Alcoholism can have devastating effects on a marriage. Spouses who contend with the impact of alcohol abuse in the home can recite a long list of issues that harm the marriage. These include financial difficulties, shame, anxiety, frustration, neglecting the needs of the children, and the fear of physical harm. In fact, one of the most devastating negative effects involves the angry alcoholic husband.
Depending on the husband’s ability to manage their anger while intoxicated, the harmful consequences of their unstable emotional state covers a wide range of effects, from intimidation to psychological, physical, or sexual abuse, to life threatening acts of violence. Statistics from the World Health Organization report that 55% of domestic assaults involved alcohol.
In addition to the dangers posed to the woman with an angry alcoholic husband, there are other manifestations of alcoholism in the home. Disordered coping skills can emerge as the wife adapts to the situation. Many times the woman simply feels completely powerless to the actions of the alcoholic husband, and may begin to rely on unproductive coping techniques. These can add to the existing problems already present in the home.
Alcoholism and Violence
The link between alcohol abuse and addiction and violent behaviors is well documented. A report by the U.S. Department of Justice states that about 36% of crimes involved individuals who had been drinking alcohol when the offense occurred. Alcohol impacts the individual’s ability to control their emotions when triggered. The alcohol can impair the individual’s executive functions, the region of the brain associated with decision-making, emotional regulation, and impulse control.
When it comes to the relationship between spouses, alcohol can provoke aggressive or violent behavior toward the spouse, especially in an angry alcoholic husband with poor anger management or coping skills to begin with. The combination of alcohol abuse and poor emotional regulation can result in domestic violence, in which a spouse physically or sexually assaults their partner.
Dysfunctional Coping Strategies
Living with an alcoholic spouse can have profound affects, both in the short and long term, on the other spouse. These individuals tend to neglect their own health and wellbeing, suffer anxiety and depression, become socially withdrawn, and acquire a substance use disorder or some other behavioral addiction themselves as a result of living with the alcoholic husband.
To cope with the alcoholic, many will resort to enabling behaviors. Hoping to cushion the fallout from their husband’s disordered drinking, the spouse may begin to cover for her husband, make excuses for him, and go to extremes to clean up the messes left in the wake of his alcoholism. By covering for him, the spouse only helps her husband remain in his addiction, as he will have no motivation to change.
Negative Effects of Alcoholism on Marriage
In addition to increased levels of anger or violence, there are many other negative manifestations of alcoholism that can cause substantial damage to a marriage. Some of these occur when the spouse:
- Becomes detached and withdrawn, unable to be there emotionally for the other partner
- Becomes increasingly unreliable or irresponsible, neglecting family obligations and responsibilities
- Consumes high levels of alcohol, resulting in medical problems or mental health issues, impacting the quality of life for both
- Becomes unable to function at their job, possibly being demoted or terminated, thus putting the family finances in jeopardy
- Loses interest in their physical appearance, possibly gaining weight and ignoring hygiene, becoming less appealing to the wife
- Becomes more negative or depressed, unpleasant to be around
- Becomes increasingly uninterested in participating in activities the couple used to enjoy, due to decreased energy and vitality caused by the excessive alcohol consumption
- Becomes so mired in the alcoholism that the marriage ends in divorce
When the Angry Alcoholic Husband is in Denial
Many times those with an obvious alcohol problem may outwardly appear to be in utter denial about their problem. Regardless of the mounting negative consequences the individual clings to the belief that they are just fine. However, just underneath the surface are feelings of shame and guilt about their alcoholism. When intoxicated, these unwanted emotions can bubble up and manifest in anger and rage, many times directed toward a spouse.
Here are some common denial strategies:
- Everyone drinks. The alcoholic will assure his spouse that drinking is a universal practice and he is just like anyone else who enjoys a cocktail, even stating that he doesn’t drink as much as others.
- I am only hurting myself. This flippant statement exposes his denial of the many ways his alcoholism is causing harm to others. They claim it is only their life and their body they are harming.
- You are the one with the problem. This is an attempt to shift the blame to the spouse while making the spouse appear to be unreasonable.
- I can stop whenever I want. Another common claim that they have complete control over their drinking and can quit any time at will.
- I need to drink. Citing job stress or family demands as validation to use alcohol as a means to relax.
- You knew I drank when you married me. The alcoholic attempts to justify his drinking as a trait that was clearly known when their partner decided to marry them.
- I function so I am not an alcoholic. The high functioning alcoholic will point out their ability to succeed at their profession, work out at the gym, participate in parental duties, stating that they couldn’t do those things if alcoholic.
- I don’t have time for treatment. A classic excuse used by those who cite time constraints as the reason they can’t go to rehab.
- Drinking is part of my job. The husband may claim that their livelihood depends on and must involve social drinking.
- I’m fine. Denial of the physical toll that drinking is taking on them, the alcoholic will proclaim that they are just fine, conveniently ignoring the physical signs of deterioration.
Is Anger and Underlying Factor in the Husband’s Alcohol Problem?
Certain personality traits may contribute to the development of an alcohol addiction. The individual might have unprocessed trauma, such as a history of physical or sexual abuse. He may have poorly formed impulse control, emotion regulation, or anger management skills. The presence of an underlying mental health disorder may instigate the need to use alcohol as a means of self-medication.
If the chronically angry alcoholic husband has accompanying mental health issues, he will benefit from a dual diagnosis treatment program. These programs provide both addiction recovery treatment as well as psychiatric interventions that can work in tandem to address both the alcohol dependence and the co-occurring emotional problems.
Strategies for Suggesting the Husband Get Treatment
The denials that they have a drinking problem are just knee jerk defense mechanisms to be able to continue to feed the addiction, even though alcoholism is a fatal disease ultimately. The excuses alcoholics make are just strategies employed to delay facing the reality about their alcohol dependency.
Spouses of alcoholics walk on eggshells, constantly trying to avoid triggering the next angry outburst, or worse, physical attack. Their misplaced and unpredictable anger is not easy to navigate. To be able to convince the husband to get treatment without any angry backlash, it is helpful to formulate a plan. Consider these tips when preparing to persuade the individual to get help:
- Do not confront them when they are intoxicated
- Do not attempt to discuss treatment during a heated argument
- Prepare your thoughts in advance by writing it them down, and prepare for the inevitable excuses with calm responses
- Avoid accusatory language when discussing the need for treatment
- Acknowledge that you do not understand their problem and be compassionate
- Do not be judgmental; tell them they are right, that they are doing the best they can
- Consider hiring a professional interventionist
Integrated Treatment for Alcoholism
When the day arrives that the alcoholic husband decides to get help it is helpful to have some basic understanding of the steps he will take on the road to recovery and beat alcoholism. Alcohol dependence can be treated and managed when the individual is fully committed to participating in the process.
The first decision to be made is whether to utilize an outpatient or a residential addiction recovery program. The outpatient rehab offers additional flexibility, as it allows the individual to reside at home during treatment. The residential rehab is best for those with a long history of high alcohol consumption, as it involves 24-hour support at a facility.
The treatment process for alcohol use disorders follows this process:
- Medical detox. The detox and withdrawal process is the initiation into the recovery program. During alcohol detox, the individual will be attended to by a trained detox team that will provide the necessary medical interventions to help minimize pain and discomfort. Detox takes about 5-7 days to complete.
- Addiction treatment. Treatment entails a multi-disciplinary approach using evidence-based psychotherapy, group therapy, 12-step meetings, medication management, such as naltrexone, nutritional counseling, holistic therapies, and relapse prevention planning.
- Aftercare. Following completion of an outpatient or residential rehab program, the individual will continue to participate in outpatient counseling sessions and group support.
Capo by the Sea Provides Evidence-Based Alcohol Recovery Interventions
Capo by the Sea is a premier alcohol and dual diagnosis luxury rehab located in a beach community in Southern California. At Capo by the Sea, our expert clinical staff will guide individuals through a medically monitored alcohol detox program as comfortably as possible. Our comprehensive addiction treatment program will provide the necessary recovery tools that will help ensure our clients achieve a sustained recovery. For more information, please reach out to Capo by the Sea today at 888-529-2114.