A spouse who is a heavy drinker has been linked to divorce.

Ending a Marriage Involving an Alcoholic

by Arlin Cuncic

In 2012, 6.1 percent of Americans were classified as heavy drinkers, translating into roughly 19 million Americans with potentially problematic drinking patterns, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition, heavy drinking on the part of one spouse is linked to an increased risk for divorce. If you are struggling in a marriage to an alcoholic spouse, choosing to leave the relationship may be the best solution, if you have exhausted all treatment avenues.

Seek Treatment

If your spouse has not sought treatment for alcoholism, you may wish to speak to a therapist who deals with addiction. Twelve-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous are another alternative. Unfortunately, alcoholism is a progressive disease and your partner may be unwilling to admit that he needs help or has a problem. If you want to exhaust all options before ending the marriage, you could hold an intervention. Seek the assistance of a trained mental-health professional, if you choose to go this route.

Choose to Leave

If you have exhausted your options and you've given in to frustration and anger, it may be time to leave the marriage. In the "Psychology Today" article, "So You're Married to An Addict: Is Divorce Inevitable?" licensed clinical social worker, Susan Pease Gadoua reports that many partners of alcoholics stay longer than they should, because of fear of the unknown, pressure from relatives or religious commitments. However, when you are certain that things will not change or that your personal well-being is at risk, you should put your reasons to stay in perspective.

Stop Covering Up

In the "Huffington Post" article, "The Relationship Between Alcoholism and Divorce," divorce and family law attorney Susan Saper Galamba advises taking several steps in preparation for ending a marriage to an alcoholic. Galamba describes alcoholism of a spouse as the "monster in the closet" that you've probably tried to hide for years. Stop hiding the alcoholic behavior of your spouse from your family and friends, she asserts, to gain proof of the addiction for divorce proceedings. Galamba suggests that you obtain the help of a mental health professional to assist you through this difficult time.

Separation and Divorce

Once the choice to leave is made, decide between a separation and divorce. A trial separation gives you the option of working on the marriage in the future whereas a divorce is final. Although some alcoholics may react to the prospect of a divorce with a change in behavior, threats to end the marriage should never be idle -- you must be ready and prepared to leave. Although divorce will be difficult on you and your family, it may be the only solution when the alcoholic's behavior has become unmanageable. Secondary complications of alcoholism include lying, bullying, anger and trouble with the law. In these instances, divorce is not a failure -- but a chance to take control of your life.


About the Author

Arlin Cuncic has been writing about mental health since 2007, specializing in social anxiety disorder and depression topics. She served as the managing editor of the "Journal of Attention Disorders" and has worked in a variety of research settings. Cuncic holds an M.A. in clinical psychology.

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