October 28, 2006

The Challenge of Communicating with an Alcoholic Spouse

This is something we get asked a lot, so here’s a great resource for you.

Alcoholism can take its toll on many aspects of life. Healthy communication is often one of the first casualties of this family disease, not only for alcoholics, but for everyone around them.

One of Al-Anon’s first books, The Dilemma of the Alcoholic Marriage (B-4), addresses the distressing and difficult situations that are part of marriage to an alcoholic. Although it was first published in 1967 and reflects the time in which it was written, the book remains a great resource of pertinent, useful tools for anyone living with an alcoholic spouse.

The fourth chapter, "What Manner of Communications Are These?" discusses in depth the challenges of communicating in an alcoholic marriage. Although this chapter refers to the spouse of an alcoholic as the wife, it is understood that most of the material applies to the husband of an alcoholic as well.

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Practicing Acceptance

Sometimes I just want to scream at my spouse, "Don’t you know the logical thing to do?" Then I stop and remember that the disease of alcoholism is present. In my desire to relate to my spouse as an adult, I realize that my words express criticism, judgment, sarcasm, or acceptance—depending on what I say and how I say it. When I have responded negatively, I have lost my acceptance.

When I realized my spouse’s way of thinking was different than mine, I discovered that communication is a big part of acceptance. My husband’s problem-solving and communication skills are different from mine. Is he wrong? No, he’s just different.

The Serenity Prayer and meditation help me to calm down so I can practice acceptance. By turning a situation over to my Higher Power or calling my Sponsor, I become accepting, too. These tools help me work through any problem in my life. I am thankful that I have Al-Anon tools—that’s the reason I keep coming back!

—Susan H., Florida
The Forum, January 2005

Improving My Relationships

I have found Al-Anon to be useful in my relationships with alcoholics, friends, and family when I use the tools of the program. My relationships improve when I mind my own business, take only my own inventory, and work on accepting others. I still react at times to what others say or don’t say to me, but I’m getting better. I thank Al-Anon for this growth.

—Andi M., Florida
The Forum, December 2002

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3D Dialogue: Alcoholics Anonymous

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