How Alcohol Destroys Relationships

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According to research carried out by a UK online divorce company, one in every four divorce petitions filed in the last year that were behaviour-based mentioned alcohol abuse as the main reason for the filing.

Of course, the UK national lockdown did not help, but this shows how alcohol can destroy relationships.

Alcoholism and alcohol abuse in the family is always a big problem that drives a wedge between the members.

People who drink heavily and have an over-reliance on alcohol tend to blow through the family's budget quickly, which causes fights.

They also ignore their children and are unhealthy. Married couples even get into physical altercations, which inevitably leads to more severe consequences and even death.

How does alcohol destroy relationships?

Alcohol changes personalities

The excessive consumption of alcohol has a profound impact on the brain and behaviour. When the person drinks, they are likely to behave differently than when they are sober.

Alcohol lowers their inhibitions depending on their personality; it may cause them to become more promiscuous and violent.

They are also likely to engage in risky behaviours such as driving under the influence, gambling, etc. All of these can destroy relationships.

In some cases, however, the personality changes that occur due to heavy drinking may not be that dramatic, but they can cause traumatic events.

Their loved ones may see the difference, though, and this will end up affecting their relationship.

When their spouses do not recognize the person they loved and married, then problems are inevitable.

Alcohol causes one to become unavailable

When addicted to alcohol, it becomes the essential thing in your life, and as we all know, all relationships require spending quality time together.

When you are always apart, as a result of one party being unavailable, this relationship is doomed and will eventually fail.

Additionally, alcoholics are only interested in alcohol-related activities such as trips to the bar, parties, etc.

They devote most of their time to this, which means they do not have time for their loved ones, especially if they do not enjoy such activities.

Again, if you are always passed out or intoxicated, you can never contribute to conversations and are not fun to be with.

These are significant losses in relationships, and that is how they cause harm in the long run.

Alcohol creates secrecy

For any relationship to succeed, there must be open and honest communication lines. If this does not happen, then this relationship is in trouble.

Alcohol creates secrets because the alcoholic is always trying to hide their addiction from their loved ones.

Now, even though your loved one does not know that you are hiding a secret, with time, the secrets and lies start to build up and will cause a strain on the relationship.

Relationships are, therefore, likely to end when the discovery is made that one has been lying to the other.

Alcohol incites unnecessary arguments

Sometimes it’s almost inevitable for an argument to ensue as a result of alcohol intake.

Your family and friends may be worried about how much money you spend on alcohol; they might be concerned about your physical and mental health.

They might be worried that you are choosing alcohol over them and many other reasons.

Regardless of the cause for arguments, the encounters are always more destructive and intense due to being inebriated, as you are not in your right mind.

In the end, these arguments will develop into more profound issues that may lead to breakdowns and relationship issues.

How can one tell that they are destroying their relationships with alcohol?

Here are a few signs:

When alcohol becomes the most important thing in their lives

An alcoholic will always value their alcohol more than anything else in their lives, including their relationships.

If you constantly think about the next time, you will have a drink or skipping family meetings and time at home for the bar. This is a clear sign that alcohol is an essential thing in your life.

Substance abuse always affects the mind and the body such that the person suffering has a hard time realizing the damage they have already done.

Even if you have a solid connection with your loved ones, the effect of being unavailable to them is inevitable, and with time, this relationship will deteriorate.

You should ask yourself – how often have I cancelled plans with loved ones because of drinking?

When they are not honest about their drinking habits

If you are hiding this part of your life, such that your partner does not have any idea what you get up to when you are alone, this is likely to affect your relationship.

Why do you feel the need to be dishonest about it? Are you embarrassed that you drink too much?

Secrets always come out in the end, and once your partner realizes that you have been keeping a secret, they may take offence and decide to leave.

This is how secrets about alcoholism can affect and destroy relationships.

When one favours drinking instead of fulfilling their obligations

If you increasingly choose to drink over things you had pledged to do or activities you used to enjoy with your loved ones, then it might be time to examine the effects of drinking on your relationship.

Any relationship built around substance abuse is never healthy and may eventually fail. Whenever drinking becomes the focal point of anyone’s life, then alcohol addiction is a significant concern.

When you do not have any sex drive as a result of alcoholism

Sex between married partners is essential and the element for a thriving and romantic relationship.

Alcoholism causes constant blackouts, pass-outs, and sicknesses that may damper these important intimate activities.

Drinking will not only take away the desire for sex in some people, but it can also lead to sexual dysfunction.

When sex ultimately leaves your relationship due to alcoholism, then the chances are that your partner will go too.

What are the signs that one has an unhealthy relationship with alcohol?

  • If one finds themselves drinking more than four drinks each day
  • If one drinks and drives under the influence
  • If one is unable to meet school, work, and family responsibilities due to drinking too much
  • If one is unable to remember what they might have done after a bout of drinking
  • If one finds that they did something while drunk that they are embarrassed about
  • If one finds themselves drinking more than they had planned and yet they cannot stop
  • If one has a medical provider who is concerned about their drinking habits
  • If one has drinking-related medical issues
  • If one needs a drink in the morning to get up
  • If one hides their drinking and drinks alone
  • If one tends to have physical withdrawal symptoms such as sweating, nausea, and shaking due to not having a drink for some time
  • How does alcohol change one’s personality?

     Most people who end up with an alcohol addiction tend to have almost similar stories about why.

    They may have wanted to relax after work, or they wanted to increase their confidence, especially in social situations, or they just wanted to fit in.

    Unfortunately, the desire to change something about their lives results in a negative effect on becoming over-reliant on alcohol. Here is an article about how does alcohol change your personality.

    One of the changes you are likely to notice in someone who is alcoholic is their personality traits. This inevitably leads to a worsened relationship with those around them.

    Here are a few things you may notice:

    Increased Anger and Reactivity

    This is one of the most common side effects of alcohol abuse, especially in addiction.

    There is an inclination to be highly reactive and get upset quickly over emotional threats or minor inconveniences.

    What alcohol does is impair one’s ability to assess an emotional or physical threat accurately. This means that one may become too upset over small things – Making Mountains out of molehills.

    Alcohol also causes you to become paranoid and feeling like everyone is out to get you.

    The worst part is that this feeling can persist even after you get sober, which leads to what is known as “Hangover anxiety.”

    The result of this is that it creates a perpetual cycle of alcohol dependence.

    One drinks to fend off a sense of impending doom, which unfortunately leads to more feelings of being threatened and anxiety, leading to more drinking, and the cycle continues.

    This is one reason why some drinkers tend to jump into physical or verbal fights with other people when they are drunk.

    Decreased Self-Control

    Alcohol lowers one’s inhibitions and causes one to act in ways they usually wouldn’t.

    When one is under the influence of alcohol, they may become overly sexual, and engage in specific acts they wouldn’t otherwise engage in, and even end up not using any protection.

    Others tend to participate in other risky behaviours such as using drugs and driving fast under the influence.

    Being highly intoxicated will alter your ability to control yourself, and you will make decisions that could threaten your life.

    Worsened Mental Health

    Alcohol increases symptoms associated with depression and anxiety, regardless of whether or not you have ever had mental health issues in your life before.

    Most people tend to use alcohol to manage these mental disorders and perhaps drink to quell this anxiety or numb the pain.

    Unfortunately, the effects are usually temporary, and you will notice that the symptoms worsen with time.

    If you have never had any mental health issues or have never had to deal with anxiety, abuse of alcohol will bring on depression and anxiety.

    This is because it inhibits the functions of your central nervous system and causes you to become emotionally unstable.

    Someone who is always positive and upbeat starts to develop negative personality traits and bouts of hopelessness and depression.

    Feeling Unmotivated

    Addiction leads to an inability to accomplish goals. When you are addicted to alcohol, you are unmotivated, and it causes you not to care about some of the most critical aspects of your life, such as work and school.

    This leads to decreased productivity, and as the addiction worsens, your priorities start to change, leading to a mental space where you do not see past the next drink.

    One cannot perform well at home, and the years will pass without much to show for it.

    When should one NEVER drink?

    There are certain situations where the risks of alcohol are too high, such as:

    • When one is under age
    • When one is trying to be pregnant, or they are pregnant
    • When one has been diagnosed with alcoholism, and they have a family history of alcohol addiction
    • When one suffers from pancreatic or liver disease
    • When one has heart failure
    • When one has medication that adversely interacts with alcohol
    • When one has suffered from a haemorrhagic stroke


    Alcohol addiction will strain one’s close relationships, especially when it causes unnecessary fights and arguments.

    It also makes it hard for you to fulfil your obligations and act responsibly; in this regard, it is important to take it seriously and try to find as much support as possible for the addiction.

    It is exceedingly terrible for people with small children who can be psychologically affected by a parent’s addiction.

    If you know someone whose alcoholism is causing their relationships with others go astray and want to help them, Abbeycare Scotland and Abbeycare Gloucester clinics are here to lend a hand. Call us today on 01603 513 091.

    Last Updated: June 11, 2021

    About the author

    Peter Szczepanski

    Peter has been on the GPhC register for 29 years. He holds a Clinical Diploma in Advanced Clinical Practice and he is a Clinical Lead in Alcohol and Substance Misuse for Abbeycare Gloucester and works as the Clinical Lead in Alcohol and Substance Use in Worcestershire. Find Peter on Respiratory Academy, Aston University graduates, University of Birmingham, Q, Pharmaceutical Journal, the Dudley Pharmaceutical Committee, Dudley Council, Twitter, and LinkedIn.