Coping Strategies for Living With a Partner With Alcoholism: Self-Care and Support Systems (2024)

According to the American Addiction Centers, alcoholism can create significant stress within a family, regardless of whether the one consuming it is a parent, child, extended family member, or an elderly relative. When one spouse misuses alcohol, it can have an even more profound impact, given the unique dependence between partners.

The spouse of an individual with alcohol misuse issues is likely to experience associated problems such as feelings of abandonment, worthlessness, guilt, and self-blame.

If you’re living with someone with alcoholism, you know firsthand how challenging and stressful it can be. Alcoholism can cause huge problems in relationships, from arguments and fights to feelings of depression and isolation. But there are ways that you can support yourself during this difficult time.

We’ve compiled a list of seven strategies that may help ease some of the stress associated with having to live with a partner struggling with alcoholism:

Educate Yourself


The first step to coping with someone with alcoholism is learning as much about the disease as possible. To do this, it’s important to be aware of the stages of alcohol dependence and the effects that drinking has on your body and brain. The more you know about alcoholism, the better prepared you’ll be for handling any situation that may arise.

According to Healthline, understanding your partner’s triggers can simplify the process of supporting them as they attempt to avoid situations that may lead to drinking episodes.

A recent study involving a small sample size revealed that being at a party or a bar is one of the most common triggers for individuals with alcohol use disorder (AUD). This is why it is suggested to arrange and promote social activities that don’t involve alcohol.

Take Care of Yourself


Self-care is the most important thing you can do for yourself and your loved ones. If you don’t take care of yourself, then no one else will be able to either. This means that it’s not selfish or self-centered for you to focus on your own needs. Doing so will make it easier for everyone around you who depends upon your strength and stability.

Here are some examples of self-care activities:

  • Spending time with friends or family members who support you
  • Getting regular exercise (e.g., running)
  • Eating healthy meals every day
  • Taking a nap whenever you need it

Seek Support


It’s important to get support. There are many ways to do this:

  • Support groups, where you can talk with others who have lived through similar experiences and learn from their experiences.
  • Family and friends who will listen without judgment and give you unconditional love.
  • Therapy, whether on your own or in couples therapy with your partner if he is willing to attend as well.
  • 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Al-Anon offer a safe space for people dealing with the effects of someone else’s drinking problems.

Medical News Today states that, in 1935, AA was established by Bob Smith, a surgeon from Ohio, and Bill Wilson, a stockbroker, and entrepreneur from New York City. Wilson was the first person whom Smith assisted in overcoming alcohol addiction. Today, AA has a presence in 180 countries and nearly 2 million members worldwide, with over 1.2 million of them residing in the United States.

Seek Professional Help


Couples therapy can provide a space for partners to explore the impact of alcoholism on their relationship, work through feelings of resentment and anger, and rebuild trust and intimacy. With the guidance of a therapist, couples can develop healthier coping mechanisms and strengthen their relationship.

Experienced couples therapists in cities like New York City use evidence-based approaches, such as Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and the Gottman Method, which are effective in helping couples improve their relationship in case of alcoholism and substance abuse.

Couples therapy in New York City can be accessed through private practice, clinics, hospitals, and community health centers. Many therapists also offer online therapy options, which can be a convenient and flexible option for couples with busy schedules or who prefer to receive therapy from the comfort of their own homes.

Set Boundaries

Setting boundaries is a crucial aspect of maintaining healthy relationships and ensuring your own well-being. When dealing with someone who struggles with alcoholism, it becomes even more imperative to establish clear boundaries to protect yourself and support your recovery journey.

One effective tool in this process is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). There are three primary types of boundaries to consider:

Personal Boundaries: Defining Your Limits

Personal boundaries involve delineating what you are willing and unwilling to do in relation to the individual dealing with alcoholism. It’s essential to be honest with yourself about your comfort level and capabilities.

For instance, you may decide that you won’t participate in enabling behaviors, such as covering up for their actions or supplying them with alcohol. Establishing personal boundaries helps you maintain your integrity while providing a supportive environment.

Emotional Boundaries: Managing Contact

Emotional boundaries pertain to the level of emotional involvement and contact you maintain with your partner or loved one struggling with alcoholism. It’s essential to find a balance that preserves your emotional well-being. This might involve setting limits on the frequency and intensity of interactions, especially when dealing with difficult or triggering situations.

Financial Boundaries: Money Matters

Financial boundaries involve decisions about how money is managed in your relationship. Alcoholism can strain finances, so it’s crucial to establish clear guidelines on spending, budgeting, and financial responsibilities. This may include setting aside funds for treatment or counseling while avoiding enabling behaviors that contribute to their addiction.

Integrating Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) into your approach to boundaries can aid in developing healthier coping mechanisms and strategies for dealing with the challenges associated with alcoholism.

Practice Detachment


Detachment is a way to cope with the emotional pain of living with someone struggling with alcoholism. You can practice detachment by detaching yourself from your partner’s drinking and behaviors, as well as your thoughts and feelings about his or her drinking. This can be accomplished in two ways:

  • With other people- when you’re out at parties, for example, try to focus on having fun instead of thinking about how much time has passed since your partner last texted you back
  • With yourself- if you find yourself obsessing over whether or not your partner will come home drunk tonight (or tomorrow night), take a moment to remind yourself that worrying won’t change anything. Instead of dwelling on these thoughts, focus on something else like going for a walk or baking cookies.

Practice Mindfulness

Practicing mindfulness can help you manage stress and anxiety. Here are some ways to practice mindfulness:

  • Take some time out of each day to sit quietly by yourself. Close your eyes and breathe in through your nose for four seconds, then out through your mouth for eight seconds. Repeat this cycle three times before moving on to another activity (such as reading or listening).

If you find it difficult to focus on breathing alone, try counting each breath instead. Start at one and count up to ten before starting again at one if necessary.

  • When you feel stressed out by something someone has said or done, whether it was directed towards yourself or someone else, take a few minutes away from them. This way they don’t distract from what’s important here, which is learning how best to not only survive but thrive under such circumstances without letting things get too overwhelming.


We hope you found this article helpful and can apply some of these strategies to your situation. Remember that you have a lot of resources available- friends, family members, support groups, and more.

If at any point during the process of caring for yourself or setting boundaries with your partner struggling with alcoholism, you feel like things are too much for you to handle alone, reach out.