Alcohol Affects Spousal Relationships

How Alcohol Affects Spousal Relationships

As one of the most common addictions across the globe, alcoholism effects the lives of many. Unfortunately, it is not just the lives of addicts who are affected. Families, friends and loved ones also suffer when an addict loses control, and the uphill battle to regain what has been lost can take a very long time, if the relationships ever recover at all.

For those closest to alcoholics, including partners and spouses, the challenges of alcoholism are seen every day. Unfortunately, even when an individual agrees to help their struggling partner, it can be hard to maintain the relationship that was once there.

If you’re wondering how alcohol affects spousal relationships, there are a wide range of experiences and emotions that will be affected by alcohol abuse.


One of the first areas that alcoholics struggle with in their close relationships is intimacy. This does not necessarily mean sexual activity, either. Intimacy can be given and felt on all different kinds of levels, and it provides a closeness that humans crave and value.

Components of an intimate relationship that can be harmed in an alcoholic relationship include trust, affection, commitment, respect and shared values.

A partner will likely notice symptoms of alcoholism intensifying when their partner begins to put more value on their drinking habit and less value on their relationship’s needs. They may become less reliable, less interested in their partner and generally a “different person”.


Alcohol is a depressant, and it affects the levels of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a chemical that helps us to balance our emotions, and when too much alcohol affects the brain, users can become aggressive, angry and violent.

Unfortunately, many partners and spouses will be at the receiving end of this abuse, whether it’s verbal, emotional or physical. It’s common for couples to engage in more arguments, simply because of the lack of trust, disappointment and even financial troubles as a result of the drinking problem.

How alcohol affects spousal relationships differs between every couple, but if there are any signs of domestic abuse it is important to take action. Many partners stay quiet about abuse because their partner feels badly thereafter; however, it is likely that the abuse will only intensify the longer it is excused.

Sex Drive  

The longer an alcohol addiction lasts, the more disinterested an alcoholic will be with pleasing their spouse and maintaining different aspects of the relationship. Alcohol will quickly become the main priority, and when it does, individuals tend to lose interest in sexual acts.

For men, it is common that they will experience erectile dysfunction as a result of alcoholism, and women can experience decreased libido.


When a spousal relationship suffers due to alcoholism, it is not uncommon for an alcoholic to search for that intimacy somewhere else. Acts of infidelity may occur while an individual is intoxicated, and some of these acts are done without protection, and sometimes without any recollection that they happened at all.

Although many partners will attempt to support their alcoholic partners, research shows that relationships with one heavy drinker are 50% more likely to end in divorce.

No one can truly understand how alcohol affects spousal relationships, unless they’ve experienced it first-hand. Living with an alcoholic on a day-to-day basis, and witnessing their downfall can be a hard pill to swallow, and many partners blame themselves for what has happened.

It is important that both partners receive treatment for this kind of emotional experience. If you know someone in this position, consider suggesting counseling or rehabilitation, to help them gain an understanding of what is happening and what they can do.