My Husband Is an Alcoholic and I Don't Know How Much More I Can Take

"My husband and I have been married for 10 years, and we have two girls, ages seven and nine. My problem is that my husband smokes pot and has a drinking problem. This is not new, though. He has always been a beer drinker, but now he is a functioning alcoholic who runs a successful business and says that I don't do anything to contribute. However, I am a full-time teacher and I take care of our family. I think he feels unappreciated, but I can't give him the support that he is looking for him because the substance abuse has made me lose respect for him. He says he won't stop what he does because he won't 'kowtow to me.' And I know that we need counseling, but he absolutely refuses to go. Deep down, he is a good person. He is not abusive, he doesn't cheat, he just abuses substances, and I don't know how much more I can take. What should I do?" --iVillager mel_1b


Brenda Shoshanna

Dr. Shoshanna is a psychologist, therapist and certified divorce and family mediator. She has written five books, including Zen and the... Read more

Dear mel_1b,
You have some decisions to make. It sounds as if you're with a man you care about but do not respect. Your first option is to try to find a way to accept his behavior. This means finding a way to let him be who he is. That way, he might be more helpful and involved with you and the children. When we show acceptance to a spouse, rather than criticism or even silent rejection, they feel it and are sometimes able to be closer to us. This is a very delicate matter, though. It does not mean that you should accept behavior that is destructive for him or for yourself. Nor does it mean that you should not call attention to the problems in your relationship. It means that you have to decide what you can and cannot tolerate, then weigh whether his good behavior and his good points outweigh the problems that he brings to your marriage.

My professional opinion is something that I'm sure you'll agree with; substance abuse problems (alcohol and pot, etc.) are touchy matters. As we know, both of these problems can intensify people's emotions, which in cases like yours, make matters much worse. The fact that he's abusing these substances generally signifies that there are underlying issues that your husband is not facing and has to work out for himself. Is he willing to seek help and change his behavior? If not, there is unfortunately no way that you can force him to.

So let's get to the heart of your decision. You describe your husband as a functioning alcoholic. Can you live with that? If he is absolutely unwilling to seek help, you have to decide how much this impacts your life. Either way, can you accept him as he is, stop judging him and give him more respect and acceptance for his good points? If you can, this may even help him feel better about himself and encourage him to be more available to you. If you cannot do this, can you sit down with him, talk honestly and tell him? Will you be able to tell him that you love and respect him but feel the two of you badly need counseling? Perhaps if he realizes the seriousness of the situation -- that you are thinking of leaving -- this will be enough to convince him. The bottom line is that no matter how close or committed you are to your husband, the only person you can truly control (for better or worse) is yourself.

Do you have a question for the Relationship Saver? Join Dr. Shoshanna on the Relationship Saver message board and bi-monthly chat (every other Monday at 8pm ET).

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