Warning Signs of Alcohol Misuse in a Spouse

It’s easy to ignore signs of a drinking problem in a spouse and rationalize their actions. However, it’s essential to watch for the warning signs and to be honest with yourself when you notice these signs in your partner. Getting help can save your relationship, improve the health of your family, and it may even save your spouse’s life.

Read on to learn about the warning signs that may indicate your spouse has an alcohol use problem and how to find an alcohol rehab near you.

Signs of a Drinking Problem in a Spouse

husband showing alcoholic addiction warning signsSigns of alcohol misuse that may indicate your partner’s drinking has crossed the line into alcohol use disorder include the following:1

  • Often ends up drinking more drinks, or drinks for longer periods, than they intended.
  • Spends significant amounts of time being drunk or feeling hungover.
  • Craves, or has a strong urge, to drink alcohol.
  • Ignores their responsibilities (at home, work, or school) due to being drunk or hungover.
  • Drinks despite alcohol causing increased conflict with you or other family/friends.
  • Tries unsuccessfully to stop drinking.
  • Stops or reduces their participation in activities or hobbies they once enjoyed in order to drink.
  • Continues drinking knowing that it causes or worsens physical or mental health problems, or drink after having blackouts.
  • Drinks before driving or drinking while or during other activities that increases their chance of being physically harmed.
  • Needs to have more drinks than they used to in order to feel the same effects.
  • Has withdrawal symptoms (shaking, nausea, insomnia, etc.) when cutting back or trying to stop drinking altogether.

If any of the above seems familiar, your spouse may need to consider an alcohol rehab treatment program.1

Risks of Alcohol Misuse on Your Spouse & Family

Chronic alcohol misuse can wreak havoc on your partner’s health, and it can also cause turmoil in your relationship and your family dynamic.

Health Risks of Alcohol Misuse

Drinking to excess regularly is associated with physical and mental health risks that include but are not limited to:2

  • Injuring oneself or others.
  • Alcohol poisoning.
  • Risky sexual behaviors that can result in unwanted pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections.
  • Miscarriage and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders in pregnant women.
  • Decreased immune system functioning.
  • Several types of cancer, including liver, colon, and breast.
  • High blood pressure, heart disease, or stroke.
  • Liver disease.
  • Digestive problems.
  • Mental health disorders such as depression.
  • Impaired social functioning that may result in job loss or family problems.
  • Cognitive issues such as problems with memory and learning.

The World Health Organization states there is evidence linking alcohol consumption to increased risk of over 200 health conditions.3

Familial Effects of Living With Spousal Alcohol Misuse

Relationship and family health can suffer greatly when one spouse is misusing alcohol. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, family problems that often co-occur with alcohol problems include:4

  • Marital strife.
  • Domestic violence.
  • Cheating.
  • Jealousy.
  • Financial problems.
  • Divorce.

Alcohol is associated with an increase in aggressive behaviors (verbal and/or physical) in couples, even when consumed at levels that wouldn’t be considered heavy drinking. One study found that the likelihood of aggressive behavior between partners rises significantly in the 4 hours following an episode of drinking.5

Children may suffer from the destabilizing effect of alcohol misuse in the family, as well. Even young children can recognize a parent’s alcohol use and the resulting changes in behavior.4 Children of parents with alcohol use disorder are between 2 and 10 times more likely to develop alcohol use disorder than children whose parents do not misuse alcohol.6

Treatment for alcohol use disorder, especially programs that include family therapy, may help to reduce familial conflict as well as restore a sense of stability to the family unit.

How to Help a Spouse With Alcohol Use Disorder


If your spouse is struggling with an alcohol problem, you may encourage your loved one to seek help and help them look for treatment services.7

It’s important to remember that your loved one may not agree to accept help the first time you ask, or even the second, third, or fourth time. But eventually, your message may sink in. Continue to express nonjudgmental support for your spouse as well as hope for the future. You can also clearly state that alcohol use disorder is a disease and that, like other diseases, it gets better with treatment.8

For more information about ways to address your partner’s alcohol use, see our family guide to dealing with addiction.

Alcohol Use Disorder Treatment

couple attending alcohol abuse and marriage counseling

Treating alcohol use disorder typically starts with medical detox. Detox should not be attempted at home without the oversight of medical care due to the potential for life-threatening withdrawal symptoms in an alcohol-dependent individual.9

After detox, the type of treatment will depend on your spouse’s needs, and factors like how much time they can commit to treatment, whether they can leave the area, how severe the alcohol use disorder is, etc. A doctor or addiction professional can help to outline an appropriate care plan for your spouse.

Beyond detox, levels of addiction treatment options for alcohol misuse include:

  • Inpatient/residential rehab. Inpatient alcohol rehab involves your spouse living at the treatment facility for a designated period of time while receiving care. Some programs will have more medical oversight than others. Programs described as “inpatient” or “intensive” rehab may offer a higher level of medical or psychological care then “residential” programs. Simply search inpatient alcohol rehab programs, to start the inpatient treatment process.
  • Partial hospitalization programs. Offering an intensive amount of therapy hours per day most days of the week, this type of treatment combines a high level of support with the convenience of living at home.
  • Outpatient programs. You can choose a more intensive version of outpatient (IOP) where you attend therapy for several hours per day several times per week, or standard outpatient that offers a minimal amount of therapy (1-2 hours) per week.

Alcohol Rehab in California

Laguna Treatment’s alcohol rehab in Orange County offers hospital-based detox and inpatient treatment programs for your spouse to begin their recovery from alcohol use disorder. With both 24/7 medical oversight and treatment for co-occurring disorders such as depression, your partner will get the integrated care they need.

Call a compassionate admissions navigator at to discuss how our programs can help your family today. Laguna is in-network with several insurance providers and also has other rehab payment options.

We make using insurance to pay for rehab easy. You can quickly now. Start the rehab admissions process today.

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We are here to help you learn how to live without reaching for the next drink. Laguna Treatment Center is located in Orange County within easy reach of the entire Los Angeles metro. We are the premier chemical dependency recovery hospital in the OC. We offer safe medical detox, mental health support, and wellness programs.