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How Alcohol Affects Relationships

There are many reasons why people drink alcohol. Some may drink to celebrate a special occasion, while others may drink to relax or escape the stressors of everyday life. Unfortunately, binge drinking or drinking too often can negatively impact many areas of your life, including your personal and professional relationships.

Alcohol use can affect your relationships with your:

  • Spouse or romantic partner.
  • Family members.
  • Children.
  • Friends.
  • Employer or coworkers.

If you or someone you care about are struggling with alcohol use disorder (AUD), learning about the effects of alcohol on relationships and the types of alcohol addiction treatment available can help you make an informed decision about your care. You can also call our alcohol helpline at for information on resources, treatment, and more.

Alcohol and Relationships Statistics

Research shows that alcohol use can have negative effects on personal and professional relationships. For example:

  • Approximately 1 in 10 children in the U.S. live with a parent who has an alcohol use disorder, according to the 2009-2014 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health.1
  • A consumption increase of 1 liter of alcohol per capita resulted in a 20% increase in divorce rates, according to a study published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.2
  • Spouses of people who misuse alcohol report increased rates of anxiety and depression and decreased levels of marital satisfaction than spouses of people who do not misuse alcohol.3
  • Heavy episodic drinking was associated with higher absenteeism at work in the following year, according to the Journal of Applied Psychology.4

How Does Alcohol Affect Relationships?

When a person has a problem with alcohol, it doesn’t just affect them; it also impacts the people in their life.5 Below are some of the ways alcohol can affect relationships of various types.

Alcohol and Romantic Relationships

Alcohol can significantly affect a person’s relationship with their spouse or romantic partner. Just as alcohol can impact the mental health of the person misusing it, spouses of people who misuse alcohol often display high levels of anxiety, depression, and psychophysiological complaints.5 Studies on alcohol and relationships show that alcohol can increase the risk of infidelity, marital conflict, domestic violence, and economic insecurity and is associated with an increased risk of divorce in married couples.2, 5

Alcohol and Children

Drinking can affect a person’s relationship with their children and can hurt a child’s emotional well-being. Children of people who misuse alcohol can have an elevated risk of behavioral and emotional problems and can experience increased feelings of anxiety, confusion, depression, embarrassment, and guilt.5, 6 They can also have an increased risk of experiencing alcohol problems later in life.6

Research shows that around 1 in 4 children are exposed to alcohol misuse or alcohol dependence in the family.7 Children of people who misuse alcohol often live in chaotic and unstable home environments and are often subjected to abusive and negligent parenting, economic hardship, and social isolation.7

Alcohol and Friends and Family.

Drinking can negatively affect a person’s relationships with their friends and family. Both spouses and children of people who misuse alcohol can experience increased emotional and physical problems, including economic issues and social isolation.5, 8 Friendships can also suffer. People who misuse alcohol often experience increased conflict with others or isolate themselves from important people in their lives.9

Alcohol and Professional Relationships

Relationships at work, including those with clients, coworkers, and managers can become strained due to alcohol use.10 Alcohol misuse can also lead to an increase in absences, unemployment, difficulty finding employment, and financial trouble.8, 10

Signs That Alcohol May Be Negatively Impacting Your Relationships

If you’re worried that alcohol may be negatively impacting your relationships, you might notice certain signs, such as:5, 8, 9, 10, 11

  • Alcohol is one of the only things you enjoy together.
  • You experience increased arguments and conflict because of your drinking.
  • You are more irritable or aggressive toward others.
  • You’re increasingly isolated from others.
  • You’re spending money that is needed for family purposes on alcohol.
  • You act argumentative, belligerent, or short-tempered at work, especially during mornings or days after weekends.
  • You experience increased episodes of domestic violence.

Getting Help

If you or a loved one are concerned about alcohol addiction and relationships, you should know that help is available. If you’re not sure if you have a problem or if drinking is a problem in a relationship, you can take our free alcohol addiction self-assessment. This quiz may help you recognize some of the signs of alcohol abuse.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to treatment and several treatment interventions, services, and settings are available.12 Treatment may consist of a combination of behavioral therapy, medications for AUD, mutual-support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous, marital and family addiction counseling, and more.12 Marital and family counseling includes family members in the treatment process, which may help improve and repair family relationships.12

You can learn more about your treatment options when you contact American Addiction Centers at . Our team of admissions navigators can answer any questions you have about treatment, help you find an addiction treatment center, and verify your insurance.


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