One martini is all right. Two are too many, and three are not enough. ~James Thurber
June 3, 2007 3:38 PM   Subscribe

How does one know what's fair when setting boundaries with an alcoholic husband?

OK, so I made a classic dumb mistake - I'm the child of an alcoholic (mother), and I married a man who has a problem with drinking. With the help of therapy and some online group support (acoa and others), I've dealt with the issues in my relationship with my mother. I've told her how I feel about her drinking, I remove myself when necessary, and I accept that no one can make her change.

However, I'm finding that working things out with my husband is far more difficult. He's from another country, and left to his own devices there, he'll happily drink every night. Here, he seems to have it under control a bit more, since he's away from most influences - but give him half a chance, and he's off to the races. For example, last night - we went out for Mexican food, where I had a margarita the size of a small boat, and he had three draft beers. Obviously, I'm not a teetotaler. We went back home, and he said that he wanted to "Go out for a bit and maybe have a coffee." I was fine with that - I don't mind where and when he goes out, and have told him so. What I do mind is when he goes out and somehow always manages to find alcohol, coming home stumbling and stinking. He finally rolled back in at 3:30am, and you can guess what shape he was in.

Of course, he likes to claim that I'm "pushing" him to drink, by telling him what will happen if he gets drunk. (separation etc...) I already recognize this for the excuse it is (my mother used to use it too), but I'm wondering if I'm being unfair in a way. He gets drunk about twice a month now, usually on a weekend, but is quiet and hardworking the rest of the time. It's not like a lot of the other AskMe questions on alcoholism, where the SO is drunk almost every day. I recognize that my history is making what might seem tolerable or even funny to some people completely intolerable to me. When I see him drunk, I just hate him, and it's not healthy. We've already separated twice over this - once he went off to a friend's house for a week or so, once back to his country for a few months. Each time, I had to play the bad guy (which I hated), while he cried and talked about how I was right and that he had a problem.

So what I'm thinking at this point is that I'd like us both to find someone more suitable, since neither of us are going to change. I'd like someone who can go out and have a drink without wanting to get sloshed (among other things), and I'm sure he'd like someone who won't get all up in arms about his habits. I'm most afraid of ending up like my father - married to someone whose main hobby is drinking, destroying their health/relationships, and all the associated problems that go along with that. I've done my best with the "for better or for worse" part of my vows, but I'm tired of waiting for the "better" to arrive.

What I would like from you, AskMeFi-ers, are your unvarnished opinions. If you think I should cut him loose, fine, if you think I should pull the stick out of my ass, please feel free to let me know that as well.

Extra info - married five years, me= early 30s, him=mid 30s, no kids.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (40 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
He gets drunk about twice a month now, usually on a weekend, but is quiet and hardworking the rest of the time.
Honestly, this doesn't sound much like alcoholism to me, but that's not to say it isn't problem drinking. I'm Scottish though, and I work in a place where everyone has two pints on their break.

That said, twice a month on the lash? Is that really terrible? There are alcoholics in my family, and while I understand the way you hate being around drunks, it might be a big ask for someone to become tee-total, especially when they clearly like to drink. This may be the deal-breaker for you, but only you can answer that.
posted by bonaldi at 3:46 PM on June 3, 2007

whoa, have you guys tried counseling?

although, frankly, it sounds like you've made up your mind to leave already. if you're worried that your reasons aren't sound, they are. you're not being a party pooper.

make yourself happy. let him go.
posted by thinkingwoman at 3:48 PM on June 3, 2007

I guess whether you have a problem with something is much more a subjective than an objective thing - if you and he find his drinking a problem - then it is a problem.

Depending on what's happening I could go out with friends and get stumbling home drunk several weekends a month. If it didn't make me the size of a house I'd probably have a beer with dinner most nights. I don't think either of these things make me an alcoholic or mean that I have a problem with drinking.

You say that his drunkenness is confined to weekends primarily and limited to a couple of times a month. To me this doesn't seem like alcoholism. Friends of mine who are/were alcoholics didn't limit their drinking to convenient times - its every night - if just at night. For them drinking was the central feature of their life - it doesn't appear to be so in your husbands case from what you say.

Do you think there's a possibility that you are viewing your husband through the prism of your own personal experiences and as such might be seeing something which isn't necessarily there? Could this be being exacerbated by the cultural differences that you mention as well? I guess only you and he can work out whether there is really a problem there - I hope you guys can sort things out.
posted by prentiz at 3:55 PM on June 3, 2007 [2 favorites]

I recognize that my history is making what might seem tolerable or even funny to some people completely intolerable to me.

That, ultimately, is what matters in the relationship, what you can tolerate.

Alcoholism seems to start at the point where your drinking interferes with the rest of your life and you still can't stop. His wife has threatened to leave him, and he still goes out and gets drunk, so he's an alcoholic. You can't abide an alcoholic--not even a functional one--so you have to set your boundaries right there--no benders. If he can't adhere to that, it pretty much proves the correctness of your decision.
posted by jacquilynne at 3:56 PM on June 3, 2007 [3 favorites]

I'm probably going to be in the minority on this, but I'm not of the opinion that getting plastered a couple of times a month necessarily = problem w/ alcohol. But if you don't want him to come stumbling home reeking and incoherent (which is a totally reasonable request -- and I do hope he has enough sense to take cabs when he's that far-gone), then he needs to learn to drink more responsibly. It's possible, for instance, to stop drinking earlier in the evening and sober up a bit before coming home. So if that's a boundary you've set, he needs to figure out whether or not he can moderate his drinking enough to respect it. If not, you need to decide whether you still want to stay with him. You say that "hate him" when you see him like this and that this feeling isn't going to change -- I don't think the relationship is likely to survive if this feeling of hate continues to arise on a regular basis.
posted by treepour at 4:02 PM on June 3, 2007

jacquilynne has it.
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:04 PM on June 3, 2007

The red flags are not the getting drunk, but:

- Your mother is an alcoholic
- He tells you you're driving him to drink (classic addict-speak, as I'm sure you know)
- He tells you he's going out for coffee and gets trashed instead.
- You two seem to have already settled into the classic "co-dependent" scenario, with you threatening separation, him "retaliating" by saying you're driving him to drink.

This just sounds like it's not going anywhere good. But you are married, and getting divorced sucks. I vote for couples counseling, with a therapist that has experience dealing with addiction issues.

On preview: Jacquilynne is right. Not all alcoholics are constantly drunk. I had a very good friend who was a "functioning" alcoholic, in that he could go weeks or months without drinking. But when he did drink - wooo-eee, bad news.
posted by lunasol at 4:04 PM on June 3, 2007

This doesn't sound like behavior you can live with-- and whether or not it's alcoholism, it's clearly something he chooses to do even though you don't like it and he doesn't seem willing to stop. It sounds like as a result, you are not suited to each other and given that there are no kids involved, it seems to me that you'd probably be better off apart.

That said, counseling might be worth a try-- especially since he sometimes seem to think he has a problem. If he's willing, there's a program called moderation management-- which helps people cut down and/or learn that cutting down for them is impossible and that abstinence is the best thing for them.

To find a therapist nearby who is educated in using various moderation techniques (but will, of course, help with abstinence if that turns out to make sense, try here

Many of these use an approach called "motivational interviewing" can help people with drinking problems discover what's best for them, whether it be cutting down or abstinence.

But beware: some counselors (though not those linked) take the "any drunkenness means alcoholism means AA" approach (even though the science doesn't support this) and as a result, it may be difficult to find one that uses the most effective techniques to motivate people to change.

However, none of this guarantees a fast or definite change in him, though it might offer you guys a shot at staying together if that's what you want.
posted by Maias at 4:10 PM on June 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

I've got to second the folks who point out that it's not the frequency, it's the inability or unwillingness to live within the parameters you've said you can accept.

Just to be clear, I'm not saying that he's an alcoholic just because he can't live within the boundaries you find acceptable. You have, though, communicated some pretty clear requirements about what you can handle within a marriage, and he doesn't seem to be able to live within them. It's almost immaterial whether he's an alcoholic, or you're maybe bringing a lot of baggage. (I'm not saying that he is/isn't, or you are/aren't--I'm just saying that trying to decide that stuff is actually a distraction.)

You need to fundamentally decide whether you can be together. From what you've written, I've got to agree that it sounds like you've already made up your mind and you're looking for permission/encouragement to let go, but I also know that what you write at a time of high emotion isn't necessarily the complete picture. It's totally possible you cathartically wrote something tonight that sounds like you want to cut him off, but your actual feelings are a lot more conflicted. Either way, though, you need to come to terms--living in this kind of emotional ambiguity long-term is not healthy. I think the idea of talking to a counselor or therapist, especially one who specializes in relationship issues, is a good one. Whether or not you ever get your husband involved in that discussion, it'll maybe help you sort out how you really feel.
posted by LairBob at 4:15 PM on June 3, 2007

FWIW my grandmother was a drunk. (Yes, the same one whose name I use as a username here.)

I'm wondering if it is fair for you to be drinking if you don't want HIM to drink. And I'm wondering if it is possible for him to drink without getting plastered.

I'm also wondering, frankly, how he is making it home safely. Is he drinking and driving?

My thought is you two need to go see a neutral party about this.

(For the record I will have a sip of wine occasionally at my parents' house so I am not a total teetotaler.)
posted by konolia at 4:33 PM on June 3, 2007

Yeah, it's not unreasonable to expect to him to not come home reeling drunk, but you gotta stop drinking in front of the guy. A margarita the size of a small boat?
posted by Justinian at 4:43 PM on June 3, 2007

I think insisting that your spouse not come home plastered at 3am is totally reasonable. I also think that since you don't have kids, you could "pull the stick out" and "get used to it" if you're happy with him otherwise.

Really, all you have to do is decide. Remember the "Ann Landers test": Am I better off with him or without him?

(Please don't have kids with him - he's probably not "dad" material. I bet you know that already though.)
posted by putril at 4:46 PM on June 3, 2007

I'll just add this:
I had to leave someone who decided her addictions and selfishness were more important than the marriage or her child. It was her choice, I just reacted to it.

If your husband knows that this behavior is jeopardizing the marriage, but chooses to continue, he has made his choice.

Counseling is worth a shot, even if you go alone to get help learning about boundaries and allowing him the consequences of his choices.
posted by The Deej at 5:05 PM on June 3, 2007

If he cannot live within your parameters then leave him, but be aware that getting drunk twice a month on a weekend doesn't really represent problem drinking at all. Your sensitivity to alcohol consumption is one thing, but you might want to look at any unresolved issues between you and your alcoholic parent. I don't find your husbands drinking activities at all unusual or disturbing.
posted by fire&wings at 5:06 PM on June 3, 2007

Well, both my dad & my sister are alcoholics, and I have a high tolerance for alcohol so I can put 'em back myself. I have always made a point to be very aware of my relationship to alcohol & the people who drink it & I think that's been key for my own survival.

You mention that he's from a different country & that's a big piece of the puzzle for me. You didn't say *which* country, though. I've had British, French & Yugoslavian boyfriends and they all had very different relationships with alcohol than the American men I've known. For them, alcohol didn't represent escape, it was considered an integral part of their culture that made life complete. Going without wine at dinner would be like depriving yourself of water. At first I thought, "Oh my god, these men are alcoholics. I'm dating my father." but after a while I realized that I was projecting my own issues onto other people. I realized that it was MY attitude & my fears of alcoholism towards alcohol that were the issue. Dating men from other countries was actually good for me because it allowed me to relax and see alcohol in a positive way as an enjoyable addition to life instead of as a monster that takes people over or offers a dysfunctional escape from reality.

Now all of that said, about six years ago I dated someone that I had known since I was 18 who happened back in my life. When we were in college he had an alcohol problem & that's why I never dated him before. He came back into my life claiming all of those issues were in the past & that he had a healthy relationship with alcohol now. After proclaiming his adoration for me & gaining my trust, I gradually found out the hard way that he had lied. Things weren't adding up & he started letting his guard down. I started to realize he COULDN'T go a day without alcohol. I found out that he was hiding beers, drinking at 11am, bringing me a bottle of wine for dinner and then emptying my other bottles when I was in the shower. He'd tell me he was on his way to my house, and then I'd find out he stopped at a bar on the way. The guy was a mess, and he was quickly ordered to hit the road.

So as others have said, I think the key is... how his drinking affects you. Drinking twice a month doesn't sound so bad, but I don't know who this man is. I don't know what alcohol does to him. Does it turn him into an asshole? Can he not live without it? Or is he just enjoying himself and blowing off steam? Is alcohol harmless for him? Or is he addicted to it and falling apart?

It's tricky because you & I have a history of alcoholic people in our lives and so it's easy to project those experiences onto a situation out of fear of repeating our pasts. First what you should do is try to figure out if that's the right thing to do... is alcoholism truly HIS problem here? Or is it yours? Is he a drunk? Or are you just afraid of being around drunks?

FWIW, YMMV, etc, as usual.
posted by miss lynnster at 5:25 PM on June 3, 2007

Yes, don't think of this as an alcohol problem, because it's not. It's a problem brought on by alcohol, but because you don't like it. In reality, it's a problem with your expectations and his unwillingness to meet them. Either he is going to have to change his behavior or you are going to have to change your expectations. If you're really so bothered by alcohol that him getting drunk twice a month is enough for you to throw him out of the house, it's no wonder he says he's going out for coffee when he really wants to go to the bar and get plastered. He'd rather be out drinking than listen to you once again compare him to your alcoholic parent.

That doesn't mean it's your fault, or that you should put up with it if it causes you that much distress, it just means that getting drunk twice a month is by no means an alcohol problem and lying about it is fairly par for the course for most people who prefer to avoid the unpleasantness of staring a deep incompatibility in the face.

Basically, there are two things at work here. Your husband likes to drink what he thinks is a reasonable amount. He finds it worth lying about to do, because he thinks it's perfectly normal. You have a pretty heavy problem with drinking to excess, no matter how infrequently. You equate this with alcoholism. Obviously, these are incompatible world views. One of you is going to have to change. From the way you made it sound, you either have to leave him or decide that you can deal with having a drunken fool in your house a couple times a month. You could always do the same, unless you're concerned about becoming an alcoholic yourself. It's much easier to deal with drunk people when you're also inebriated because they're not nearly as annoying. ;)

I say this as someone who has run the gamut from not ever touching alcohol to drinking nearly every day to drinking 4-6 times a year.
posted by wierdo at 5:25 PM on June 3, 2007

"Of course, he likes to claim that I'm "pushing" him to drink, by telling him what will happen if he gets drunk."

In a sense, you are. You are assuming responsibility for moderating his consumption of alcohol. This both disempowers him in his own efforts to abstain, and encourages him to binge in protest of your controlling efforts. The drama that surrounds this tug-of-war provides a convenient distraction for both of you in taking steps to decide what you really want for yourself.

I recommend you check out Al-Anon. It sounds like you already have, but you want to make it a regular thing and work on your issues there ( e.g. "When I see him drunk, I just hate him, and it's not healthy"). What's needed is to disengage yourself from trying to control your husband's drinking and focus on your own needs.

I'm a great fan of the use of "boundaries", but trying to use them to control your partner's drinking is really flipping the idea on it's head. Their proper use is to help you define and articulate your own needs and what you can accept, and empowering others to choose whether to meet those needs and continue your life together. A boundary should only prohibit something you truly find unacceptable, i.e. something that will force you to leave. If used to try and impose some arbitrary behavior, (e.g. you can have two drinks but no more) it will likely be counterproductive.

I have no opinion on whether your partner's binges constitute alcoholism, and neither should you. Focus on your own issues with regards to alcohol, and let him work on his without meddling. By disengaging from the codependant dance you might find the clarity to decide for yourself what you want and whether your partner can provide it.
posted by Manjusri at 5:35 PM on June 3, 2007 [3 favorites]

In my 20s, going to a few Adult Children of Alcoholics meetings actually helped me quite a bit too.

Personally, I'm not saying the guy doesn't have a drinking problem. Maybe he does. But before deciding to leave him, for your own sake you should think clearly about your own problem with alcohol. I can GUARANTEE you that if you are projecting your alcohol issues onto him that it will happen to you again and again in the future with other people. It will not stop with him. You will probably feed your fears and push people away in the future too.

There's an old proverb: "Once you've been bitten by a snake, you will fear a piece of string."

Not only that, but he might be far more receptive to you and consider cutting down on his alcohol intake if you addressed your own problems too instead of just giving ultimatums & judging him. You should be working together on this & dealing with BOTH of your issues. Because of your childhood you are feeling vulnerable. He could probably respect that if you actually allowed him to instead of attacking him with it.
posted by miss lynnster at 5:54 PM on June 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

Looking over the question again, you refer to your husband as an alcoholic in the first line of your question, without providing any evidence of this in the body of your post.
posted by fire&wings at 6:04 PM on June 3, 2007

Where I live, for a person of his age without kids, his drinking habits would make him a moderate drinker. It's all about context, and your post makes me think you understand this.

I recognize that my history is making what might seem tolerable or even funny to some people completely intolerable to me. When I see him drunk, I just hate him, and it's not healthy.

I think it's time for the "it's not you; it's me" cliche to come into play. I don't think you guys can find common ground on this issue, and if it's a deal breaker for you, then that's what it is. If you do decide to end it, make sure to tell him that this is as much your "dumb mistake" as it is his drinking.

But ultimately, the best advice I could give you is to take my advice with a pinch of salt.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 6:19 PM on June 3, 2007

I'm wondering if you aren't projecting your feelings about your alcoholic mother onto your husband?
posted by smart_ask at 6:27 PM on June 3, 2007

You guys both need to go to marriage counseling. Twice a month does not seem that bad to me either, but there may be details I'm not seeing. That's where the professional comes in.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:28 PM on June 3, 2007

You mention ACOA in terms of "online support" -- I strongly recommend that you find a 3D, real-life meeting. Nothing online comes anywhere close to sitting in a coffee house with someone who gets it, gets you.

Reading what's here: You describe your marriage as "a classic dumb mistake." The two of you have separated twice over this issue, with your husband agreeing that he has a drinking problem yet not following through with a change in his behavior -- or not enough of a change to make you comfortable. You're already thinking (in the abstract, I assume) about more suitable partners for both you and him.

Your marriage is over. You've already checked out, and the only fair thing to do is end it, legally and officially.

There aren't any kids involved, so is there any other reason you're hesitating? Property? Immigration issues? If so, consult a good lawyer in the relevant field.

Cut him loose.
posted by vetiver at 6:39 PM on June 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

No kids and you definitely want to separate? Then do it.

But, are you sure that's what you want? Are you good at making that kind of decision about your future without regrets later on? If not, then counseling, for you, and perhaps as a couple.
posted by DarkForest at 6:42 PM on June 3, 2007

The only thing that sounds really bad to me is accusing you of driving him to drink. That's really messed up.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 7:07 PM on June 3, 2007

The only thing that sounds really bad to me is accusing you of driving him to drink. That's really messed up.

That's exactly what I thought.

I have always assumed everyone I know gets drunk at least twice a month, and I have never thought that level of consumption signified alcoholism.

The problem, as many have said above, sounds like it's more with your relationship with him, and your own issues with alcohol, than any objective diagnosis of alcoholism in your husband.
posted by jayder at 8:00 PM on June 3, 2007

I was going to comment then I read jayder's comment and that nailed it for me.
posted by ob at 8:03 PM on June 3, 2007

Jacqueline had it at the start. The relationship is endangered by his drinking, yet he continues to drink. Meanwhile, heavy drinking has had a negative effect on your life in the past.

Sadly, you should probably be done with him.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 8:06 PM on June 3, 2007

from the original poster:
"The reference to a "small boat" sized margarita was a joke. I had a margarita, but it was just a normal sized one. I take your point about not drinking in front of him - it's still hard for me to understand why someone can't just enjoy a couple of drinks without going overboard. Oh, right, that would be an alcoholic (smacks head). Plus, I like to drink from time to time, though I don't like to get totally bombed - I think I have a good idea (like Miss Lynnster) of how much I can handle, and I know when to stop, usually. The last time I was drunk (couldn't stand up, toilet hugging) was about two years ago.

Also, the getting drunk a couple of times a month would not be a big deal to me if I hadn't seen him getting drunk EVERY night for about two years in his own country. And I don't mean just enjoying wine with dinner or a few beers, I mean 5-6 beers, plus a bottle of wine, plus whiskey. I see his drunkenness here as falling back into an old pattern - if he has easy access to alcohol, he abuses it. As for drinking and driving, he did that all the time back home, but in his culture, the cops are easily bribed. I've resisted helping him get a driver's license here for just that reason. I couldn't bear it if he was hurt or hurt someone else.

Dad material - he's actually great with kids, very patient and fun. Growing up with an alcoholic, though, is not pleasant - even if your Mom is a "fun" drunk, which mine was not.

I'm going to try couples counseling, or at least further counseling for me - my university offers it, fortunately. Thanks for all the suggestions/advice so far, it helps. BTW, I would have just posted this under my regular user name, but I didn't want to cause him any embarrassment."
posted by mathowie at 8:21 PM on June 3, 2007

I'm not sure if talking to me, but in case you were... I don't see anywhere that I referred to ACOA for "online support." I just linked to their website for information about them. As I said, I went to a few of their in-person meetings many years ago. They didn't even have online support at the time.
posted by miss lynnster at 9:37 PM on June 3, 2007

You did ask for unvarnished, right?

"it's still hard for me to understand why someone can't just enjoy a couple of drinks without going overboard"

People's definitions of alcoholism are rather like their definitions of promiscuity. A slut is someone who has had more sex partners than I have -- an alcoholic is somebody who likes to consume more alcohol than I do. The only reasonable choices about appropriate frequency or dose are MINE, MINE, MINE!

Tables turned: If I were in your husband's shoes, I'd resent spending time with a partner who was so controlling of my behaviour. If my tying one on upset her, I'd try and do it out of her presence -- for example, by taking her home after a date and *then* going out and getting pissed. But if she saw *that* as a problem, well, I'd see that as her issue, not mine.

From my side of the table, I see him trying to please you by accepting your definitions and trying to moderate his behaviour to meet those rigid standards, and I think, 'either this guy really, really, loves her, or his native country is Romania and he'll put up with *anything* to get that green card'.

Me, I'd be gone.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:05 AM on June 4, 2007 [3 favorites]

I grew up with an alcoholic adoptive father (every night, pretty much, and most weekends from about lunchtime on he was drinking) and seeing people close to me drunk makes me extremely uncomfortable, even if it's a one-off or a special occasion like a wedding. I do still drink myself but I am always aware of my level of impairment. If I'm out with my husband, I watch how much he drinks and we generally have an informal agreement that one of us will stay sober. My biological dad likes to have a few beers on the weekend for the heck of it, and this makes me uncomfortable too, although I don't mind a beer or glass of wine to unwind at night (hypocritical much?).

So based on all that I understand where you're coming from. A couple of times a month of getting shitfaced would be too much for me, way too much. Presumably those commenting that it's no big deal to have a couple of blowouts a month don't fully understand your history -- and for me to claim I do would be presumptuous and rude, but I get the gist, I think.

I suppose it's also true that you've dug your own grave by marrying someone for whom drinking is the norm, but if he is unwilling to make the effort to stop, and is blaming you for his drinking, then for your own sake I'd say just go. You can do better. You've given him real opportunities to change but any change he's made has only been to get a temporary reprieve -- so essentially it's selfish. I have my doubts that counselling would change things, at least not for long.

(I'm probably being very cynical, but I think were I in your situation, I'd be gone by now.)
posted by tracicle at 12:55 AM on June 4, 2007

What's fair is what you are able to tolerate. If it is affecting your relationship and you think it's too much, then it's too much.

Way too much information from here
I seriously think you deserve better. I was in a similar situation (even down to him being from a different country, but mine was never quiet or hardworking). He had an alcohol problem. He'd even been busted for drink driving multiple times in the past. Admittedly, I drank more frequently than him. I'll have a glass or two of wine 3 - 4 nights a weeks with dinner. He used to drink maybe 1 night every week or so, but after he'd have 1 drink, he'd keep going until he'd drunk every drop of alcohol in the house and become aggressive, abusive and belligerent. He would do this in front of my friends, at a professional conference he attended with me and worst of all, he'd do it on front of my daughter. He would accuse me of being an alcoholic, a bad mother and of being the cause of him drinking. He threatened me with violence on several occasions, and followed through once (maybe more than once, depending on defintions). Twice, I phoned the police and had him removed from our home (he wasn't on the lease, so I had the power to do so).
He would continually promise "NEVER TO DRINK AGAIN" and continually do so again and again. One day, while he was behaving badly, I took every drop of alcohol in the house and locked it in a cupboard and hid the keys. A few months later (after he was permanently out of the country) I found out that he had told one of my best friends that HE had done the locking up of the booze to keep it from ME, and that I was uncontrollable. The day that he finally killed any feelings I had for him, he sat drinking a pink vodkatini thing and when I reminded him of his promise to not drink, he got all pouty and called me a killjoy, as he was only wanting to celebrate a nice event that we were at (a christening(!!)), and how unfair I was to begrudge him having ONE drink. He then proceded to get plastered and finally burnt the last of his bridges.

He was also a cigarette & a dope smoker, both of which I detest. Maybe it was unreasonable for me to have a glass of wine with my dinner and not expect him to get resentful, but I think he owed it to himself to deal with the fact that in life he was going to witness people comsuming alcohol and control his own urges without blaming other people for "making" him drink.

Looking back, I'm astounded at how low I was in my life that I put up with his shit for as long as I did (~2 years), but I have a few explanations.

My email is in my profile, please feel free to contact me if you want to.
posted by goshling at 7:54 AM on June 4, 2007

There is no excuse for abuse or abusive behavior and as his actions are unacceptable to you then you should probably split up. I do think that your attitudes towards alcohol are somewhat unreasonable however. I'm sure this is as a result of your background just in the same way as I react irrationally towards certain things as the result of my childhood. As others have pointed out non-Americans have quite a different relationship with alcohol (this of course is a massive generalization as I know plenty of Americans who conform to 'European' drinking standards). If your 'reasonable drinking standards' are a couple of drinks on a weekend night and that's it, then that's ok, but in the future this should be one of the criteria that you look for in a partner. I will say this though: there are a huge amount of people that drink a lot more than that who are not alcoholics. On the other hand, just so I'm clear on where I stand, I do think that hiding alcohol are being devious about drinking are signs of alcoholism.
posted by ob at 8:12 AM on June 4, 2007

I just want anti-chime with Jacquelynne. IMHO, the fact that the op's husband is defying her wishes and getting drunk twice a month does not, by definition, make him an alcoholic.

The op is seeking to control her husband's behavour for her own (very understandable) reasons. He's rebelling against her controlling behaviour. He doesn't (necessarily) have a problem with alcohol - he has a problem with her.

I think it's really impressive, actually, that he's gone from drinking heavily every night to only drinking heavily once every couple of weeks. The fact that he can make this move makes me think he's probably basically ok with alcohol.

It's an easy game to say "As long as you don't behave exactly a I would like in relation to alcohol YOU HAVE A PROBLEM." Nope, she does.

I used to date someone who had an alcoholic father and was a tee-totaller. I like to drink. His attitude towards alcohol really ruined drinking for me - he made me feel like an alcoholic for liking a glass of wine with a meal occasionally. If we went out with friends and got a bit tipsy he would tell me all the things I did that night which he could attribute to booze. He really poisoned what was just innocent fun. I came to the conclusion that he would only be happy if I was tee-total. But I didn't give up booze. Because why should I submit to his messed-up take on the subject? We split up, of course, although not over that, as such.
posted by tiny crocodile at 11:13 AM on June 4, 2007

I just want anti-chime with Jacquelynne. IMHO, the fact that the op's husband is defying her wishes and getting drunk twice a month does not, by definition, make him an alcoholic.

Sure, fair enough. But whether the problem is that he's an alcoholic who can't quite drinking despite the effect it's having on his marriage or an asshole who won't quite drinking despite the effect it's having on his marriage has a negligible effect on the outcome of the situation.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:19 AM on June 4, 2007

Plenty of good stuff above but I'd add one thing:

I'd like someone who can go out and have a drink without wanting to get sloshed (among other things)

You've also clarified that you'd be okay with the twice a month if not having seen him drink to excess repeatedly in his home country. I don't think you're unfair in having your own personal boundaries and guidelines - we're all entitled - but I'd watch out that if you do separate and go looking for someone else that you don't discover that the goalposts have moved for you again and even a few drinks bothers you.

Or put another way, don't neglect looking into your own behaviors and perspective, no matter how you choose to go forward with this.
posted by phearlez at 12:25 PM on June 4, 2007

I don't think his behavior is wrong in itself, but it's not wrong for you to be made unhappy by it. As for sticking with your marriage vows, those vows go both ways. Does he ever make sacrifices for you? Are you partners in most things? Is he your best friend? Is there anything worth saving?

Only you can answer these questions. But I will give you my own experience and say that after ending my first marriage, (a child free relationship with addiction issues that lasted about 8 years) I met my soulmate. We're so happy that I can't imagine what made me settle for so little for so long.
posted by happyturtle at 1:45 PM on June 4, 2007

Also, the getting drunk a couple of times a month would not be a big deal to me if I hadn't seen him getting drunk EVERY night for about two years in his own country.

So were these observations prior to your getting married?

If so, I can't help wondering why you married him. And I'm sure he'll be thinking 'Typical woman. Your behaviour is perfectly reasonable until they've got that ring on their finger, but once they've managed to dodge the curse of life-long spinsterhood, you then become a 'project', to be transformed from the man you actually are, to the man that they'd really like you to be.

Apologies if none of these things apply in your situation, but the tendency is an extremely common one, and one that is a continuous source of misery when men are talking to each other about these matters.

Basically, we end up feeling as though we've bought a pig in a poke, or been subjected to some kind of nasty bait and switch, in which the sweet, cooperative woman we thought we were marrying, is swiftly transformed into some nagging harpy.

Disclaimer: I know that this bait and switch tendency works in the opposite direction as well. Men may appear affectionate and considerate, only to become remote and distant. Or they may appear secure and well-balanced, only to become obsessively jealous. None of it's good though.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:14 PM on June 4, 2007

But whether the problem is that he's an alcoholic who can't quite drinking despite the effect it's having on his marriage or an asshole who won't quite drinking despite the effect it's having on his marriage

Or, you know, the problem could be that she's controlling and overbearing and ruining this guy's life.

I agree, I think they should break up, but I don't think the poster deserves this categorical exoneration.

If I had a husband that I was sick of and decided that hey, I am going to lay down some sort of line that I absolutely know he can't adhere to, culturally, behaviorally, whatever, then I get my wish, but I also get to know that it's because I was being unreasonable and unwilling to compromise.

The guy isn't an alcoholic, he's a guy with a control-freak for a wife. But I am still all in favor of breaking up.
posted by mckenney at 2:48 PM on June 4, 2007

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