Issues with my partner, alcohol, boundaries and failure

Content Warning: mentions of alcohol use/its effects

Hello

I’m having a tough time with my partner, specifically his behavior and substance use, and its effects on me.

My partner has ongoing alcohol use issues. We’ve talked about it a ton. His general feelings are:

  1. His substance use isn’t a problem
  2. He’s only using alcohol on the weekends
  3. It doesn’t effect his work or relationships
  4. He likes to drink because its fun/his friends do it
  5. The only time he can cry is while he is drunk, and he needs that emotional release, so alcohol is an acceptable way to get that
  6. He doesn’t need therapy, its not for him, he doesn’t want it/need it, and that he’s never tried it
  7. He can communicate with me better while drunk, because when he’s sober, he “doesn’t want to bother me” with his thoughts/feelings

I’m sure there’s more, but these are the main/recurring points.

From my point of view, here are some of the things I see/keep bringing up:

  1. The amount, frequency and patterns of his alcohol use line up with some of the indicators for binge drinking/alcohol abuse and long-term physical issues (he often shouts/moves around a lot while asleep after drinking)
  2. His alcohol use is effecting our relationship
  3. The fact that the only way he can cry when drunk indicates a maladaptive coping mechanism/difficulty connecting to his emotions, which for me was an indication I needed therapy
  4. Therapy (which I have been in for years) is something worth trying for everyone to manage/be proactive about mental health
  5. If he says he cannot communicate with me effectively while sober, that is incredibly concerning for our relationship

We have been coming back to this conversation for months now. This was sparked by an incident when he was drunk and I was sober. We got into a heated conversation and he began speaking very aggressively/with a lot of force and punching himself in the chest to emphasize his point. I got very scared of him (as he very rarely raises his voice or expresses himself that way), and completely shut down, could not stop crying and chose to sleep on the couch because I did not feel comfortable near him while he was asleep since his sleep talking/movements after drinking scare me.

After this incident, I set these firm boundaries: I will no longer be around him when he drinks, and if he has been drinking he either needs to sleep at a friends house, sleep on the couch or let me know ahead of time so I can sleep on the couch.

These boundaries have been effective for me.

He has said, multiple times, that he hates these boundaries, that they take away the opportunity for him to be open and honest with me, that he hates sleeping apart from me, that it’s not that big of a deal, things like that.

The thing I’m struggling with now is the reality that I see an issue and he doesn’t. For me, its so cut and dry: alcohol is a problem, he needs to stop drinking, and needs help to address the things that make him drink.

But I know that making him stop is not my place, that his choices are outside of my control, that the pain, hurt and turmoil that I am facing is not enough to make him change, that there’s only so much I can do, that getting help is something he needs to want for it to be effective, that in the end its his life, his body, his mind, and the ultimate choice is his.

It’s as if this situation is tapping into my deep seated issues with control, facing reality, perfectionism and failure, which are all things I’m addressing in therapy. Of course, its mental health so its slow going, and these issues come up every weekend, as he drinks every weekend.

Actions are some of the main ways I receive love. And my brain is telling me: he loves alcohol more than me, he’s choosing alcohol over you, your pain is not enough for him to change, he must not really love you. I can combat/logically respond to these thoughts, but again, these thoughts appear every weekend, and I’m starting to feel burnt out.

So I suppose here is my ask/need for support: what are some effective strategies for setting boundaries for my brain about expectations/feelings of failure? If you’ve dealt with a situation like this, or can give context for what may be going on in my partner’s head, do you have any sort of advice/support? Are there things I am doing/am not doing that may help here?

Thank you for reading

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Well I feel that has a lot things going on. As men we don’t know to deal with our feelings. For me I’m the jerk take his anger and hurt on people. It so much intense emotions it come out. It pretty toxic masculinity, we not meant to cry and Amit our weakness. Addiction is a hard thing to over and some people want Amit they have it. Such for me I have addiction to self harm, eating unhealthy food, spending money, and my phone. It make the pain feel less bad, however it only a bandage.

I think before making him quit, is least go therapy route. Because therpist have more better to do with people and there issues. If you maybe try see if his one close guy friends can talk to him.

Also I feel what help too is DBT therapy , which talk overcoming addiction and mental health struggle.

I’m sorry you have go through this and I hope you two the best

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Im so sorry that you’re going through this right now. It’s dangerous if he keeps drinking alcohol because he will have upcoming issues if he doesn’t lower it down. If he’s drinking because his friends are, then it could be a bad influence cause then he could really hurt himself. When he drinks, I would suggest just leaving the house. Go over to your parents or a friend’s house. If he chooses alcohol, over you, leave at all costs. He missed a perfect opportunity with you because you are so worth it. You are a queen and you deserve so much more.

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I know that a lot of his issues with emotions come from his upbringing/general cultural attitudes. I agree that therapy would be the best route, and I’m struggle to justify/persuade him that it’s worth it. DBT is also very useful, I’ve use some of it in my own mental health journey. Thank you for the kind words

Thank you for the validation. We originally had a boundary of him not drinking in the house (we live together), but now I just separate myself from him when he drinks. He also doesn’t drink much in the house because I won’t interact with him when he does, so he has no incentive to do that anymore. I have been struggling for a while with knowing if this is a deal breaker or not. Right now, it’s not, because he is currently respecting the boundaries (even if he doesn’t like them), and I think of things were to escalate, I would know when enough is enough. Thank you for your response

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I’m so sorry you’re going through this. As someone that comes from a family with an alcoholic father as well as currently in a relationship with someone that’s an alcoholic, please remember, you can’t save him. You mention that sometimes you feel like he loves alcohol more than you. This is not true. Maybe he doesn’t understand that he’s an alcoholic, but I’m pretty sure he is. It’s a disease and unfortunately he won’t realize this until he hits rock bottom.

It’s good that you’ve set boundaries for yourself. That’s amazing. My advice to you, would be to continue with the boundaries. Be there for him when you’re mentally able to but you can’t enable him. Let him know you love him, care about him and continue pressuring him to seek help. Maybe offer to attend an AA meeting with him? Or if he’s not wanting to do that, you can attend a Al anon meeting for extra support.

I hope things get better and all my positive thoughts are with you.

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The thought that I need to “save” him is sometimes very appealing, so thank you for reminding me that while that is temping, its not realistic or fair to either of us.
I’ve been talking with my therapist about some Al Anon support (as well as talking with people in the HS community), and I’ve also gotten some books on alcoholism and supporting a loved one who struggles with substance use. As I mentioned, he’s pretty against therapy, and thinks there’s no issue with his drinking, so AA doesn’t seem very likely, though I’ll bring it up. Thank you so much for your insight

This is exactly right. Love isn’t always easy, and partners aren’t always easy to deal with; but when his habits are affecting the quality of your relationship and your life, you need to evaluate how much you can take. You’ll know. You’ll reach your breaking point and save yourself. I’d encourage you to express more forcefully, while he’s sober, that his drinking is making you unhappy in the relationship to the point that you’re questioning it. Again, while he’s sober, express that he scares you when he’s drinking.

If you’re nearing your breaking point, you may consider laying down ultimatums. I don’t say that lightly, ultimatums are like throwing dynamite in a fire. Think through carefully how you feel, how you want to express that, and what you want to say. My advice would not be to say stop drinking or I’m gone, but go the therapy route. If you tell him to cut out drinking, I’d think he’d feel attacked. If you go the therapy route, you can frame it as “I know you’re unhappy and you drink to unwind, but your drinking is affecting our relationship in (these ways). I want you to try therapy for 6 weeks to identify your emotional hang-ups and start finding better coping mechanisms. I want you to really commit to trying. If you won’t go to therapy, I can’t be around you because it affects me (in these ways).” This way, you’re not immediately taking booze away from him, you’re offering reasonable and attainable alternative, while telling him that his drinking is a problem for you. You can even offer to go with him for the first session. He won’t change overnight, he may not stop drinking after 6 weeks, but if he really dives into therapy it will be a good start, and a good indicator of that would be if he continues after 6 weeks.

@taylorpalmby brought up an interesting point in one of her streams: in the vein of toxic masculinity, men feel uncomfortable emoting to each other, so they dump their emotional garbage on women because it feels safer. Now women are shouldering men’s emotional garbage in addition to their own. It sounds like he’s taking what would already be a big burden, condensing, amplifying, and distorting it with alcohol, and dumping it on you in short, heavy doses. That’s not fair to you.

To echo @Amanda0823, I don’t think he loves alcohol more than you. He loves you, and and he sees alcohol as just a part of his life that he enjoys. I think expressing that his drinking affects you to the point that you’re considering leaving would be a real wake-up call. I enjoyed smoking pot before my wife said she was tired of pretending to be okay with it and absolutely didn’t want me doing it anymore, and I stopped immediately with no objection. She didn’t even threaten to leave or lay down ultimatums, she was just really stern in expressing how much it bothered her.

Anyway, it sounds like you know a lot of this, and I haven’t had my coffee yet. I don’t know if I provided any insight, but hopefully I affirmed what you know needs to be done. I hope for the sake of your relationship and the sake of his health that he considers better coping techniques.

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