Tips on How to Talk to an Alcoholic Partner

Being in a relationship with an alcoholic is not easy.

Addicts are focused almost entirely on themselves to the detriment of their relationships.

If your partner is an alcoholic, communicating with him or her is probably one of your biggest relationship challenges.

You might find that when you try to talk to them the conversation devolves into a shouting match, resulting in hurt feelings.

There are ways that you can approach the addict, with judgment suspended, to share your feelings and express your concerns. Consider these tips on how to talk to your alcoholic partner:

Talk to your partner when he/she is sober. Timing is crucial when engaging an alcoholic. You know the effect alcohol has and trying to have a real and honest conversation while your partner has been drinking will not work. A good time to start a discussion is right after he/she has woken up. Your partner might be hungover, but at least you know he/she will be sober first thing in the morning.

Remain calm. Speaking with an alcoholic can quickly become heightened with emotion. Resist the urge to shout or yell, or even to cry. Keep your cool and don’t let your partner push your buttons. If he/she tries to begin an argument, tell him/her that you refuse to engage. State your intention to have a calm and rational talk and if he/she will not follow suit, walk away. If you are afraid of losing your cool, practice ahead of time. Recruit a friend or family member to role-play the discussion so that you will be prepared to stay calm.

Be patient. Staying calm yourself is one thing; it is something that you can control. What you cannot control is your partner’s reaction. Realize that it may take several attempts to get a calm conversation going. If he/she explodes, walk away and try again another time.

Find your empathy. Your partner has undoubtedly hurt you. He/she has, at the very least, made your life more difficult. It may be hard to feel any kind of empathy, but it is important to try. He/she did not intend to become an addict and has a disease. He/she is suffering too. Talking to your partner with a sense of empathy will be more successful than speaking from a place of hurt, judgment or anger. Remember that he/she is ashamed, scared and sick, and keep in mind that alcoholism is the real enemy.

Be honest. If you hope to help your partner and save your relationship, there is no room for anything less than the honest truth. It is especially important to be honest about your feelings, how his/her drinking affects you, and how far gone you feel your relationship is. If you feel on the verge of walking out on him/her, say so. The truth can be softened with your tone, your offers of help and your support, but not with lies or with holding back. That will not help.

Have a true conversation. Ask your partner about his/her feelings and where he/she sees your relationship headed. Be an active listener and participate in his/her responses so that he/she knows you are hearing him/her.

Hold off on creating a plan of action. Starting a conversation with your partner may appear an intervention, which often feels like an attack. Creating a plan for getting him/her help should be the ultimate goal, but put it off until you have broken down the barriers and have had a few successful conversations. Once you have both opened up about your feelings and his/her drinking, you can begin an honest discussion about what to do next. Jumping straight to the idea of rehab may just cause him/her to clam up or to explode.

Living with an alcoholic is a difficult situation. You cannot live this way forever, and a simple conversation can be the start of a new life. Remember to be calm, honest and open, and you can help lead your partner to sobriety.

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