I am in a confusing space with my boyfriend of almost a year. Most of the time he is a lovely guy and we get on well. However, I have issues with his level of drinking and partying.
When we first got together, this was not so much of an issue, as we spent less time together and we used to go out and party together. But now that we spend most nights together I am beginning to see this is the way things are with him. He seems to need to go out every weekend and get completely out of it, and all his friends do the same.
I am certainly not adverse to a couple of drinks, but this need for serious all night obliteration, every weekend, is beginning to concern me. Even worse, now I am beginning to notice that he likes to drink most nights during the week. This is especially concerning as he has addiction issues in his family – his father is a serious alcoholic.
I have tried talking to him about it, and how much its beginning to bother me, but he brushes it off or gets defensive. He is in his late twenties and you would think he would have grown out of this behaviour by now! I am beginning to wonder what I should do, as I feel like I am beginning to come second to partying with his friends! I do love him and want to make it work. Anon
Reality Chick says… It can be very difficult dating a heavy drinker – over time it can take a toll on you, your relationship and your own mental health. You could talk to him, beg, plead, cry, tell him how it makes you feel, threaten to leave, pour his booze away, find local AA meetings for him or doctors who specialise in substance abuse, reel off the health consequences of drinking too much (impotence, infertility, cancer, liver disease, to name a few) – and chances are, it wouldn’t make a lick of difference unless he wanted to change.
Sometimes, heavy drinkers might acknowledge they have a problem and seek professional help after a really big wake-up call – like a health scare. Or after realising they’re about to lose something they value (like a relationship). Others may mellow and moderate their drinking with age (or, so I hear, parenthood). But many don’t. You’re also right to worry about his family history; studies do suggest alcohol dependence is hereditary. Read this explanation of social drinkers, problem drinkers and high-functioning alcoholics to get an idea of what you might be dealing with, then sit your boyfriend down for a talk. Please, listen to your gut and get the hell out if you sense he’s not taking you seriously and has absolutely no intention of making changes. It’s just not worth what you’ll have to put up with down the line if he is an alcoholic, or on the road to becoming one.
Manswers Man Dr Phil says… “I am 40 now and got obliterated like your boyfriend does, maybe worse if you include all available substances, up until five-odd years ago. Even then it has taken five years just to wind down to a socially acceptable level of drinking but I still have the occasional relapse. These are the consequences of living in a culture of heavy drinking, without restraint, for a quarter of a century. I ruined many a relationship through my abuse. While loved my girlfriends, in reality and socially, my mates came first. Inevitable arguments about the volume of my drinking and resultant behaviour / neglect would ensue until the demise of the relationship. By that time I was being aggressively defensive. For me, I had to burn it out of my system. I actually enjoyed going nuts but probably did it for for too long. I don’t believe I’m an addictive personality; the hard part has been giving up a way of life. Having alcoholism in the family may be a different matter though and and may be a concern. A starting point might be to suggest your boyfriend cut drinking during the week – or at least a few days a week – but sometimes this can just result in even worse weekend binges. It’s not easy and there’s no easy answer. The one thing I do know for sure is that he’s got to want to change for himself. It’s got to come from within.”
Manswers Man BB says… “I hate to be alarmist but I think with alcoholism running in the genes it’s highly likely that your man could be heading the same way. It’s normal to overindulge in your early to mid-twenties, but as thirty approaches the hangovers tend to get harder and more painful, and this usually curbs your taste for excess drinking. If you really do want to make it work you need to have the hard conversation. Tell him it really upsets you to see him like that. Then ask him what behaviour of yours would really upset him, and ask him to imagine you doing that on a regular basis. More tellingly, how does he really feel when he’s on a bender? Is that really him, or someone and something he regrets the next day? In the end only he can change, and that depends on whether he wants to.”