Dating Someone Who Drinks Too Much: Signs and How to Get Help
Dating someone who drinks too much can be a distressing situation. Perhaps you have a partner who is often intoxicated, relying on you as a designated driver, or who is failing to attend events due to excessive alcohol use. These situations could be a sign that you are dating someone who has a problematic relationship with alcohol. Unfortunately, alcohol misuse or alcohol addiction—clinically referred to as alcohol use disorder (AUD)—can lead to adverse mental and physical consequences, for both the person who drinks and their partner.1, 2, 3
This article will help you understand the signs your partner may have a drinking problem, how alcohol affects relationships, and what you can do to help.
Signs Your Partner May Have a Drinking Problem
Problematic alcohol use can include alcohol misuse and alcohol use disorder (AUD).2 The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines alcohol misuse as drinking in any amount, frequency, manner, or situation that may cause harm to a person and the people around them.2 Alcohol misuse includes binge drinking, excessive drinking, and high-intensity drinking.2
AUD is a chronic but treatable health condition characterized by compulsive alcohol use, despite experiencing health, occupational, and social consequences from drinking.2 AUD can range from mild to severe.2
It’s important to remember that only a qualified healthcare professional can diagnose problematic drinking or an AUD. However, if you are concerned that your partner may have a drinking problem, there are several behavioral and physical signs and symptoms of alcohol misuse you can be aware of.
Behavioral signs may include but are not limited to:4, 5
- Regular, heavy alcohol use.
- Polysubstance use (the use of 2 or more substances).
- Poor personal hygiene.
- Poor nutrition.
- Accidents, falls, or other injuries.
- Absenteeism from school or work.
Physical signs may include but are not limited to:4, 5
- Problems with coordination.
- Fast heart rate.
- Diarrhea, nausea, and/or vomiting.
- Memory problems.
How Dating Someone With a Drinking Problem Can Affect You
Problematic use of alcohol impacts the person drinking and can also affect relationships, including those with a significant other. Having a partner who misuses alcohol or dating someone with an alcohol addiction can lead to:6
- Relationship conflicts.
- Interpersonal violence.
- Financial difficulties.
A notable proportion of violence, including intimate partner violence (IPV), is related to the problematic use of alcohol.7 Studies have shown that in cases of IPV, male partners were drinking alcohol in approximately 45% of cases, while women perpetrating IPV had been drinking in about 20% of cases.7 Research also suggests that IPV involving alcohol use leads to increased severity of injuries as well as the frequency of violence.7
What to Do If You Are Dating Someone Who Drinks Too Much
It can be challenging to know how to deal with someone who drinks too much, especially when you care about them deeply. If you’re not sure where to start, these tips can help.
- Educate yourself about alcohol use disorder. Stay focused on the information you have learned when initiating a conversation with a partner about alcohol misuse. Remember that the disorder is a medical condition—it is not because of a lack of willpower.8 Multiple avenues for treatment are available. Two helpful resources for people looking to learn more are the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
- Express your concerns with empathy. It’s important to remain calm and positive, and choose the right time to have this important conversation.8
- Be supportive, remain compassionate, and be present. Instead of making demands of your partner, offer options.8
- Create a plan together. Be emotionally available and express understanding. Identify specific, measurable goals, such as deciding that drinking will be abstained from for a specific number of days a week.9
- When offering help to a partner who misuses alcohol, set a good example. Don’t drink around them, and don’t offer them alcohol. Provide options for activities that do not involve drinking.10
- Research treatment options as well as multiple avenues for receiving help. When offering choices, take into consideration your partner’s individual needs, the qualifications of the treatment provider, and whether the treatment is backed by scientific research.8 Consider looking for rehab centers for alcohol.
- Get support for yourself as well. Multiple resources are available for this, including family therapy and individual therapy, as well as Al-Anon groups, which are peer-run support groups for people affected by another’s misuse of alcohol.11
Get Additional Addiction Resources
If you are concerned you are dating someone who drinks too much, help may be available at a rehab center near you or out of state. You can use the FindTreatment.gov tool or learn more about treatment options by contacting a doctor or a mental health practitioner.
You can also contact American Addiction Centers (AAC) at . AAC has rehab centers across the U.S. and is a leading provider of evidence-based addiction treatment. Our team of admissions navigators can answer questions you have about alcohol addiction treatment options.