Relationships are the heart and soul of our society. If our relationships with others were to disappear, most of us would feel all meaning slipping away from our lives. Our husbands, our wives, our children, our parents and extended family, our co-workers and our friends help to create what we become in life. We are a social species.

Relationships unfortunately can falter. And when your relationship with your life partner is faltering, you need to act decisively.

There has been research showing that a majority of couples on the brink of separating who somehow manage to hold on--five years later will be getting along fine. Unfortunately, many couples allow the situation to become unbearable before they even think of getting help, and they often don't make it.

Joan wanted to know what she could do regarding her husband's drinking as the cause of the other problems they were having.

I prefer, however, to start with the assumption that alcohol abuse is the symptom of something. It is often much more productive to focus on your relationship and on yourself than on the alcohol problem. Your relationship is where the real urgency is.

If your relationship doesn't survive, your partner's drinking habits won't affect you anymore.


Find a psychologist or other counselor who works with individuals and couples on their relationships. If possible, find one with expertise in the substance abuse area as well.

If your partner has no interest in getting marriage counseling, it may not be a problem, at least at first. When you go for counseling without him:

• You will get clear about what you want out of life.
• You will gain insights into what you might do to improve your relationship.
• You will gain some clarity and calm about your own contributions to your problems together.
• You will gain perspective on why you react as you do to his behavior.

What I have often done when working with an individual whose relationship is in trouble, is ask my client to invite her spouse to come to a session with her to assist me in understanding her. This is extremely useful on its own, but more often than not the partner will begin to participate.

Other issues will emerge, including mid-life issues, self-esteem issues, spiritual issues, empty-nest issues, fears that neither of you were even aware of, unhappiness, shame and, yes, alcohol abuse.

The point is this: if your partner stopped drinking today, you would still need to do the relationship work to recover your marriage. So why not get to work on your relationship right away and save yourself a mountain of grief?

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Neill Neill, psychologist, author and columnist, maintains an active practice with a focus on healthy relationships and life after addictions. He is the author of Living with a Functioning Alcoholic - A Woman’s Survival Guide. From time to time life presents us all with issues. To find out what insights and guidance Neill shares about your particular questions, go to