Making choices about whether to drink alcohol when at home or not
December 16, 2014 8:13 AM   Subscribe

My 58 year old husband who is soon to retire from a CEO job(ie high stress) loves alcohol and drinks each night. When we are at home, he offers it to me. I have a love/hate relationship with it and seem to get pulled into drinking with him and then regret it when I get sleepy during a movie or feel somewhat impaired reading a book.

It seems like I would be better off limiting myself to drinking in social settings only; but get sucked into the fact that he just opened a really good bottle of red wine or made me a festive old fashioned.

I know I feel better/sleep better overall without even one drink and get thru my evenings at home better too.

Just say "no thank you" would be the better choice so why is this even a hard decision for me? In the past I asked him to not even offer it to me and he obliged but I guess over time I got back into drinking at home again.

Bottom line is I cannot see how it benefits me or adds to my life other than the taste and the celebratory feel to the evening, but if we are alone watching a movie or reading then sleep is what it brings on for me. I know for him it is his way of relaxing in the evening. By passing on the offer am I missing something or am I missing something by drinking with him? It feels pretty rigid to swear off all alcohol at home and my adult kids are on their way home for the holidays where he will have 2 drinking partners. I literally cannot make it thru watching a movie without falling asleep.

In some ways it feels like I am a stick in the mud by saying no thank you, but also know that between my extended family and his we have BIG drinking cultures that we come from. If you are not drinking (in their minds) you are not enjoying life.

Would love to hear any suggestions.

Thank you.
posted by seekingsimplicity to Human Relations (31 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
If you don't want to have a drink, you don't have to. But I think you know that, surely? I'm wondering if the real issue that you feel like it's weird for your husband to "drink alone", with all of the connotations that go along with that, and that if you have a drink with him it makes his drinking seem more "normal." It doesn't, though - what you do doesn't have anything to do with what he does.

My husband doesn't drink at all and I have wine at home by myself about half the nights. Neither of us feel like that's weird or uncomfortable. If somebody in your own family thinks you're a stick in the mud for not wanting a cocktail, that is 100% not your issue. You aren't a stick in the mud. If alcohol makes you sleepy, that's not fun for you or for the people you're hanging out with. There are plenty of festive non-alcoholic beverages you could drink if you want to participate in the fun holiday atmosphere.
posted by something something at 8:19 AM on December 16, 2014 [8 favorites]

Just say "no thank you" would be the better choice so why is this even a hard decision for me?

I would guess that the reason is because you are telling your loving husband 'no' every night. Based on your past question history I see that like me you are female and in the US. We are socialized not to say 'no' when our partners ask us to do things. I think the answer here is about being comfortable being clear about what you (don't) want and not feeling guilty as if you were rejecting or refusing someone you love.
posted by capricorn at 8:23 AM on December 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

You already know what you want. You have the power to make that decision.

Also: get some tasty bitters and a book about shrubs. Bitters and soda or juice makes for a fantastic cocktail without alcohol. Shrubs are super tasty - they take a bit more time to make, but they are awesome additions to virgin AND real cocktails, so it could be a fun treat for the whole family.
posted by barnone at 8:26 AM on December 16, 2014 [15 favorites]

I feel you, seekingsimplicity - this is something my husband and I are negotiating, because we do for some reason feel that it's "not OK" for one of us to drink alone. But really, that's a weird bullshit social expectation that we put on ourselves, not like a real actual way to ward off alcoholism.

Shrugging off internal expectations takes mindfullness and practice. Instead of saying, "I won't drink at home," maybe try "Before I accept a drink at home, I'll take a mental and physical inventory." This will help with accepting out of habit or obligation.

Another thing to try is to have some really exciting and celebratory non-alcoholic drinks in the house. Fruit infusions in the summer, mulled juices in the winter, smoothies, lassi's, cordials, etc. etc. That way you won't feel like you're missing out.
posted by muddgirl at 8:28 AM on December 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

Just say "no thank you" would be the better choice so why is this even a hard decision for me?

Part of this is that drinking is a social activity. "Let's catch up over drinks" "You got a promotion, let's toast with some champagne!" etc etc. It feels as though by eschewing the drink, you're also swearing off the "socializing" part of the evening. I wonder how you'd do if you made some mocktails for a while, so that you were still engaging in the have-a-special-beverage ritual, without the alcohol component.
posted by melissasaurus at 8:29 AM on December 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

The first step is to tell your family that you want to spend time with them as your most alert and engaged self, which means not overdoing it, and make sure that they understand this, and are willing to make everything entirely your decision, and to avoid making comments that sound judgmental. Ask them to help you by rephrasing things: instead of "shall I make us a round of old-fashioneds, do you want in?" suggest that he say "I'm making myself an old-fashioned, can I get anything for you?"

Then if you don't want to swear off alcohol entirely, find festive-feeling drinks that are low-alcohol, like hot port (which is delicious with just a tiny bit of port and to me feels way too heavy with more than a splash). Get him to mix special drinks for you at half-strength. You've clearly got bitters at home if he's making old fashioneds; maybe make bitters and soda your drink of the week and see how that goes? Choose yourself a wine glass that is half the size of his, and don't be lured into any "let's just finish the bottle" plans.
posted by aimedwander at 8:30 AM on December 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

Or, if you want to have a drink, have it made with half the alcohol? An old-fashioned can still be good with less bourbon, and a small glass of really tasty/special red wine is often more enjoyable than a big goblet-full.
posted by magdalemon at 8:31 AM on December 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

I would suggest drinking exactly as much as you are comfortable drinking, and not worrying about "missing" anything.

My ex girlfriend was pretty much a teetotaller and I went through a period of drinking a lot ... and I happily drank around her while she abstained. It did not diminish any of my pleasure for her to abstain.

The more you abstain, the less he will offer it to you, I should hope.
posted by jayder at 8:33 AM on December 16, 2014

N-thing the suggestions for alternate beverages: fancy teas and hot chocolates, soda with bitters, (non-alcoholic) eggnog, juice spritzers, etc. When your husband offers you a drink, you can join in the excitement/social aspects without the booze with a simple, "No thanks, but I'd love a cup/mug/glass of _____!"
posted by rebekah at 8:33 AM on December 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

I drink most nights at home and my wife almost never drinks. My enjoyment of a good, strong drink at the end of the day is independent of my wife also having a drink. I enjoy a drink, and don't care if she doesn't. Similarly, she enjoys ice cream, and doesn't care if I don't.

In other words, decline his polite offer and let you two enjoy your nights the way you want.
posted by Spurious at 8:38 AM on December 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

Tea culture is something else you could partake in while he drinks.

There is a whole ritual around boiling the water, steeping the leaves, and pouring. The reason regular tea make you feel good (among other reasons) is L-Theanine!

Bergamot black tea with sugar and milk, so cozy. Chai tea is like a "tea hot chocolate." Herbal teas can have zero caffeine but other compounds that make you relaxed, or energized, depending on the effect you want.

In short, Yes, please develop something similar to your husband's practice that makes you happy!
posted by jbenben at 8:41 AM on December 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you feel like imbibing a little, how about replying to his offer with "I'll just have a sip of yours"
posted by JackBurden at 8:50 AM on December 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

The right answer of course is to only drink if you want to but baring that the sip idea is a great one. I also like the tea idea which can be fortified with alcohol but a very small amount such that you are "drinking" but you aren't "DRINKING".
posted by mmascolino at 8:58 AM on December 16, 2014

Response by poster: Thank you all so very much. I cried when I read these helpful suggestions which means to me they are ringing true for me on many levels. I appreciate so much you taking the time to write such thoughtful responses and I feel much relief when pondering them.
posted by seekingsimplicity at 9:07 AM on December 16, 2014 [12 favorites]

I like the idea of alternative drinks, but I also think you don't need to look at this as a black and white issue. You don't need to say yes every time or no every time, to swear off alcohol outside social settings etc.

What I would do is set up some little rule for myself about it, probably either "only drink alcohol 1 or 2 times per week" (this allows you some flexibility on deciding which nights it would be more fun for you or that the drinks are particularly special) or "only drink alcohol on Saturday nights" (or whatever choice of 1 or 2 specific nights in the week) - which is less flexible but easier to adhere to as a rule goes. Talk to your husband accordingly and say this is your new rule to help you sleep better and still have some fun with him sometimes, and then he can help you stick with it by being supportive and hopefully not trying to pressure/offer you drinks aside from the designated times.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 9:07 AM on December 16, 2014 [4 favorites]

Your husband won't be needing to decompress with a drink once he's retired, so if he keeps up the nightly drinking after that then he might well have a bad habit. I've known a lot of people who drank every day and did not consider themselves problem drinkers until they had to stop, for whatever reason. Yes, your husband likes his drinks, but can he go without for a few days without freaking out? I'm assuming you can.

I hope you can come up with an alternative evening ritual that will satisfy both of you. If your husband needs to decompress how about a walk, a soak in a hot tub, an hour of some kind of exercise.
posted by mareli at 9:21 AM on December 16, 2014

It sounds like you really just don't want to drink, and there are no upsides for you to drinking.

So just... don't.

I don't think there's anything we can say to you that will empower you to be open about what you want with your husband.

For one thing, I'd ask him not to make you an elaborate cocktail without asking whether you want one. But beyond that? I dunno, it's kind of on you to not drink a glass of wine if you don't want a glass of wine.

Think of it this way. What if he was offering you a slice of cake and you were very full and definitely not hungry for cake? You'd say so, right? So frame it the same way when it comes to that glass of wine. "No thanks, baby, I'm really psyched to see this movie and wouldn't want to fall asleep." Or whatever. You have clear and perfectly good reasons not to drink, you just have to state them to him in a neutral and commonsense tone of voice.
posted by Sara C. at 9:53 AM on December 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

As just another data point, my wife does not drink much, and I tend to like a beer after work more nights than not. It is not a source of friction in our relationship, and it bothers me not a whit that she doesn't join me in drinking alcohol.
posted by craven_morhead at 9:55 AM on December 16, 2014

Seconding @craven_morhead: "it bothers me not a whit that she doesn't join me in drinking alcohol" is spot on. I literally never even considered the possibility that it would.

My SO likes desserts and I don't. I like a drink and my SO does not. My abstention of ice cream doesn't affect her enjoyment of ice cream, and her abstention of booze does not affect my enjoyment of a good beer. To each his own.
posted by Spurious at 10:02 AM on December 16, 2014

I stopped drinking. As I got older it just got less good for me. I don't think anything of anyone else imbibing, I just don't have a tolerance for it any more. Perhaps just say to your husband, "Sweetie, I've noticed that wine and cocktails are putting me to sleep. I can drink something once in a blue moon but I don't think I have the capacity to enjoy a nightly glass with you any more. Getting old I guess."

You can let him know if you want one, because that's always an option, but if you don't, just say so. The world won't come to an end if you don't drink that Old Fashioned.

Enjoy the retirement!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:29 AM on December 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

If I eat before drinking I lose my appetite for a drink. Maybe you could enjoy the after work relaxation time just as much by sharing an appetizer during your cocktail hour, or scheduling dinner time a bit earlier so that cocktail hour isn't as a big part of the evening. Food will likely make him want to drink less too. Hypoglycemia triggers drinking if one is in the habit of drinking.
posted by waving at 10:38 AM on December 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

When we are at home, he offers it to me.

Your husband is offering it to you to be nice and inclusive, which is great. But in this case, you should let him know that you'd prefer it if he did not offer it. This may take some getting used to for him, but that alone will help a lot. I changed this offering-of-drinks behavior in the evening for my wife, and we're both happier for it.
posted by mcstayinskool at 11:06 AM on December 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'd ask him not to offer, explaining what you told us here: that it puts you to sleep and you aren't enjoying it as much. You can tell him that from here on out, if you want a drink, you'll ask him or get it yourself. Make sure he knows you think it's nice of him to offer and you enjoy being around him and you have no problem with his drinking (if that is the case) so he doesn't feel rejected or judged.

I had to do that with desserts because even if there was no "upside" (I was already full, I was trying to lose weight, I'd feel physically uncomfortable) if someone I loved offered, I was going to say yes.
posted by kapers at 11:14 AM on December 16, 2014

If you want to be able to open "the good wine", but not feel obligated to drink the entire bottle in one sitting, you should investigate the Corovin - I haven't got one myself, but I'm told by people I trust that it really works, even for old & valuable wine. Maybe a retirement present?
posted by mr vino at 11:51 AM on December 16, 2014

Just adding to the chorus that my SO drinks quite often at home when I don't, and neither of us thinks twice about it.
posted by radioamy at 11:51 AM on December 16, 2014

Bottom line is I cannot see how it benefits me or adds to my life other than the taste and the celebratory feel to the evening

These are pretty much the reasons people drink--for the taste and the celebratory/relaxing feeling. They just aren't good reasons for you, or anyway they don't outweigh the negatives for you. So no, you're not missing out on something; you've got the full picture and it isn't your bag, so don't feel bad about it.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 12:00 PM on December 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

I, for minor medical reasons, have had to quit drinking almost completely. My wife doesn't drink that much, but "not that much" is now "more than me". I make whiny noises about how much I'd like gin and tonic (or manhattan or margarita or...) and then make myself some tea.

I don't judge her (if she wants a drink she can have one) and she's okay with it. It's all good.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 3:02 PM on December 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

I recently discovered a recipe for chai tea* in The Joy of Cooking which is so delicious and elaborate, with all the ritual and scent of history that can be enjoyed when making an old fashioned.

Sparkling water with bitters is also lovely, and why not add some cranberries for the season?

*I find it has far too much sugar though, and am cutting it right down to almost nothing. The rest is glorious.
posted by heatherann at 4:27 PM on December 16, 2014

A nice thing about drinking at home is that you can pour yourself a tiny amount of wine. Just enough to taste it, feel festive, participate in the ceremonial part, etc. But not get groggy/sloppy. And I like the idea of having alternative fun drinks on standby: fizzy juice drinks, Fizzy water with lemon, apple cider, etc. Also, in case this is also a driver: don't feel compelled to drink wine just so that it doesn't get wasted. You are not a trash bin. Use it in cooking, or toss it! Good luck. Enjoy the holidays
posted by leslievictoria at 8:21 PM on December 16, 2014

If your husband is offering to be nice to you, after his retirement, he should offer to make your tea (or whatever) with his free time!

It can still be a shared ritual between you :))
posted by jbenben at 11:47 PM on December 16, 2014

It sounds like you haven't explained any of this to your husband. He's making himself a drink and offering to do one for you, because that's what people do. If you don't explain the issues you're having, he's going to keep offering and this problem won't go away.
posted by spaltavian at 5:30 AM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

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