Is it folly to marry someone with a drinking problem?
December 22, 2004 7:54 AM   Subscribe

Is it folly to marry someone with a drinking problem?

[Long-time lurker, first-time poster] My wonderful girlfriend of 2.5 years has some tendencies that make me worry she may be an alcoholic or be on the path to becoming an alcoholic. Over the time I have known her, she has had binge drinking episodes that last the course of the evening, during which she often is verbally abusive to me and a occasionally has been unfaithful. She wakes up the next day with a terrible hangover, guilty and apologetic and with no desire to drink again, until a few weeks later when she begins to be mad at me for "making her" stop drinking, decides she's "ok" and begins drinking moderately again, followed by another binge. She does not fit any of the profiles of "alcoholics" that organizations like AA seem to cater too--she doesn't go on days-long binges, doesn’t black out, never needs an eye-opener, and after a drinking bout has no desire to touch the stuff for days. We are at the stage in life where it seems like marriage is a real possibility. We talk about it frequently. I love her very much, she is a wonderful, caring, loving person, sober. But given the potential risk to a marriage (and any children) that this problem could present if it gets worse, and given that she does not see this as a problem worth getting help for, would it be folly to proceed to get engaged?
posted by anonymous to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (74 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Sounds like you know the answer to this question already.

Seriously, though, you should really work on this together. Just be honest and let her know the way you feel in a non-accusatory fashion. Marriage won't make the problem magically go away, and it might actually make things worse - i.e. unfaithfulness is bad enough in a dating situation, but in a marriage it can be devastating. Plus, it's hard enough to deal with the unforeseen problems that arise in long-term relationships, let alone the ones you already know about beforehand.

YMMV, though - and good luck to the both of you.
posted by ruddhist at 8:03 AM on December 22, 2004

My first reaction is that it sounds like she needs emotional/psychological help. It appears she drinks in order to release her true feelings or to escape a situation. Seems like she has anger issues??? If she is verbally abusive to you and has been unfaithful, forget the drinking, that is not a very solid foundation for a good marriage.

Sounds like the two of you need couples counseling; at a minimum, she should seek professional counseling on her own to address her abusive behavior and self-destructive actions.

On preview: I forgot to ask, have you guys discussed this? Have you ever told her your concerns?
posted by suchatreat at 8:03 AM on December 22, 2004

Do you talk about your concerns about marrying her, and how much you care about her, but that her binges worry you and hurt you?

If she's verbally abusive and unfaithful, I wouldn't want to marry her until she got some help.
posted by gramcracker at 8:04 AM on December 22, 2004 [1 favorite]

That depends. Are you a masochist?
posted by spock at 8:06 AM on December 22, 2004

As a child of a binge drinker I vote for folly.
posted by TimeFactor at 8:08 AM on December 22, 2004

She doesn't sound that far from normal to me. (Really. Has she spent any significant time in Northern Europe?) If you're 'making her stop drinking' and she doesn't like it perhaps you should lay off her generally and focus on rounding off the more extreme effects such as the unfaithfulness. How much of a binge is she actually having? How much booze does she actually knock back?
posted by biffa at 8:12 AM on December 22, 2004

You cannot separate the drinker from the sober person, therefore, do not marry her. She will always blame you for making her sober up, assuming she does.

Whether she's technically an alcoholic or not doesn't matter; she has a drinking problem and a pretty serious one at that.
posted by FlamingBore at 8:12 AM on December 22, 2004

If she's verbally abusive and unfaithful, I wouldn't want to marry her until she got some help.

Bingo. This is a recipe for disaster. Quite frankly, the unfaithfulness would be a dealbreaker for me, long before marriage. I would strongly suggest that she go get help, and you end the relationship. Once she's got her shit together--if she gets it together--then you can revisit the idea of the relationship. Otherwise... it's just not likely that this can end well.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:13 AM on December 22, 2004 [1 favorite]

It worked out well for Laura Bush.

Seriously, do you have some sort of plan of action to get your girlfriend to, if not quit cold-turkey, at least cut back significantly on her drinking. Certainly it would be naive to think that somehow marriage will magically make her stop. I think talking to her about your concerns would be a good first step. I wouldn't make it an ultimatum, but I certainly would not marry her unless she's taken at least some concrete steps to solving this problem.
posted by gyc at 8:16 AM on December 22, 2004

Run! Seriously.
posted by LarryC at 8:18 AM on December 22, 2004


Holy crap.

She binge drinks and cheats on you? Get out of the house. Now. Run. For your life.

Man, the answer is staring your face. Scratch that, don't walk away, RUN.

posted by xmutex at 8:23 AM on December 22, 2004 [1 favorite]

First of all, let me say that I think the odds of things working out for the two of you are slim. That being said, if you love her, do all you can to help her break this cycle. Because you fell in love with her the way she is, she is likely to slip back to her old ways when times get tough (as they do in every marriage on occasion). But if you can get her to see the error of her ways and get her on the track to facing her problems, you may be able to save her for someone else. Ideally, once she sobers up she will see that she was just using you as an enabler and then as a crutch to help her out of her dependency, and you can have a mutually healthy breakup down the road. In my experience, the best you can hope for is to help her get straightened out, but in so doing the relationship will never be healthy.

If you're not ready to do that, my advice to you is to dump her. Today.
posted by Doohickie at 8:33 AM on December 22, 2004

Yeah. xmutex said it better: run, don't walk. Unless you're even more of an emotional masochist than I am, this is just not a good idea at all.

On preview: a glass of wine and a few (depending on 'few-- are we talking 3-4, or 7-8) martinis isn't really that much of a binge. Her absolutely unacceptable behaviour, however... Walk away, man. Explain to her why, don't listen to any BS about "Oh I can change." If she says that, say "Okay, then change. And when you've changed, call me." I can guarantee she won't, and she won't.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:35 AM on December 22, 2004

Padre-- She cheats on you. You cannot marry someone who has "occasionally been unfaithful", and especially under the influence of alcohol. That's horrible. A recipe for absolute disaster, and being married to her would only make it hurt 100 times worse.

You really need to walk out of this.
posted by xmutex at 8:35 AM on December 22, 2004 [1 favorite]

She cheats on you and is verbally abusive, PadrePuffin. That is UNACCEPTABLE.
posted by gramcracker at 8:36 AM on December 22, 2004

Put the romance on hold -- be her friend for now -- as she clearly needs help, not sex/love at this point. If being a friend isn't feasible, then sadly it might be over, because trust me: getting married to this woman at this stage will NOT result in a "happy ever after."

Good luck.
posted by davidmsc at 8:38 AM on December 22, 2004

Um, how is this being "young and healthy"? Drinking is one thing, but behaving in incredibly unacceptable ways and blaming it on the drink is fucked up.

I agree that she may not be a textbook alcoholic, but she is not drinking in a happy, healthy way.

Also, why would you want to be married to someone who is abusive and unfaithful?
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:39 AM on December 22, 2004 [1 favorite]

PP, the issue is definitely not "how many" drinks--it's the effect of those drinks, whether it's 2 or 16. What's more, it's not even really the drinking--it's what she's knowingly doing to you. There are a lot of people who drink too much who are still perfectly nice to the people around them.

If she's regularly putting herself into a state where she abuses you emotionally and verbally, even when she knows that that's what happens when she drinks, then you absolutely have to deal with the fact that she's willing to do that. From when I've dealt with issues like this, the drinking is almost certainly just exacerbating even deeper problems--whether she's got personal issues she hasn't dealt with, or reservations about where things are going with you, whatever it is, she's definitely not happy about something, and there's no benefit to either of you for you to lash yourself to the whale.

If you're committed to the relationship, which is great, then make an earnest effort to help her get a grip on whatever's going on--not just through alcohol counseling, but the deeper stuff. If she's really committed, she'll follow through. (If she can't bear or be bothered to stop treating you like this, then I think you need to move on.)
posted by LairBob at 8:42 AM on December 22, 2004 [2 favorites]

Also, biffa seems way off. I'm a former hard drinker, from a family of hard drinkers (and alcoholics), now a moderate drinker, and the issue isn't "how many drinks" one has, but what role they play in your life.

Unless you're completely misrepresenting your interaction with your girlfriend, you're NOT "making her stop drinking"--she's turning the whole "drinking" issue into a periodic melodrama and casting you as the villain.

As I understand it, your girlfriend gets drunk, acts like a total creep to you, repents and asks for forgiveness, vows never to drink again, then eventually gets bored with that and decides that you are a cruel, repressive person who is keeping her from enjoying the wonders of drinking, then starts the cycle again.

That's fucked up. My armchair diagnosis is that your girlfriend has Borderline Personality Disorder and really, really needs professional help.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:45 AM on December 22, 2004 [1 favorite]

Her drinking itself doesn't sound problematic, especially if you two are in your twenties. It's that she gets loaded and is then hurtful. She's got an issue with you or (more probably) herself. The drinking will probably more or less go away as she ages and your lifestyles change, but the dark streak is going to manifest itself in other ways. Probably by being sober when she flips out or cheats on you.

I'm of the opinion that character is fate, and even if she gets in counseling, she's never going to be stable. And I say this as a man who dated a lot of damaged goods before he figured it out: cut your losses, walk away and start fresh with a new girl. I have the gift of hindsight, and I can tell you absolutely that when it's time to propose to the right girl, you won't have any question in your mind.
posted by Mayor Curley at 8:45 AM on December 22, 2004

The cheating is bad news, and in many ways more concerning than the drinking, since it is not too clear what her binges actually consist of.

Two points: Alcoholism can have a very long onset, so you might be seeing the start of something that takes a long time to develop to those problem indicators that you are talking about. On the other hand, feeling consistently guilty about your behavior after drinking, as well as being angry that someone else wants you to limit your drinking, are two indicators on short assessment tools for problem drinking.

Point Two: What is she willing to do for you in order to get married? I mean, here you are willing to consider marrying her with these problems, what's her end of the deal? Marriage is a two way street that way.

I would rather be optimistic than pessimistic about it, but you clearly have to resolve this pre-marriage. (On preview, 2nd to LiarBob's last paragraph.)
posted by OmieWise at 8:45 AM on December 22, 2004

LairBob, once again you have said what I meant to say, but more eloquently.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:45 AM on December 22, 2004

I guess I am - but my questions were really pertaining to the health side. Obviously I have a UK perspective and drinking is likely to be more socially acceptable here than where you are. Binge drinking is on the rise here (though the definition of binge here is actually quite low) among both men and women. I would say 2 glasses of wine and a couple of martinis is definitely on the low end of the UK scale though. However, I would suggest if she's losing control and doing things she wouldn't otherwise do/regrets she would be wise to assert more control. If she wishes to include herself in a relationship where faithfulness is to be expected (as opposed to one where playing offside would be acceptable) then I would say this is the case. If she was outside a relationship then whatever. Personally, a partner getting drunk and being unfaithful once would be a strain on the relationship (if not the end), twice would likely finish it. Being drunk isn't an excuse to get away with shit that would otherwise be unacceptable.
posted by biffa at 8:45 AM on December 22, 2004

A binge involves usually starting with a glass of wine or two, then a few martinis over the course of the evening.

'Ckin hell -- if you do break up with her, don't go out with any females under the age of 30 from the UK -- that "binge" you described barely passes as a "swift half" over here. Although binge drinking is an issue for UK society, for many Brits it is perfectly normal (myself included). It may disguise and hide alcoholism in some cases, but it certainly does not constitute alcoholism in itself.

This isn't to say she doesn't have a drink problem. The problem here is that she does stuff that she shouldn't when she's drunk. If she can avoid drinking for periods of time, it shouldn't be impossible for her to recognise that she's exceeding her limits sometimes, and needs to drink less on any given binge.

I'd say "look, I have a real problem with you cheating on me. Drinking to excess makes you do it, so please drink less when you go out". If it were me I'd have broken up yesterday because of the faithfulness issue. I'd be slightly unnerved by her inability to recognise that she should be drinking less -- perhaps there are broader issues, I dunno.

Good luck.
posted by nthdegx at 8:46 AM on December 22, 2004

A binge involves usually starting with a glass of wine or two, then a few martinis over the course of the evening.

that's not problem drinking in my culture(s) (uk + chile). on the other hand, most americans i know are very "strange" (from my pov) about drink. so to some extent, you have to judge her by her own standards (ie not mine and not yours).

drinking lowers inhibitions, it doesn't turn people into devils. so people don't automatically get abusive and/or cheat when they're drunk. i think this needs emphasising, because from what you've said you seem to be blaming it all on the drink.

so i'd ignore the drinking, but still be worried about the abuse and the cheating. i'm not sure i can help more than that, since those calls depend on your relationship. if it were me, though, i'd tend to read them as signs that she is not happy with something in the relationship, which might imply that she is not ready to marry you, which in turn suggests marriage might not be a good idea. but that's all just wild guessing - my main point in posting was to give you a different cultural position on the drink thing.
posted by andrew cooke at 8:55 AM on December 22, 2004

Regardless of your decision, please go check out Al-Anon. They can offer a better perspective than a group of semi-anonymous folks.

Of course, since nothing will ever stop me from giving my opinion on anything...

I think your definition of "binge drinking" may be a bit broad, but I think your g/f has some deep psychological issues that need to be addressed. Her drinking seems more tied to a desire to not be controlled ("you made me do this") and to hurt those around her (e.g. you) as intimacy avoidance. I wouldn't be surprised if she came from an abusive (or, at the very least, very emotionally distant) family. Many people abuse alcohol not out of addiction, but because it gives them an excuse to act in inexcusable ways.

I can't tell you what to do, but I will say this: if you stay, be committed to your relationship and changing her behavior. Don't enable her. Don't be a wimp. Set boundaries and stick to them. Your girlfriend has passed a boundary many consider unacceptable (cheating), and yet, you're still with her- you need to reshape her expectations of the consequences of her actions.

Good luck.
posted by mkultra at 8:56 AM on December 22, 2004

Man goes to the doctor, and says "Doc, you've got to help me. It hurts when I move my arms like this!" And commences to twisting his arms all about and hyperextending his elbows and such.

The doctor takes a long look and says, "stop moving your arms like that."

I've always loved that joke.

To join the chorus: people are cyclical critters. What this means is, when you observe a person display a pattern of behavior more than one time, it's a very safe bet that they will behave in that way many, many more times to come.

So, she's going to continue binge drinking. She'll continue to be abusive, and she'll continue to fuck around. Fair bet that the abusiveness will escalate as years go by, and the body ceases to bounce back from a bender the way it did in college, and her own body's misery at being subjected repeatedly to toxins is blamed squarely on you. Because she's fine, of course.

But, she has redeeming qualities. Most people do. And you may figure, enh, I can bear it. I'm tough. That which does not kill me! So, here's an additional exercise: the next time she has one of her little screaming drunken abusive fits: imagine a small child in the same room as it happens. Hers. Yours. Imagine her screaming the same things at child as she is at you. Imagine her slapping that child when they cry, or "refuses to be quiet" when she'll be in one of her day-long hangovers.

Picture it as clearly and as intensely as your imagination is able.

If you don't walk right out the door, literally or figuratively, at that exact instant and never look back, there's nothing much more to say than a plea that if, for some tragic reason, you ignore the entire chorus and get hitched up anway, for God's sake do not breed.

Best of luck.
posted by Drastic at 8:57 AM on December 22, 2004

whoa. she's on meds and drinking? that might explain a lot. i've had experience with someone whose personality changed dramatically with drink while on anti-depressants of some kind.
posted by andrew cooke at 8:57 AM on December 22, 2004

It's a problem. Don't pretend like it's not. Maybe the two of you can solve it together. But you need to do it as soon as possible. Probably the only way is for you to both stop drinking, period. Thinking that she may not be an alcoholic, as nice as it would be, is not doing you or her a favor. You are in a very sucky position. My sympathies.

I'm afraid people who say, "hey, everybody drinks, relax" haven't known people with drinking problems. As others said, it's not the amount, it's the pattern.
posted by Turtle at 8:59 AM on December 22, 2004

As a child of a binge drinker I vote for folly.

As a child of an alcoholic who has seen not one, not two but THREE women all try to change this guy, fail, and then be quietly miserable and blame themselves, I say wait and see if she wants to change, and then watch her change [perhaps with your help] before you make any permanent moves towards marriage. I agree that cheating and abuse are unacceptable, and yet drinking to excess occasionally may be a manageable problem if and only if she can bring the other two things under control. If she's mad at you for making her stop drinking, that's a sign that she's not interested or can't change what she's doing AND that she has a drinking problem. You should not be choosing alcohol over a serious partner, especially if your alcohol use leads to treating that partner badly.

AA and the whole "drinking problem" thing cover a wide range of behaviors and problems but they only work once the drinker has decided to do something about it. For your part, you may want to consider going to Al-Anon yourself. It's a good group for people whose lives have been affected by others' drinking problems and can give you some perspective on your situation, which might be helpful. At the very least, you and your partner need to agree on standards of behavior [like no cheating, no name-calling, whatever] and then if she can't curb the behavior without curbing the drinking, she's going to have a tough choice to make.

The constant morning-after apologizing, the blaming the partner for not being able to drink, the abuse and the unfaithfulness are all danger signs of a problem drinker, whether or not she's an alchoholic or whether or not she hits all the AA bullet points, she's not going to be a good life partner for you until you and she work some of this stuff out. Maybe consider encouraging her to be more honest with her therapist, for starters? Put more bluntly another way, my Mom decided to go ahead and ignore her misgivings and marry a guy with what was at the time a low-level drinking problem and it sucked, it totally horribly sucked, to be a kid in that family.
posted by jessamyn at 9:00 AM on December 22, 2004 [1 favorite]

I have a very good friend, who married another very good friend, whose problem seems to parallel your girlfriend. I never thought he had much of a problem with the drink; we met during college and he had a couple of binge episodes, but so did I, and so did everyone else I knew. But after a while, I got over such collegiate behavior, and so did most of those I knew, but his got worse. The real killer sign of trouble for him and his marriage was the absolute disconnect between his sober personality and his drunk personality; liquor is the potion that turned the nice and sweet Dr. Jeckyl into the raging, abusive, mean-spirited Mr. Hyde, who lost his impulse control and eventually, his memory from such episodes.

While I can't say for sure that your girlfriend is like that, I think there are plenty of the same trouble signs. I can't imagine planning my future around a situation like yours; I've seen the heartache that results when the marriage breaks down after what seems like a relatively minor problem becomes all-consuming. Good luck.
posted by norm at 9:07 AM on December 22, 2004

If none of the above changes your mind, think about this:

She gets hammered and occassionally cheats on you. If she's drunk when she cheats she is much more likely to make bad choices about who she is sleeping with, and she is much less likely to take adequate precautions to protect her -and you- from HIV and other STDs.

I am not being alarmist here: thousands of women (fewer men) in the US and elsewhere become HIV positive through their "monogamous" partners.

So, in a very real sense, she isn't just hurting you emotionally, she is putting your health and you life at risk. This is about as profound a lack of respect for you and your relationship that she can show.
No amount of forgiveness on your part or remorse on her part is going to change that.

Don't wait until she makes a totally preventable "mistake" (HIV, herpes, genital warts, etc. ) that changes your life forever.
posted by googly at 9:22 AM on December 22, 2004

Regardless of whether what she drinks is enough to constitute a drinking problem, there is a correlation between her drinking and her cheating on and yelling at you. You have pointed this correlation out to her, and yet she still continues to drink, which then leads to the cheating and the yelling, which is understandably extremely hurtful to you.

That's pretty fucked up. I'm sure she loves you in her own way, but if she loved you well enough to justify the huge heartache and effort it would take to make a marriage with someone like this work, she would be willing to forego the drinking to avoid hurting you any further. The fact that she would rather continue to cause you emotional pain rather than change her behavior suggests that any long-term relationship with her is going to be about as productive and rewarding as sitting in a dark room and banging your head against a wall all day.
posted by jennyb at 9:43 AM on December 22, 2004

I'm afraid people who say, "hey, everybody drinks, relax" haven't known people with drinking problems. As others said, it's not the amount, it's the pattern.

Oh no, I've known a lot of people with drinking problems. Hell, I serve a lot of them.

PadrePuffin, to be blunt: there is no hope. This will not change, unless she decides to change. There is absolutely nothing you can do for her, except to force her to accept the consequences of her actions. To wit: Leave her. Leave her now. I can't stress this enough.

And as soon as you have shown her the door, go to a clinic and get a full-spectrum STD screen. Now. And again in three months.

The fact that she would rather continue to cause you emotional pain rather than change her behavior suggests that any long-term relationship with her is going to be about as productive and rewarding as sitting in a dark room and banging your head against a wall all day.

Well, you know what they say about banging your head against a wall: it feels so good when you stop.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 9:54 AM on December 22, 2004

mkultra, is it possible to both be "committed to changing her behavior" and also not be controlling?

"Controlling" is a loaded word, usually applied to someone by the affected party. YOU may not be acting in a controlling way, but she will invariably (at least, initially, and definitely at times of extreme stress) say you are. Do not believe her.

YOU are setting boundaries and consequences- "If X, then Y". Should you decide to stick with the relationship, one of the hardest things you will have to say is, "If not X, then not Y" and mean it, and be able to reconcile that with the fact that you love her. SHE must choose whether to accept your terms.

Cheating, BTW, must be something that is established IMMEDIATELY as a deal breaker. You must leave no room for interpretation.
posted by mkultra at 9:54 AM on December 22, 2004

You can't change her behavior, Padre. Only she can change her behavior.

All you can do is to insist that you, and your relationship, be treated with basic respect. Verbal abuse is not basic respect. Sexual infidelity is not basic respect--the two of you could certainly decide to have an open or polyamorous relationship in an atmosphere of respect, but that's not what's going on here.

I would encourage you to look at your behavior, Padre. Why do you think that it's okay for her to treat you like this? Why do you accept her excuse that "the alcohol 'made her' do" something disrespectful and perhaps life-threatening?
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:00 AM on December 22, 2004

Al-anon is *exactly* the kind of thing for you! Please go, and see what's it's like. Talk or don't talk as you feel comfortable, but see if there are people to whom you can relate. If not, try a different Al-anon meeting. This is the kind of situation that Al-anon is all about. You can learn about living with her, and you may also learn things about yourself as well.

Sadly, your girlfriend's psychiatrist probably just doesn't know much about alcoholism. This is not surprising, as most mental health professionals have had terrible training about addiction. There's a long story there, and a lot of reasons why mental health providers know so little about addiction, but nonetheless, most providers are pretty uninformed. A groundbreaking psychologist (and colleague - full disclosure), Stephanie Brown, just wrote a great book for woman about addiction, called A Place Called Self that I wholeheartedly recommend.

Whether she should be correctly labeled "alcoholic" or not is a secondary question - she surely has a serious problem with alcohol if she's getting drunk and being abusive and cheating toward a guy she loves and is considering marrying. She has to be the one to recognize this and consider it a problem before she can do anything to change it. If she doesn't, you can probably pretty safely predict what your future together will be like, and to me at least, it sounds pretty hurtful and grim.
posted by jasper411 at 10:01 AM on December 22, 2004

>>occasionally has been unfaithful

Drinking issues aside, how can you possible think that this girl is ready for marriage, if she "occasionally" cheats on you in your supposedly monogamous relationship?

Instead of worrying about *her* problems, it's time to check *yourself*, and find the reason that you have decided to stay with a girl (for 2.5 years) who continually cheats on you (and is verbally abusive towards you).
posted by naxosaxur at 10:01 AM on December 22, 2004

The questions to ask yourself are these: Can I live with this person, exactly as she is, for the rest of my life? Can I change my idea of marriage to compensate for the weaknesses in this relationship?

Sure, you can encourage her to change, but you cannot expect it. Think about the last bad time, and how you felt then. If that is worth enduring for the sake of the good times, then maybe you should go ahead. But again, prepare for a life with her the way she is. That means accepting an open marriage of sorts (and sex with condoms forever and ever), and no kids--it's bad enough that you take abuse.

As others have said, one of the key signs of alcoholism is that a personality change occurs under the influence of alchohol. Your girlfriend is clearly an alcholic. For myself, I wouldn't even consider such a relationship--but I'm not the one who has already been in it for 2.5 years.

On preview: naxosaur also has a damned good point.
posted by frykitty at 10:16 AM on December 22, 2004

The question is whether there is hope that things will be better eventually, because that is what I require to think that it would be ok to get married

Padre - please don't make the mistake of trading happiness at this current time in your life for the *hope* of happiness in the future. You are unhappy with this person now, and there is absolutely no guarantee that your girlfriend will "see the light" and turn herself around to treat you with the respect you deserve.

I understand that you love her, that she is a good person, she may be bright, funny, intelligent, talented, what-have-you, but she is not treating you well now. I also understand how strong the pull is to help someone who obviously needs help and who you love.

You need to know this: You can't change her. You cannot make someone love themself enough to treat themself with respect, and if a person cannot respect themself, believe me, they will not be capable to giving you the respect that you deserve. They just simply don't know how.

Furthermore, she has proven to you time and again that she is not interested in changing. Yes, she says she will, but as you said, it only lasts shortterm.

Good luck with this, really. I think you can see from everyone's comments all of the red flags here. It's hard to walk away from someone you love, but it's harder to live a day-to-day life married to someone who treats you poorly. You deserve to be treated with respect. Demand it.
posted by vignettist at 10:19 AM on December 22, 2004

is it possible to both be "committed to changing her behavior" and also not be controlling? ... Anyway whoever mentioned al-anon, I think it's time I get myself to a meeting. Nothing ventured, nothing gained and as long as the answer isn't "get the hell out of this mess immediately" I'm going to need additional support and help

You can't change her - only she can change herself.

And AlAnon will not tell you what to do. You will still need to decide for yourself. AlAnon will help you in other ways (more below).

My ex-husband was a heavy drinker. At first, I was rationalizing his behaviour. I was born into a family of very-light drinkers, and thought that my ex's behaviour was only different, not dangerous.

But after eight years of seeing him get out-and-out drunk, verbally abusive, insulting my friends and work colleagues, feeling that I was either controlling or a victim in my own home -- I separated, and eventually divorced him. Some years later, I joined AlAnon where discussions allowed me to reshape my thinking about alcoholics.

One cannot change or control an alcoholic. The usual measures of counting drinks, or matching drinks (foolishly hoping they will slow down), hiding alcohol, scolding for bad behaviour, etc... all this will not work. AlAnon teaches participants about taking care of /themselves/ in a relationship with an alcoholic, whether the alcoholic is a spouse, a family member or a friend.

I was very scared to go to the first meeting - but I found a friendly place with good people who helped me get through that incredibly difficult phase in my life. The 'Anon' in the organization's name is about anonymity - a key foundation of the organization - people only share their first name, all else is completely anonymous.

As for marriage plans - my advice is not to proceed. You accurately sense that there is a problem in your relationship now. Marriage will NOT make any of it better.

Go to an AlAnon meeting as soon as possible - listen to the stories of other people there, share your story... and I hope that the organization will be as helpful to you as it has been to me. I went every week for a few years. I cannot recommend it more heartfully. And, take care of yourself.
posted by seawallrunner at 10:26 AM on December 22, 2004

seawallrunner - what an awesome contribution to this thread! Truly powerful, heartfelt, & well-written -- what a gift!
posted by jasper411 at 10:41 AM on December 22, 2004

She does not fit any of the profiles of "alcoholics" that organizations like AA seem to cater too
From your description she fits many. Have you been to an AA meeting? They have some that are open which you may attend & closed meeting for her only. Also, they offer women only sessions, fyi. Honestly I’d: run Forest run, as the abuse you are experiencing will not be alcoholic related one day.
posted by thomcatspike at 10:48 AM on December 22, 2004

I am nothing new to add. Seawallrunner, Sidhedevil, etc. have given you great advice. I know. I've been there.

I'm commenting to tell you it was great you asked for help. Many have no idea how hard that was.

The next step will be easier. Never forget you are not alone with this problem and there is help any time you need it.
posted by ?! at 10:55 AM on December 22, 2004

Also, remember you are an enabler to an alcoholic when you allow your boundaries do be lessened. If you want to try to make this work, say no alcohol and stick to it forever.
posted by thomcatspike at 10:57 AM on December 22, 2004

To add emphasis to jessamyn's post:

If your marriage to this woman doesn't work out (and I'm confident it won't) you'll have heartache, disappointment, maybe financial loss to deal with. That's your choice. You can always get out and move on.

Get a vasectomy and take your chances but:
Do not marry this woman with the intention of having children.

Would you deliberately abuse or neglect your children? Well, if this woman can't stay sober that's what you'll be doing. Or worse. Someone who has been through a childhood with an alcoholic parent will understand how terrible and damaging it can be. And in many ways a binge drinker is worse than an every day drunk, because the cycle of hope and bitter disappointment is painful and destructive in ways you can't imagine. At least with a chronic drunk you can find some way to adapt. With a binge drinker that's impossible.
posted by TimeFactor at 11:12 AM on December 22, 2004

Problem drinking has two components: the drinking and the problem. There's a lot of projection going on in the replies to this thread, it appears to me, most of it on the 'drinking' part of the drinking problem.

Your problem is the 'problem' part. I personally wouldn't put up with this kind of thing - one episode like this completely wrecked my last serious relationship, which up until that time looked marriage-bound. Of course it's up to you to decide whether the bridge is burnt, but you can't say it's not if the fire's not out yet!
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:18 AM on December 22, 2004

You can't be committed to changing her behaviour. She has to be. You can't change someone, they have to decide to change themselves.

Allow me to echo what many here have said. It's not the number of drinks that matters, it's how it's affecting her life - and your life together. If cheating & abusiveness is blamed on the booze, then she shouldn't drink. If drinking is that important to her that she will continue to do it even when it "makes" her do hurtful things to you, then I think you are right to question if marriage is the right step.

Al-Anon could be really helpful to you. I encourage you to check it out. And maybe even check a couple of different groups, because they have different personalities.

You must set boundaries and decide what is okay and what is not. You must stick to those boundaries. It might be what she needs to get her to snap out of it and get help. Or she might not be ready to deal with it, and she might be stuck in this pattern. You then need to decide if it's alright with you that she continues this behaviour for the rest of your lives together.
posted by raedyn at 11:28 AM on December 22, 2004

I can tell you absolutely that when it's time to propose to the right girl, you won't have any question in your mind.

I just wanted to underline this piece of advice.

In my observation, it's actually pretty easy to predict whether a marriage will be happy. The happy married people I know (including me and my wife) all started off as happy dating couples. By contrast, the couples who had some big issue that was making them unhappy when they were dating still have that issue as husband and wife. They might be aware of The Issue; they might be working on it with all good faith; but that issue is still there, and my prediction with most of those couples is that it always will be there for the life of the marriage.

Most studies that I've seen indicate that having divorced parents is a strong predictor of whether you will be divorced. Presumably this is because we get more of an opportunity to observe our parents marriage up close than any other marriage, and so it forms our ideas of what marriage is supposed to be like. PadrePuffin, I hope you will forgive me for speculating about this, but I'm wondering if perhaps your parents had a marriage that was in some way rocky or unstable. If so, you might be under the understandable but incorrect impression that this is what all marriages are like, and you just have to make the best of it. Take my word that that's not the case.

Obviously, there are occasional losses of temper or whatever in even the happiest marriage, but if somebody is periodically abusive and/or unfaithful to you--whether it's because of alcohol or any other reason--there is a fundamental lack of respect for you, especially if she doesn't see it as a problem worth getting help for. And respect is the oxygen of marriage.

I agree with the prevailing advice here--this is not a marriage you want to get into.
posted by yankeefog at 11:30 AM on December 22, 2004 [2 favorites]

ikkyu2 - I've appreciated your contributions to threads before this, but I must say I can't really understand where you're coming from on this. If by "projection," you mean that people are bringing their own experiences to bear, sharing them, and advising Padrepuffin based on those experiences, then, yes, projection is happening in *all* askme threads having to do with interpersonal problems. Your response sounds like you're discounting those responses because of that, which seems odd to me.

I also must say, I don't follow your division of the issue into two - "the drinking" and "the problem." There was an old t-shirt motto that was supposed to be funny - "I drink until I fall down, what's the problem?" Is this what you mean? I'd say both Padrepuffin and his girlfriend have a pretty serious problem that surely involves drinking. By what criteria are you implying, if I understand you right, that the drinking and the "problem" are separate? And what is added by looking at them as separate and distinct?
posted by jasper411 at 11:38 AM on December 22, 2004

what is added is that you might see some more detail. "alcoholic" is an incredibly broad brush. some of us come from cultures that don't see the drinking that was described as automatically a problem. but those that do appear to jump immediately from "drink" to insert example of appalling alcoholism here.

i almost posted a comment earlier saying how i now could sympathise more easily with people who advocate recreational drugs when faced with "zero tolerance" regimes like the usa. to me, many of the replies above go no further than "tick in the box next to alcoholic - must be evil".

i'm not saying there's not a problem here. i just find the absolute insistence that this is alcoholism disturbing. it seems to block any further exploration. no-one has commented (sniff) for example, on my worry that it could be the alcohol plus whatever anxiety related drugs were/are being prescribed.

alcoholism as a possible route for solutions, fine. but not as a label to the dimississ this woman.
posted by andrew cooke at 11:53 AM on December 22, 2004

I don't see where anyone is using alcoholism as a "label to dismiss" here, though.

Someone else might drink exactly the same amount of alcohol as PP's girlfriend, but not have it be a problem for them. It is clearly a problem for her, though.

(And, andrew cooke, I think you're right that the alcohol is probably interacting with the medication. On the other hand, continuing to drink when it interacts negatively with medication is hardly the sign of a healthy attitude toward alcohol.)
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:00 PM on December 22, 2004

Well, maybe part of the projection is where people think that somehow alcoholism is evil. I didn't see that in the responses from people who had lived through significant alcoholic relationships, but certainly that perception is out there.

I've personally said before (and in this thread too) that the definition of whether someone is or isn't an alcoholic is secondary, mostly because there's so much stigma around that issue. I believe it's important that people come to their own understanding of the ways alcohol use has affected their lives. The ultimate definition, if it ever gets made, must be by the person themself -- "I am an alcoholic" means a heck of a lot more in terms of outcomes than "You are an alcoholic."

The fact that alcohol is significant in this situation seems apparent to me in the way PadrePuffin narrates it - they are wonderful together, she drinks and everything gets screwed up. Plus the girlfriend is, with the psychiatrists complicity IMO, minimizing and/or denying the role of alcohol in her situation. I don't know that it's the *only* issue, but I can't imagine that it's not mightily significant here.

I think the issue you raised about interaction between meds and alcohol is quite important, in that the combination can be lethal. But I'm not seeing that issue as a possible cause for the girlfriend's abusive behavior.

on preview - what sidhedevil said....
posted by jasper411 at 12:09 PM on December 22, 2004

my girlfriend is regularlyseeing a psychiatrist ... she has told me [that] she has been deliberately vague with him about how much and often she drinks,

Translation: she isn't being honest with a professional who is supposed to help her, or she doesn't think her drinking (and related behavior) really is a problem.

and he kind of hand-waves about how her worries about drinking too much are just another manifestation of her worrying about everything else in her life. Hey, he's the pro with years of experience, I'm an amateur, so maybe he's on to something...

Translation: he is drawing conclusions from clearly inadequate information, yet somehow he has a better grasp of this than you do. [And how do you know what he thinks - has he told you, or is this via your girlfriend?]
posted by WestCoaster at 12:13 PM on December 22, 2004 [1 favorite]

Also, it was PadrePuffin himself who framed the discussion as being about a "drinking problem". I think almost everyone has said that alcohol, per se, is not this woman's only problem.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:21 PM on December 22, 2004

Problem drinking has two components: the drinking and the problem. There's a lot of projection going on in the replies to this thread, it appears to me, most of it on the 'drinking' part of the drinking problem.

I'm not sure I'd go this far, but I've known people where having a few drinks was a screen for doing the horrible things they wanted to do. it gave them plausible deniability, rather than being a truly contributing factor. It's pretty hard to tell the difference, though.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 12:26 PM on December 22, 2004 [1 favorite]

She either has a problem with alcohol, or she has a problem she is medicating with alcohol. As someone who's had the latter problem in my life, I can say with all honesty that if a person is medicating with alcohol, then there may be light at the end of the tunnel, but that's dependent on her realizing that she's got some outside issue. Me, I figured it out the second time I was reduced to a complete and total bathroom-floor-hugging, self-destructive, tequila-bottle-hogging mess. I stopped drinking totally for six months and went to some therapy. I'm fine now. That's me. But if this is an alcohol problem, an addiction, if she really cannot or does not desire to control her intake, then it's a lifelong thing. She won't be able to drink again, and she has to stop. Good luck.

Upon preview, PinkStainlessTail makes a point - most people don't (IMHO) do anything drinking that they don't WANT to do sober. They just don't feel badly about it when drunk, and don't have the inhibitions that might be present when sober.
posted by Medieval Maven at 12:49 PM on December 22, 2004

She does not fit any of the profiles of "alcoholics" that organizations like AA seem to cater too--she doesn't go on days-long binges, doesn’t black out, never needs an eye-opener, and after a drinking bout has no desire to touch the stuff for days.

I'm surprised no one has posted this stuff already, but it's important here.

Above you say "she doesn't fit the profile" of an alcoholic. I cannot state strongly enough that there is no one profile. You may be thinking of AA's famous Twenty Questions, which ask about alcohol's role in your life and effects on your behavior. But note that answering yes to even ONE of those questions indicates that there may be a problem with alcohol. Read them over and see what you think. There are alcoholics who drink only one drink a day -- but can't go without it. Alcoholics who stay dry for weeks, then use drinking to cut loose and do things they otherwise know aren't permissible. Alcoholics who binge and alcoholics who drink steadily. Alcoholics who sneak their drinks and those who drink openly. Alcoholics who drink alone and those who drink with friends and encourage each other in the habit. The behaviors you listed above are severe and might fit someone who is a raging, advanced alcoholic, but alcoholism progresses slowly over a lifetime and for heaven's sake, nobody starts out that way.

Second, many have made the point, and it's true, that it doesn't much matter whether you think she's an alcoholic or not. Treatment or AA will only help her inasmuch as she decides she wants the help. Since she's not being truthful even to her psychiatrist about her drinking and associated behaviors, she sounds like she's denying or diminishing the problem. All you can do right now is suggest that if she wants to curtail her drinking and get control over these episodes, there are resources out there for her.

And Third, and most important, is you. Whether or not the gf has a problem is her problem. How you handle it is your problem, and that's where Al-Anon comes in. Here are three PDF files, one with the promising title "Is Someone Else's Drinking a Problem for You?" See how you feel after reading these.

A lot of people get really down on AA and Al-Anon based on Stuart Smalley impression of what they think it is. In my experience (very similar to yours, btw), I found it an incredibly helpful resource. It's just a group of people humbly dealing with situations a lot like this, and you can go as long as you find it useful, and, as they say, take what you need and leave the rest. I only went for about 4 months but it was enough to enable me to realize I didn't have to try and save a bad relationship and that I probably deserved better in life. In the same meeting were people who thought about everything and decided to pursue the relationship. Whatever works. But it sounds like you could use to focus on yourself and get some distance from those emotionally draining episodes. Good luck.
posted by Miko at 12:52 PM on December 22, 2004 [1 favorite]

I am going to respectfully disagree with some of the well-meaning advice here. PP, you're obviously a patient, caring, thoughtful man. Too patient, caring and thoughtful.

Trying to figure out whether your GF is an alcoholic is not the point. Trying to figure out whether she can change, or you can change her, is not the point. Trying to figure out what motivates her to be self-destructive and destructive to others around her is not the point.

The point is that she is hurting you, emotionally and (as I pointed out above) potentially physically. Read these sentences:

she often is verbally abusive to me and a occasionally has been unfaithful.

she begins to be mad at me for "making her" stop drinking, decides she's "ok" and begins drinking moderately again, followed by another binge.

it doesn't seem like the consequences (emotional to our relationship and in terms of risky sexual behavior) are any deterrent to the behavior.

These are your descriptions of her, stripped of the qualifications and rationalizations that make it seem like her behavior is excusable. This is not the description of someone you should spend another day with, much less the rest of your life.

I appreciate your desire to work with her and to believe that she can change. Maybe she can. But I don't think that you should waste your time going to meetings or providing her with literature or trying to figure out what's up with her. It is not your job to change her, and you cannot wait around for her to change as long as she is abusive, disrespectful, unfaithful, and is perfectly willing to put your health and life in danger.

Someone as patient, caring, and thoughtful as you deserves better.
posted by googly at 1:56 PM on December 22, 2004

Time to hit the road. She wouldn't drink and screw around on Brad Pitt, so why should you put up with it? You can do better. Change happens when two equals commit to it.
posted by atchafalaya at 2:24 PM on December 22, 2004

She wouldn't drink and screw around on Brad Pitt

That is the singularly most hurtful and unhelpful comment in this thread.

Yes, she obviously would drink and screw around on Brad Pitt. If she'll do it to this man who she says she loves, then she'll do it to anyone.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 2:27 PM on December 22, 2004

Why wouldn't she drink and screw around on Brad Pitt? dirtynumbangelboy is exactly right--this isn't because PadrePuffin isn't a gorgeous rich movie star, this is because the girlfriend has serious emotional problems of some sort.

If I had a dollar for every movie star whose partner has gotten drunk and screwed around on him/her, I could finally make that Kierkegaard musical I've been dreaming of...
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:52 PM on December 22, 2004

I can tell you absolutely that when it's time to propose to the right girl, you won't have any question in your mind.

This is delusional in my experience, and probably harmful advice. But that's a derail, so sorry.
posted by norm at 2:53 PM on December 22, 2004

This is delusional in my experience, and probably harmful advice. But that's a derail, so sorry.

"Delusional?" norm, doctor of love, tell us how it's supposed to work. Every guy I've known named "norm" has been a smooth operator and I expect you're no exception. But that's a derail, so sorry.
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:11 PM on December 22, 2004

I don't think that you should waste your time going to meetings or providing her with literature or trying to figure out what's up with her.

While I agree with the substance of the statement made above, it's important to recognize that sometimes going to the meetings is exactly the thing that illustrates the necessity of leaving and makes it emotionally possible. Sometimes people even go to the meetings after they've gotten out of one of these relationships, because you tend to be pretty messed up from them, and you want to learn not to repeat them. People who have enjoyed mostly positive relationships might not realize how hard it is to go all 'I Will Survive' on your partner overnight. You don't get from zero to self-acutalized by just walking out.

You're right that the Padre can't change his SO or fix her problems; and that's exactly why Al-Anon meetings are not about the alcoholic at all. They are completely focused on the support and development of the person affected by the alcoholic. No one sits around those meetings trying to figure out how to get others to change or to stop another's drinking. They've all already tried that on their own, for a long time, and failed. The first thing you learn is that you're powerless over someone else's drinking. So changing others is the opposite of what the meetings are for. They are for changing yourself.

Even attending a single meeting of Al-Anoncan illustrate where this type of relationship often goes, and shows the limits of what can be done to cope with it. You see regular , normal people and hear their stories about how they figured out what was going on in their relationships and found ways to handle it. You learn from what these people say and then you use it in your own relationships.

If getting away from this person is the healthiest thing to do, which looks like it is, then better to do it well, with solid reasons and with good tools and resources behind you, than to drag both of the people through a painful, confused, emotionalized, and mutually unhealthy separation process -- which is what alcoholics and their partners tend to do to each other unsupervised. I wouldn't waste any time, either, but Al-Anon could make the difference between separating calmly and amicably, with sincere good wishes for the person you've loved, and separating with the screaming and the throwing of the objects.

Again, it's easy to dismiss these meetings if you have never profited from one, becuse they seem hokey based on the popular culture impression. And there are always a handful of people who have tried them and just find them unhelpful. But hey, if you're exasperated enough to try anything -- even posting the problem to the peanut gallery here at Metafilter -- just think how much better you might do sitting in a room with a bunch of real people who have, not just opinions, but years of practical experience dealing with exactly your problem -- and coming out of it much better off, and much less likely to get into another crappy relationship.
posted by Miko at 3:16 PM on December 22, 2004 [1 favorite]

Eminently sensible and very well said, Miko. As you said, whatever can help PP get through this with health and sanity intact is whats important, and it sounds like Al-Anon can do just that.
posted by googly at 3:22 PM on December 22, 2004

I'll agree with the always helpful andrew cooke -- in lots of cultures this wouldn't be a big deal (depending on the level of unfaithfulness). But folks on drink and anti-depressants are especially prone to emotionally wrenching behaviour. Those pill bottles have stickers that state do not mix with alcohol for a good reason.

I know and love plenty of drunks. I live and let live. But consistent drunken rudeness will get you on my shit list pretty quickly. YMMV.
posted by McGuillicuddy at 5:31 PM on December 22, 2004

Padre: look partner, this thread was way too long for me to read, but I will say I was in almost the exact same situation -- for her it was alcohol (and coke). Hindsight is 20/20, and it took having another serious girlfriend to reflect clearly. You HAVE TO LET HER GO. You've already let her get away with cheating on you. She will continue to walk all over you, and it will only get worse. You are the bitch in this relationship. Run, dude, run -- while you still can.
posted by fourstar at 8:44 PM on December 22, 2004

This has already been said about a thousand times, but you can't make her change. You can talk to her, and she might promise to be good for awhile and then go back to drinking, but she can only change if she wants to.

If nothing else, take a break. Get some space. Don't see her for a month or so. Perspective is an amazing thing. You've been together for a long time, it's probably hard to imagine life without her, but maybe once you get away from her for awhile you'll have a better sense of whether or not you want to spend the rest of your life with this woman.

(I would urge you not to commit to life with a problem drinker.)
posted by SoftRain at 10:30 PM on December 22, 2004

Jasper411: Late reply to you, but here's what I meant: just that I saw some posts focusing on the number of drinks per day, or the pattern of drinking, or what constitutes a drinking problem.

This stuff is all well and good as far as it goes, but to my mind it didn't apply so much to the current post, because as far as I can tell, a serious problem, which definitely involves drinking, is clearly described. Therefore it seems a bit off the mark to delve deeper into what a drinking problem might be, because we've already established that we're talking about a serious drinking problem. In essence I think we agree and I expressed myself badly; sorry about the confusion.

"I drink, I fall down, what's the problem" is a funny T-shirt, but not so funny when it is real people with real problems, I agree with you 100% about that.

I have a great deal of sympathy for the current poster, to whom I offer my best wishes. When I've spoken to my mother about similar topics, she's said to me, "I can tell you, if there's any doubt in your mind, don't get married." I've never been married myself so I am perhaps not the best guy to give advice about this, but Mom's usually on the mark about these things. She is herself a veteran of a ten year marriage that ended amicably, and a 30+ year marriage that ended 2 years ago when my father passed away.
posted by ikkyu2 at 8:45 AM on December 23, 2004

I want to second the comments that you need to stop thinking about how to help her, and start thinking about why you are in this kind of relationship in the first place. I've spent too much time loving volatile women who abused me, and the dirty secret is that if you're in that situation, it might be because you get something out of it in a way that's ultimately bad for you. Here are some questions for you:

Do you feel that if you love her enough, you can find a way to help her? Do you feel that the abuse she gives you is somehow "not really her"? Are you attracted to having the role of the steady one who doesn't fly off the handle? When you forgive her, does that make you feel stronger? Do you hold yourself to a different standard of behavior in the relationship than the one you apply to her? Are you afraid to confront her about the fact that her behavior is hurting you? Do you focus more on how her behavior is hurting her? Do you feel that if you break it off, you are somehow abandoning her to her problems, or failing to make it work?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, than you're in for some hard work on yourself and your motivations, and that work is much more important than her drinking problem. Al-Anon is a good idea, seeing a therapist to try to work through your confusion is another, but in any case, you have to make sure you understand first that the problem is in you, not her.

Don't stay trapped in a role you've created for yourself that can only make you suffer. There's no nobility in that suffering. Take care of yourself first. That's not selfishness, it's something you need to do for yourself before you can ever help anyone else in life. Good luck, leaving her and coming to understand why you accepted the situation for so long will be difficult, but it opens up possibilities for happiness in life that you can't even imagine now.
posted by fuzz at 9:46 AM on December 23, 2004

Drastic: So, here's an additional exercise: the next time she has one of her little screaming drunken abusive fits: imagine a small child in the same room as it happens. Hers. Yours. Imagine her screaming the same things at child as she is at you. Imagine her slapping that child when they cry, or "refuses to be quiet" when she'll be in one of her day-long hangovers.
Picture it as clearly and as intensely as your imagination is able.

Superb advice. But here is one more visualization exercise. Imagine yourself five years from now. You broke up with your current SO, and the feelings of pain and loss are so far in your past that they seem like a story you read about someone else. You are married to person who loves and respects you for who you are, who is effortless to be around. Together you two have created a warm and nurturing environment for your children. They are asleep upstairs while you and your wife put their Christmas presents under the tree and eat the cookies they left out for Santa.

Life can be that way. Good luck, and bless you.
posted by LarryC at 9:51 AM on December 23, 2004

Sure, if al-anon helps you, great; but there's also rage-anon and there are also support groups that are not built around the twelve steps.

In my experience, 'binge drinking' and 'alchoholism' are labels often applied in too much haste. There are people with an unhealthy dependence on alcohol who don't treat their friends and significant others like shit when they're drunk. And there are people who never drink who are unreliable, unfaithful, and unpredictably mean. There are people for whom a few glasses of wine followed by several martinis is not a 'binge' but a deliberately planned and joyfully embraced ritual of recreation, relaxing with friends, or bonding with colleagues.

I have on many occasions consumed what it's clear a lot of people in this thread would consider to be ridiculous quantities of alcohol. Within the culture of such consumption, there are a wide range of behaviors and relationships to alcohol. There are couples, friends, whole social groups who regularly get drunk together and their relationships don't suffer for it.

In other words, the fact that your girlfriend is unfaithful and 'verbally abusive' when drinking doesn't necessarily mean that she is an alcoholic, or needs to stop drinking, or that the problem really has anything to do with alcohol. It means that she needs to stop cheating on you and being 'verbally abusive.' If these things only happen when she drinks, the issue is not that she needs to stop drinking, it's that she doesn't deal with her problems well enough when she's sober and waits until she's plastered to let down her guard and act out on whatever issues she's been bottling up.

PadrePuffin's question says: I love her very much, she is a wonderful, caring, loving person, sober.

I'm afraid that I just don't believe that it's that simple. When she is sober, she is a wonderful, caring, loving person with an urge to get drunk, cheat on you, and be 'verbally abusive.' I don't know why, but it isn't because alcohol just happens to have a nasty effect on her, and things would not be just fine and dandy without it.
posted by bingo at 10:01 AM on December 23, 2004

Life can be that way. Good luck, and bless you.

not to be a downer, but life can go lots of different ways, among them "old and alone"... In general I think the advice in this thread is going the right way, but the attitude of "if it isn't perfect, move on" might be misleading. It sounds like the issues in this relationship are serious enough to warrant rethinking things (I could believe that she is also unhappy in the relationship and that's why she acts out, eg), but I still think it's a little unfair to say "if you have any question, don't do it-."

Everyone wants to find a marriage they have no question about, but not everyone finds that, and whether that's just bad luck, or a personal trait, isn't obvious. In other words, some people might just be more skeptical types who are going to feel hesitant no matter what. Or, some people might be more picky and therefore very rarely meet someone who matches well-enough, so that in order to settle down at all, they may have to quiet whatever little quibbles they're dealing with.

on preview: excellent comment, bingo.
posted by mdn at 11:04 AM on December 23, 2004

« Older Help me with the Jaeger podcaster?   |   Snoop Dogg, Inc. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.