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Divorce Because of Alcohol Abuse

Medically Reviewed by: Charley Allen

Table of Contents

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Alcohol abuse is notorious for destroying relationships and marriages. A study found that rates of divorce amongst couples with a spouse who has alcohol use disorder are almost 50% higher than couples without an alcoholic spouse. It is incredibly difficult to put up with alcohol abuse in a marriage as it puts both party’s mental, and in some cases physical, well-being at risk. In many cases, alcohol use exacerbates existing relationship problems along with creating new issues, ultimately resulting in the addict drinking more. This vicious cycle, in many cases, results in divorce. This blog will discuss the relationship between alcohol use disorder and divorce.

What is Alcoholism?

It can be difficult to determine whether or not someone is an alcoholic. Being able to recognize when one’s behavior crosses the line from drinking socially to drinking excessively is important. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a medical condition in which someone’s alcohol consumption causes hard or distress. Some symptoms of alcoholism include:

  • Loss of control: the inability to control how much one drinks
  • Tolerance: the need to drink greater volumes of alcohol in order to feel desired effects
  • Craving: a strong compulsion to drink
  • Physical dependence: withdrawal symptoms, such as sweating, nausea, shakiness, and more, when alcohol use is stopped

Alcoholism is not only detrimental to the addict, but also to their loved ones. Family members and loved ones often deny or downplay the alcoholic behavior exhibited by the addict. This denial may help manage the consequences of the alcoholic’s use in the short term, but in the long term, denial can cause the addiction to become more severe and can damage your relationship with the addict. 

How Alcoholism Affects Marriages

It’s very difficult to approach a loved one about their addiction, especially as their spouse. More often than not, the individual is reluctant to admit they have a problem until their life becomes unmanageable. Alcoholism puts all daily responsibilities on the back burner and makes drinking the individual’s number one priority. This means that, in a marriage, the addict may begin to lie to their spouse, not care for the kids, neglect their job responsibilities, and more. This all severely damages the relationship between the addict and the spouse. Alcoholism can also cause serious health problems that can take a toll on the relationship. If the addict does not get treatment, the spouse is left to take care of the addict and face the consequences of the addict’s actions. 

Living with and loving an addict can be incredibly exhausting and feel like a never-ending battle. Many people find that alcohol changes the person they love into someone else entirely. As well, the addict may no longer be available to their spouse physically or emotionally. These changes, of course, can cause a massive rift within the marriage as it may feel like you are married to a stranger. In some cases, this can make choosing to divorce the addict easier, but, in other cases, it can also make the decision that much more heartbreaking. When someone’s personality completely changes due to alcohol it may feel like you’re mourning a loved one. This takes a significant toll on your mental well-being and your ability to function on a day-to-day basis. Many spouses ask for a divorce because they can no longer handle the mental and physical toll the addict’s use has on themselves and their family.

How to Divorce an Alcoholic Spouse While Caring for Yourself

Divorcing an addict is a difficult feat and it is important to understand that the process will most likely be heartbreaking and exhausting. You may feel guilty for divorcing your spouse because the abuse was due to their alcoholism and not because they are a bad person. Feelings of guilt are common but are not necessarily an indication that you’ve made the wrong decision.

Make sure to talk to a lawyer because divorcing an alcoholic can be tricky. Find a lawyer that specializes in family law and be honest about how your spouse’s use has caused your relationship to deteriorate. You must have evidence of how the addict’s abuse has negatively impacted your relationship and your overall well-being. Make sure whatever you do, that you stay safe and are doing what you believe is best for the situation.

It is important to acknowledge, however, that divorce is not always the best or only option. Of course, if you feel unsafe mentally and/or physically, divorce may be exactly what is needed. That being said, sometimes all the addict needs is an extra push to reach out and get help. If you want to increase the likelihood of the addict seeking treatment, do the research for them. Look into both inpatient and outpatient options as well as sober living alternatives. If your spouse sees that there are different options and that they have some kind of agency, they are more likely to be open to starting treatment.

Addressing Alcoholism at Design for Recovery

Design for Recovery is a sober living in West LA. Design for Recovery offers a structured environment to become more secure in your sobriety. Residents work hard daily to develop new skills, values, and coping mechanisms for approaching life in early recovery. During this process, residents develop close friendships with their peers and become connected with the Los Angeles recovery community. Take advantage of Design for Recovery’s safe space to regain control over your alcoholism and begin to mend your relationship. At Design for Recovery, we believe that addiction recovery involves more than just physically abstaining from substances — it involves building a new way of life.

Read Further:

Is Alcoholism a Disease: The Side Effects of Alcohol Abuse


Edited by: David Beasley

David Beasley - Design for Recovery

David Beasley is a certified RADT (Registered Alcohol/Drug Technician). David, moved to California from North Carolina after many failed attempts to get sober.

Medically Reviewed by: Charley Allen

Charley earned his Masters of Clinical Psychology from Antioch University, Los Angeles, and is a California Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT).He teaches mindfulness to both adults and children in group setting such as schools, corporate workplaces, and medical treatment facilities.

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