Not long ago, I received a call from a friend who was seeking advice on how to handle a major failure in his marriage. This is not one of those dumb decisions that just goes away with a little sweet talk and time. No, this was a serious breach of trust in his marriage. As he told me what happened he included these words, “I had a few drinks…” This is not the first time I’ve met with a couple struggling in their marriage and the issue(s) is somehow linked to, “I had a few drinks…"
Now, before I go any further, I’m not anti-alcohol. Just read this blog on alcohol
. I am; however, anti-stupidity. Far too often, alcohol and stupidity go hand in hand. In fact, one (stupidity) often follows the other (alcohol). This past Sunday, I was in another conversation about this very subject with yet another couple! This time they were asking about a family member struggling in a marriage where alcohol plays a major role. It dawned on me that people need guidance on how to properly handle (or not handle) alcohol in their marriage. If you choose to drink, be mindful that I cannot EVER in good conscience encourage getting drunk. This entire post is written to those who understand that discipline and moderation always apply.
So, here is my 3-point plan for married people who drink.
1. Evaluate how much each of you drinks.
It is my experience that people who drink often suffer from the positive allusion factor. They believe that things are more positive than they really are. They think they drink less than they actually drink. It is healthy to truly evaluate alcohol consumption to better understand how proceed in making truly positive changes. I will warn you, this exercise may surprise you. And you may have to swallow some pride and admit you’ve begun to drink too much.
2. Fast from alcohol.
Do this step together. Literally, don’t drink a drop of alcohol for 30 days. Doing this step together is a step of unity that reminds you that we are doing this to make sure our drinking is not negatively affecting our marriage or exposing our marriage to too much risk. Does this frighten you? Does this seem impossible? If so, your relationship with alcohol may be unhealthy. Fasting has a way of helping us see how much something has a hold on us. The break from alcohol sets you up for step 3.
3. Create a unified approach.
After your 30-day fast, it’s time to discuss with your spouse your new approach to alcohol. The goal is to redefine the place alcohol has in your lives from the perspective of a unified marriage. This means you must find common ground. Here are a few tips I highly recommend.
- If your spouse is simply uncomfortable with alcohol - make the choice to honor their concern by eliminating alcohol altogether. Do not fall prey to the temptation to simply avoid drinking around your spouse, your secret drinking creates more insecurity and honestly, more risk of stupidity. Remember, marriage is a relationship defined by benevolent love towards each other. After all, alcohol is not essential, you can live without it!
- If you choose to drink, consider only drinking when you are together. It’s a great decision in favor of unity. I know it means giving up those beers with your old drinking buddies or that glass of wine at with your girlfriends at the book club, but I think you will earn great respect when you say, “I only drink when I’m with my spouse?” I think your friends may even be jealous of such a unified marriage decision. And when it comes to all those work meetings and out of town trips, just think of the productivity you will gain!
- At the very least, ensure all drinking is “above board.” Give your spouse the gift of communication by letting them know if you plan to drink and invite their voice of caution or concern anytime they feel it. Trust your spouse enough to heed their concern and you might see this seemingly simple issue help cultivate greater communication and connection between the two of you.
Final thoughts… Alcohol does not have to be a threat to your marriage. However, the reality is, alcohol often causes problems in marriage. Just ask any marriage counselor; alcohol can serve as a pretty wicked affair that can lead to severe damage to a marriage if not destroy it. Always proceed with caution. I hope this little guide helps foster some healthy dialogue in your marriage. This blog also assumes that both the husband and wife are comfortable with alcohol….which is not always the case. For more on what it can look like when husbands and wives disagree on alcohol, check out "When Husbands and Wives Disagree About Alcohol" Part 1
and Part 2