Love on the Rocks: Why Alcoholism and Relationships Don’t Mix

Almost everyone who has consumed alcohol to excess on multiple occasions has horror stories of bad behavior. Whether it’s a spouse, significant other, parent, child, sibling, or any number of close friends or acquaintances, heavy social drinking usually has consequences on personal relationships.

Acting rude. Being over-emotional. Flirting. Cheating. Aggression. Violence. General stupor. All of these behaviors will, at some point, coalesce into a sub-standard pattern of behavior which destroys relationships. Those affected by an alcoholic’s behavior feel ashamed and betrayed and may exhibit a general lack of self-respect for the alcoholic.

Known as a social lubricant in moderation, alcohol is anything but that when abused. Generally speaking, alcoholism and relationships are at odds with each other. Here’s why…

Alcoholics are liars – plain and simple. Lying serves as a self-preservation mechanism, an attempt to convince others that the problem isn’t so bad, after all.

Alcoholics will lie about their bad behavior or patterns of alcohol consumption. They will sneak alcohol when no one is looking. All of this serves to destroy the trust of those around the alcoholic.

Alcoholics Have Bad Memories

Heavy alcohol consumption impairs short-term memory storage. Many chronic alcoholics black out regularly, meaning they won’t remember what happened while intoxicated. While quite literally out of their minds, alcoholics will make terrible decisions that can affect their lives and the lives of loved ones around them.

Also, alcoholics are generally uninhibited and impulsive when drunk. This reduces their ability to make good decisions or even quantify potential consequences. Moreover, it’s a lot easier to deny the severity of potentially hazardous behavior when you don’t remember.

Alcoholics Exhibit Extreme Emotions

If you’ve ever seen someone go from having a great time while buzzed to a pathetic, crying shell of themselves, you’ve witnessed one way that alcohol affects emotion. This type of behavior often comes across to others as disingenuous or as emotional manipulation.

This effect occurs because the emotions aren’t entirely real, and certainly, do not come from a rational standpoint. Their thoughts and reactions are fueled by alcohol, which impairs the drinker’s ability to regulate emotion.

Conversely, some alcoholics are mean, aggressive, or even violent. Again, emotional regulation is impaired. While some may put up with the emotional alcoholic, mean drinkers are less likely to receive forgiveness. Even when sober, the withdrawal effects of alcohol can make the drinker depressed, anxious, and irritable.

Alcoholics Retreat From Social Interaction

Once alcohol abuse reaches a certain point, people begin to eschew personal relationships. There are a couple of reasons for this – one, alcoholics have lost the ability to enjoy simple pleasures, or engage in activities which they used to enjoy. This occurs because alcohol hijacks the part of the brain responsible for processing rewards.

The second reason is because they have to hide their addiction from others, meaning they avoid activities in which drinking is not considered acceptable or appropriate.

Alcoholics Have Other Problems Which Interferes with Relationships

Failure to show up to work, or excessive expenditures on alcohol (especially at bars) may tax the drinker financially. This can affect relationships with spouses or children in the household.

Alcoholics may also have health problems related to their condition, such as a lack of energy, digestive issues, or physical injuries related to drinking. Medical bills, including expenses such as trips to the emergency room, can add up quickly.