hi, I am so sorry that you had to go through this, I had a friend who was a terrible alcoholic, and I do understand, really good information, and I am so pleased that you are now free from this situation, rated up!

    • rls8994 profile image

      rls8994 5 years ago from Mississippi


      Yes alcohol does affect every aspect of your life as well as the people around you. Thank you for taking the time to read my article. I appreciate it!

    • samadaslam profile image

      Samad Aslam Khan 5 years ago

      Nice topic you chosen to discuss here and I appreciate it much. Alcoholism definitely affects your social life and your relations as well. It should be avoided at every cost. I don't see even a single benefit of drinking Alcohol.

      As per it's bad effects on Marriage and Family so it has quite adverse effects. What good can be expected from a person who's no in his senses?

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