If Drinking is An Issue In Your Relationship: Check-in w/ Yourself

If Drinking is An Issue In Your Relationship: Check-in w/ Yourself

I had a problem when my girlfriend drank too much.

That statement is so open-ended, it’s not very helpful. How much is too much? What’s MY problem with their drinking? And even if the statement is true, “Who cares?” What I think is not very important when it comes to other people’s drinking habits. However, if we are in a relationship and drinking continues to become a topic of negotiation and conflict, we might both need to take a time-out and reconsider our objections.

Daily Drinking, Day Drinking, and Identifying My Issues

When I was dating a daily drinker, I had some issues that were mine alone:

  • Not everyone that drinks is an alcoholic (this is my legacy after growing up in an alcoholic home – I’m never quite clear on what is too much and what is none of my business)
  • Because of my historical relationship with drinking and drinkers, I was unable to distinguish between my then-girlfriend’s casual drinking and potential problem drinking
  • How I am affected, how I feel, about someone else’s drinking, if we are in a relationship, becomes an issue when we don’t agree about their drinking and how it might be hurting our relationship
  • I can drink and stop after one without any problems and so could my then-girlfriend, but frequently she would not stop at drink number three or even four – often she would continue drinking to the point of slurred speech and impaired functioning.

And some of the issues were clearly my then-girlfriend’s responsibility:

  • She rarely went 24 hours without having a drink or two
  • While she was super high-functioning, her emotional availability was mostly limited to the morning and early afternoon hours
  • She once said as we were about a year into dating, “You will probably save my life, because you don’t drink with me.”
  • When she chose to cut loose, she occasionally drank to incoherence

Is My Girlfriend an Alcoholic?

That’s not really for me to say. I am not a doctor. I am not a therapist. What I did learn over time: her drinking was taking a hefty toll on my emotional and spiritual livelihood. If your drinking is an issue in your relationship, you may have a drinking problem. AND, perhaps she did not a drinking problem. I had a problem with her drinking. That is a possibility. But the reality was, it was a problem and she was choosing not to address it, even after I began writing the Third Glass posts. (She green-lit the first and subsequent 4 Third Glass posts.) Somehow she encouraged me to write about her potential drinking problem and yet failed to address it in terms of how it was affecting our love life.

Only the individual can determine for themselves if they drink too much or if they are an alcoholic. In our case, the alcohol became the dividing issue. And while she initiated the break-up, she continued to seek out a relationship between us, long after the drinking had become my stated issue. I had a problem with her drinking. Neither of us had a doubt about that. But what we didn’t agree on was what WE as a couple were going to do with our alcohol divide.

What About Drinking Now?

If you drink I’m okay with it. I will join you for a drink now and then. And I will support you in your entertainment and relaxation. But when that drinking begins to affect and damage our relationship, I’m going to speak up and ask for some modification or moderation of your behavior. And, it’s okay if you say no. It will probably be the end of our relationship, but I get it: everyone has their own priorities and their own path in life.

I have not had any contact with my former drinking girlfriend in about six months. And, of course, I hope she is doing well, drinking or not drinking. Her drinking today is absolutely none of my business. When we were involved in a relationship, however, her drinking did become an issue in our relationship. She chose not to address it and I chose to sever our connection partially because her buzzed evenings were feeling lonely and hopeless to me.

Drink if you like. Drink within reason. And, certainly, cut loose when you want to, as long as you are not driving. But, pay attention if the drinking becomes an issue between you and your partner. At that point, you both have a decision to make.

While I drink very little, I’m beginning to appreciate a good tequila. I find this mildly humorous and ironic.

Always Love,

John McElhenney – life coach austin texas

Additional posts from The Third Glass series:


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