Conflict in relationships is common and healthy. In healthy relationships, issues that arise can be addressed and resolved respectfully through the use of open, honest communication. Particularly complex problems, such as drug and alcohol use, are not always so efficiently managed. Whether to continue a relationship complicated by alcohol, or to end it, is a decision that is solely yours. There are some steps you can take, however, to help you reach a conclusion.
Identify the Problem
It may be obvious -- and perfectly reasonable -- that your boyfriend's drinking is upsetting. Explore the issue further by thinking about what exactly bothers you about this behavior. It may be that he behaves obnoxiously, or that he becomes aggressive and violent while intoxicated. Perhaps it is the frequency with which he drinks, or the amount of money he spends on alcohol. Understanding the core issue is integral to confronting someone about troubling actions and behaviors, states Margarita Tartakovsky in her article for Psych Central titled, "10 Ways to Build and Preserve Better Boundaries." Being aware of your specific concerns can help you prepare for addressing the issue with your boyfriend.
Address the Problem
Confront your boyfriend about his drinking. Explain the things you don't like about it, giving specific examples. Darren Haber in the article "How to Talk to Your Alcoholic Partner" on PsychCentral advises that you make sure to tell him the truth about how it makes you feel. For instance, you might say, "It really upsets me when you get drunk. You don't act nice and it's affecting our relationship." Then engage in a discussion about ways to remedy the problem. He may agree to quit drinking, or blatantly refuse to adjust his actions and behaviors in any way. Perhaps he will consider minimizing his alcohol intake and seeking counseling, if necessary. An unwillingness to consider your feelings and concerns is a sign that his relationship to you is not a priority, at which point it may be in your best interests to take a break in your relationship.
If your boyfriend has consented to minimize or eliminate his drinking, there may be potential for your relationship to succeed. Promises to change are very different from actual change, however, and success is not immediate. Your boyfriend should be actively taking steps to resolve the matter. This may mean no longer keeping alcohol in the house, spending less time with friends that may be unsupportive of his efforts, accessing a rehabilitation program and attending support meetings. Hallow assurances that he'll drink less, spend less or be nicer when he does drink are not likely to be effective. You can also decide to re-establish your boundaries as you assess your boyfriend's attempts to change his drinking habits, as counselor Sarah Allen Benten points out in her article for Psychology Today titled, "Ways to Approach the High-Functioning Alcoholic in Your Life." You might opt not to spend time with him when he is drinking, for example, or see him less in general.
If your boyfriend makes few or no actual efforts to resolve the issue of his drinking, it may be time to consider separating from him. This is likely to be arduous and painful, but also healthier for you. You deserve a relationship in which your feelings are valued. If he has been abusive to you when drinking, it is especially important to be cautious when ending the relationship. He may decide to contact or pursue you after a night of drinking -- or even when he hasn't been doing so. Although alcohol can aggravate abusive behavior, a resource distributed by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence reports that a batterer has the potential to become violent even when he is sober.
- Psych Central: How to Talk to Your Alcoholic Partner: Darren Haber, MFT
- Psychology Today: Ways to Approach the High-Functioning Alcoholic in Your Life: Sarah Allen Benton, M.S., L.M.H.C.
- National Coalition Against Domestic Violence: Domestic Violence and Substance Abuse
- Psych Central: 10 Ways to Build and Preserve Better Boundaries: Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.
- Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images