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Relationships with an alcoholic: what’s your part?

Is your relationship straight up or on the rocks? Or is that the question the bartender asks your partner when they order a drink?

Traveling down any relationship path has speed bumps, quick turns, and rocky times. Each journey looks different depending on the personality types, addictions, coping mechanisms, etc. Yet your relationship has alcohol wedged in the middle.

The extreme speed bumps and rocky times impact you drastically, so you simply want to find a way to stay strapped in and survive the trip. You tighten up the safety harnesses, put extra cushioning on the relationship, and try to manage everything all on your own, yet you don’t get the same in return. Does this sound familiar?

When the relationship has alcohol in the middle creating chaos, both partners get caught in the dance of coping and surviving. One relies on alcohol to manage the intense emotions, and the other tries to organize the relationship and make everything okay.

Let’s face it… you are in a relationship with an alcoholic. It can be easy to point out and blame your partner’s drinking for the problems. Excessive and out of control drinking is definitely an issue and something that needs to STOP to heal a relationship. But let’s keep in mind… relationships take two to tango, what’s your part?

Here is a checklist for you to review and consider your part in the alcohol dance of survival.

Do you….

• Pretend, deny, or overlook how much the alcohol bothers you?

• Quickly jump to “caretaker” role; go out of your way to fix situations while walking on eggshells?

• Try to get your partner to stop drinking, hide the alcohol, or point out their problem?

• Placate, pacify, and calm most situations to prevent drinking or fights, yet at the cost of your own well being?

• Sacrifice what you want or need, and think more of how to please your partner?

• Put everyone else on your “to-do” list, yet you don’t even make it on the list?

• Draw a blank when you are asked what you want, need, or desire?

• Avoid expressing your thoughts or being assertive because you feel guilty?

• Say that you won’t tolerate the alcohol, yet cave in time and time again?

• Hold in what you feel, until it gets to a boiling point and you let the steam out in an unproductive manner?

• Go from extremes; full speed ahead to a dead stop?

• Minimize, make excuses, or even cover up the drinking?

If you answered yes to some of these questions, you may fall into the dance of codependency, or as I call it “survival.” You try to take control of the chaos and survive, yet you get hurt in the long run.

Some of these survival tools can actually hurt you and your relationships long term. Take a step back and look at the big picture. Evaluate your role in the relationship. It takes two to tango…so if you want to change your position in the tango, you have to take the first step.

I dare you!

Jennine Estes has a couple's therapy practice dealing with all aspects of conflict, working through sexual addiction issues, and/or increasing intimacy. She is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (MFC#47653) with a private practice conveniently located in Mission Valley of San Diego. Not only does Jennine have a therapy practice focused on relationships and sexual addiction, she also provides relationship advice on her blog: Relationships In The Raw.