Generally, research has found that negative interactions between partners influence relationship satisfaction and commitment in a negative direction. The link between alcohol abuse and poorer relationship outcomes is well established (e.g., Dawson et al., 2007; Leonard & Eiden, 2007; Leonard & Rothbard, 1999; Marshal, 2003). However, it is currently unclear whether the effects of alcohol misuse on relationship functioning are the same for men and women.

how alcohol affects relationships

While this isn’t an exhaustive list of the symptoms of alcohol use disorder, one of the biggest indicators is that alcohol is having a significantly negative impact on your life and your relationships with others. A 2018 study found that in children with a strong family history of alcohol use disorder, the chance of developing substance use issues was higher. A 2018 study found that alcohol had negative effects on both partners in a relationship for different reasons. It’s essential to avoid becoming codependent if you feel you’re in a relationship impacted by alcohol addiction. As stated above, keeping a distance is necessary to avoid enabling and ensure you don’t become emotionally dependent on helping them. Even if you believe your partner is more important than any substance, your actions will likely prove otherwise if you have alcohol use disorder.

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Consistent with prevalence rates, AUDs have traditionally been viewed as a “male” problem (Haber & Jacob, 1997). Conceptualizing AUDs as occurring more often with males—and the corresponding norms about alcohol use and gender—may undermine emphasis on actual male problems and exaggerate emphasis on female drinking problems. The investment model of relationships (Rusbult, 1980, 1983; Rusbult & Martz, 1995) provides another framework through which to consider the gender effect. The investment model posits that relationship commitment is dependent upon the extent of one’s investment in the relationship, satisfaction with the relationship, and the perceived quality of alternative partners.

Also, if it’s a male partner who is struggling with alcohol use disorder, he may also have difficulties getting and maintaining an erection. Over time, unhealthy alcohol use can develop into alcohol use disorder (AUD), a medical condition characterized by drinking more than you want to for longer than you want to. Because of how alcohol impacts the brain and relationships, AUD can be hard to navigate both for the individual, and their partner. The important point here is substance abuse by a partner causes damage to the marriage or relationship, and these problems need to be treated, too. As previously indicated, the relationship and the issues within it need to be thoroughly addressed – if they aren’t, then conflict will continue, and the likelihood of a relapse increases.

How romantic partners can affect each other’s alcohol use and misuse.

In 4 percent of married couples both partners drink heavily, while in 79 percent of couples neither partner is a heavy drinker. Again, there are gender differences, with 12 percent of couples having only a husband who drinks heavily, compared to just 5 percent where only the wife is a heavy drinker. Codependence happens when one partner has an addiction to alcohol and the other takes care of them. Here, one or both partners influence the other partner’s drinking by allowing or encouraging them to do it. For example, if you are the sober partner, you likely have to take care of the alcohol-abusing partner, cleaning up after them, being there for them, and getting all the emotional rewards of being a caregiver. They are so reliant on taking care of their partner that they enable them to continue drinking, even when it is obviously a problem.

How does alcohol affect romantic relationships?

If our partner or loved one is regularly drinking more than we are, it can impact on our own feelings, creating tension and anxiety. For example, we may feel that we take second place to our loved one's drinking, or that they are increasingly physically or emotionally absent.

Witnessing the trauma of a parent suffering from addiction at a young age has long-term effects on the child. Children who grow up seeing a parent addicted to drugs or alcohol are more likely to develop SUDs in their adulthood. They are also 3 times more likely to be neglected or physically and/or sexually abused.