Everyone wants a way to unwind. Getting to work, fighting traffic, picking up the kids from school, finding time to make dinner, and trying to find time somewhere in all of that to spend with your significant other really adds up. Balancing the stresses of life can be very difficult. Add in the stress of struggling with work and life, sometimes you just need relief in any form – and having a drink or two can be really relieving after a stressful day. It can be especially tempting to search for more of a relief when your relationship with your significant other has become more of a stressor than a shelter. But sometimes it is hard to tell if that small stress reliever has crossed the line into being a real problem in your relationship.
Here are three signs that your drinking might be hurting your relationship:
You are more preoccupied with your next drink than you used to be
Have you noticed that you think about your next drink sooner than you used to? It was not always like this, but you find you start to think about how nice it will be to get off work and just have a beer. This early warning sign might even start to happen before alcohol escalates to the level of a problem. Maybe you start planning your route home around the easiest bar to stop at. Your thoughts and energy are a limited resource. Alcohol and drinking takes energy that you could dedicate to your relationship.
Relationship stress takes a toll for a lot of different reasons. It is really difficult when the person you used to turn to for rest and relief is now a source of strain. You have to turn to something else, and alcohol becomes an appealing option. Especially since there are some social components to drinking at events or other social gatherings. The things that you look to instead your partner will often times turn into problems of their own.
You start getting defensive of your drinking
Starting to defend a drinking habit is a sure sign that the habit has taken a life of it’s own. Alcohol started as something you could turn to for relief since things had been rough with your Partner. Now, alcohol has become what you and your Partner fight about. Do you react to the topic by defending your drinking or changing the subject? If so, you should start to address your drinking to help with your relationship.
So what is next? One of the simplest tests you can do is try to cut down on your own. Have you tried to cut down before, and it did not work? In this case, you should start looking for professional help. Look for a therapist with experience working with substance abuse. Sometimes, cutting out drinking might start to alleviate some of the strain in your relationship.
If you do seek couples therapy, research shows that couples experience greater success once substance use is contained.
If you are looking for more ways to figure out if your drinking is a problem, The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has a lot of resources to help you out.
About the Author
Ryan Hicks is a licensed therapist and marriage counselor at The Marriage and Family Clinic in Denver, Colorado. He specializes in working with couples in high conflict and working with couples in the LGBTQ community. When he’s not working with couples, you’ll find him rock climbing or taking in the great outdoors of Colorado.