Alcoholism and Marriage

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In the U.S., it's no exaggeration to say that staying married is tough, especially when alcoholism is part of the relationship. The divorce rate overall has been running between 40 and 60% (higher for second marriages). One study showed that drinking was the primary factor in divorces that happen when partners are married in their twenties.

Why is alcoholism such a destroyer of marriages? It's not just the drinking, but the things associated with drinking that do the most damage. Marriage can hardly survive the domestic violence, loss of a job and impaired sexual function that often comes with the drinking. Add to this the common problems of legal issues and a downward financial spiral and it becomes obvious.

If there is an upside, it comes from having a supportive, non-drinking partner who can push the alcoholic toward treatment. Marriage counseling alone will not work. The alcoholic partner has a disease, and this must be addressed. Sometimes, divorce is a necessary step.

When there are children in the marriage, the potential for long term damage is increased. Studies have shown that the children of alcoholics are more prone to the disease, and this link goes beyond genetics. There is also the potential for child abuse, either overtly or through neglect.

In alcoholism and marriage, when the female partner is the alcoholic, there is a great chance that any pregnancy will lead to birth defects in the baby from fetal alcohol syndrome. This happens when a mother refuses to stop drinking excessively during a pregnancy.

Anyone who is partnered with an alcoholic should consider seeking help from a support group or therapist. Alcoholism is often described as a "clever" disease and without solid and knowledgeable help, the marriage may be doomed. By learning the best role for the spouse of an alcoholic, the best outcome can result before irreversible damage is done.

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