Updated on April 3, 2024
5 min read

What to Do When Your Wife Drinks Too Much

Is My Wife an Alcoholic?

Your wife may be an alcoholic if she abuses alcohol, especially if her side of the family has a history of alcoholism or she copes with depression, which puts her at a higher risk of developing alcohol addiction.

Your wife may also be a binge drinker but not quite an alcoholic just yet. It can sometimes be hard to tell the difference.

An estimated 15 million people battle alcoholism in the United States. Alcoholics struggle with an impaired ability to stop or control their alcohol intake. But not everyone who drinks aggressively is considered an alcoholic.

While AUD encompasses binge drinking, alcohol abuse, and alcoholism, and one can lead to the next, they’re not all the same.

10 Signs Your Wife May Be An Alcoholic

If you can answer yes to the following questions, your wife might be a struggling alcoholic.

Here are 10 possible signs your wife is an alcoholic:

  1. Does she experience any inability to limit her drinking?
  2. Have you noticed that she continues to consume more and more alcohol?
  3. Has she developed a high tolerance for alcohol that requires her to drink more and more to achieve the same effect?
  4. Do you find that she neglects her self-care, like her hygiene or nutrition?
  5. Does she often drink alone?
  6. Do you find that she lets her obligations and responsibilities like work, school, and family fall to the wayside?
  7. Have you caught her lying or making excuses about her drinking habits?
  8. Does she continue to consume alcohol despite alcohol-induced issues?
  9. Has she told you about having any cravings for alcohol?
  10. Has she experienced any alcohol withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, irritability, or tremors?

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Binge Drinking and Alcohol Abuse

Binge drinking is defined as a drinking pattern that elevates one’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level to 0.08 g/dL. BAC may differ from person to person based on weight, sex, and other factors.

Nearly one-third of American adults are considered excessive drinkers, but only 10 percent of them are considered alcoholics. Not everyone who binge drinks is considered an alcohol abuser either.

Alcohol abusers continue to drink alcohol despite: 

  • Recurrent, alcohol-induced health problems
  • Social consequences
  • Occupational consequences
  • Legal consequences

People who abuse alcohol may have an easier quitting than alcoholics, who develop a dependency on alcohol.

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What Does Having an Alcoholic Spouse Do To a Marriage?

An alcoholic partner can take a toll on you in a few ways. Alcoholism is linked to high levels of anxiety, depression, and neuroticism that can lead to domestic and emotional violence in relationships.

Even if abuse doesn’t come into play, alcoholics tend to ignore the needs of their loved ones. As a result, they often fall short in fulfilling their marital roles and responsibilities.

Of course, partners of alcoholics can suffer because of this. They may find themselves carrying the weight of their families and taking care of their partners instead of being in mutually beneficial and supportive relationships.

Alcoholism can also lead to mistrust between spouses, which can break up marriages.

Because alcoholics tend to lie about their drinking habits and may even try to hide their consumption, this kind of secrecy is toxic for relationships.

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Tips: How to Live with an Alcoholic Wife 

Living with an alcoholic wife isn’t easy on anyone. Alcoholism doesn’t only affect the person battling it; it also affects their loved ones who care about their health and safety. Here are some tips for living with a partner who is an alcoholic:

  1. Be aware of your wife’s drinking behaviors.
  2. Be supportive of your wife in her path to recovery.
  3. Engage in social activities that do not involve drinking alcohol.
  4. Hold your wife accountable for her actions and inactions due to alcohol abuse.
  5. Set boundaries.
  6. Reach out for professional help.

What to Avoid

In order to help your alcoholic wife, don't:

  1. Keep alcohol in the house.
  2. Drink around your wife.
  3. Financially support your wife’s unhealthy drinking habits.
  4. Enable or make excuses for her behavior.

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How to Help Your Loved One Stop Drinking

Your wife needs a support system during this difficult time. Be present, communicative, and supportive throughout her recovery journey.

Staging family interventions is a great starting point. But reaching out for professional help is crucial. You may not be able to help her alone, as she’s long past binge drinking and alcohol abuse.

There are various options to help her, including (but not limited to):

Couples and family therapy can also help you get through her heavy drinking problem or any mental illness that’s triggering her together.

When to Step Away

An alcoholic who is reliant on another person, like their partner, can grow even more dependent on that person for support.

While your role as your wife’s partner is to support her (and her role is to support you), enabling her poor behavior or financially feeding her alcoholism doesn’t help either of you. Soon enough, her drinking problem may become an even bigger problem in your marriage.

Remember, your wife’s alcohol or drug addiction is not your fault. If her alcohol problems are beginning to take a toll on your well-being you may need to take a step back.

After all, you cannot be supportive if you are feeling burned out.

Professional addiction treatment options are available, and your wife may need more help than you alone can give her. Reach out to support groups and seek professional help.

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Updated on April 3, 2024
14 sources cited
Updated on April 3, 2024
  1. Alcohol Questions and Answers.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 15 Jan. 2020.

  2. Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD).MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 29 Apr. 2020.

  3. Alcohol Use Disorder.National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 4 June 2020.

  4. Alcohol Use Disorder: A Comparison Between DSM–IV and DSM–5.National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 13 Mar. 2020

  5. Drinking Levels Defined.National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 26 June 2020

  6. Drinking Too Much Alcohol Can Harm Your Health. Learn the Facts.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 30 Dec. 2019

  7. Factors That Affect How Alcohol Is Absorbed & Metabolized.Factors That Affect How Alcohol Is Absorbed & Metabolized | Office of Alcohol Policy and Education

  8. Family History of Alcoholism: Are You at Risk?Department of Mental Health

  9. How Alcohol Use Disorder Can Affect Romantic Relationships.Discovery Mood & Anxiety Program, 5 Feb. 2019.

  10. Preventing Chronic Disease.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

  11. Publishing, Harvard Health. “Alcohol Abuse.Harvard Health

  12. Sharma, Nitasha, et al. “Living with an Alcoholic Partner: Problems Faced and Coping Strategies Used by Wives of Alcoholic Clients.Industrial Psychiatry Journal, Medknow Publications & Media Pvt Ltd, 2016

  13. Skerrett, Patrick J. “Heavy Drinkers Aren't Necessarily Alcoholics, but May Be ‘Almost Alcoholics.Harvard Health Blog, 17 June 2020.

  14. What Is AA?Aa.org.

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