Tips For Living With An Alcoholic Boyfriend

These tips I am offering can be applied to your relationship with your boyfriend as well as with others who seem to have a drinking problem. The rules are the same when living with any alcoholic.

The first thing that you must realize is that he has his own life and you have yours. Even though you are deeply in love with him, you need to let him live his life. If he chooses to do that by being an alcoholic, well then that is his choice.

The sooner you can let go of his drinking problem-the better off you will be. An alcoholic always has to hit bottom on their own. There’s no amount of persuasion that will cause them to stop consuming alcohol. I honestly do not know of any ways to make an alcoholic quit drinking.

Relationship With Alcoholic BoyfriendI need you to realize something right now, you do not have any control over his alcoholism. As angry as you my get at me with this next statement, it is the truth.

An alcoholic will always choose a drink before you!

Looking to your alcoholic boyfriend to fulfill your need to be loved is a dangerous place to be. He will let down, I can promise you that. You will always be second choice to his alcoholism.

If you don’t believe me, go attend a few AA meetings and see how many alcoholics destroyed relationships with others because of their poor choice to drink alcohol.

I heard it said once that going to a bank for a sandwich is the same as expecting to have your need for intimacy fulfilled by an alcoholic. They just don’t have it in them to give. You will not get a sandwich from your bank and an alcoholic boyfriend will not fulfill your need for intimacy

This is why I believe it is important for you to learn how to love yourself and discover the beauty of who you are on your own. If you base your self-worth on how your alcoholic boyfriend treats you-you are in for some huge disappointments.

The danger of having a relationship with anyone is becoming too effected by their opinions of us. Because alcoholics are not always in the right state of mind, they can often leave us emotionally, physically, intellectually and spiritually abandoned. If we remain strong in these areas regardless of how the alcoholic boyfriend we are living with treats us, we will be a happier person.

I am not saying in any way that you should allow then to treat you poorly. We have plenty of articles on this site about setting boundaries with an alcoholic.

So, when you are living with an alcoholic boyfriend, you can expect that you will not always be the first priority in their lives.

You are going to have to make sure that you have outstanding friendships outside your relationship with your boyfriend. I do highly suggest that they should be girlfriends. This will keep your integrity in check and help to guard against the possibility of jealousy entering into the relationship. If that happens,  you will need to know how to handle an out of control alcoholic.

Never nag your boyfriend about his drinking problem. Don’t equate your happiness in any way to being related to his drinking problem. Happiness for you is an inside job. No one should ever be responsible for your happiness except you! Humans will always let us down, especially alcoholic boyfriends.

If you want someone to truly be happy to see you when you come home, who will not argue with you and very seldom disappoint you, trade your boyfriend in for a dog.

Men can be extremely difficult to get along with when they are not alcoholics. They are wired differently than you. When you are living with an alcoholic boyfriend, your relational problems are going to be at a very high level. It’s not his fault, it’s just the way things are when you choose to interact with any alcoholic.

25 comments to Tips For Living With An Alcoholic Boyfriend

  • Karrie

    Thank you. I feel I need intense counseling because I cant seem to break this dysfunctional relationship. I’m assuming its because we have a beautiful two year old daughter but his alcoholism is making life tough for everyone in our home, including our kids from previous relationships. This is a very co-dependent based relationship. Hes drinking is turning him into a very mean person and we cant even go hang out as a family because he gets to drunk and does stupid things like fall down and its obvious because he’s drunk. I wish my life to be different.

  • Jaime

    Thank you for this. I moved from western NY to NH to be with my boyfriend and has been a little over a year. I never realized his drinking problem before I moved up here. He drinks over a 6 pack a night. He has 2 kids from a previous marriage and I have none. When we have them if it wasnt for me his kids would never eat as all he does is drink and since he is not hungry we shouldn’t be hungry. Im always yelling at him and arguing with him about his drinking problem, but I get no where. I feel like im stuck, i’m so far away from my family and friends that I have no body to go to. As I read this I thought to myself maybe I should stop harping on him about this, but it is soooo hard! It is ruining our relationship!

  • Pez

    Karrie, It can be! Decide what you want in life and in your future. You will have to make the hard choices if not now, it will come later, believe me as time goes on it get old and you no longer want that life. Better sooner than later!
    I don’t think most people can live with an alcoholic especially if they are abusive in any way verbally, emotionally, spiritually, sexually, physically. the only way I would have, maybe stayed with my XAB is if he was a mellow drunk, did not seek a fight, was faithful and non-threatening. Even if you do all that’s suggested above, He still may never change! Staying and not making a fuss give the A a “soft place to land” and I doubt they will ever quit unless the suffer consequenses like loosing a job, DUI, etc…and maybe not even then. The one thing they want is for you to accept it–there alcoholism. And not making a fuss gives them that! So don’t think the suggestions above will get them sober, they are for you to have a more peaceful life if you choose to stay.

  • Amy

    Jamie, that is the same thing I went through. He has a child and I had a child. I worked 5 days a week, clean the house, did all the laundry, all the cooking and helped both boys with there homework. He did pay the bills, but I did ALOT of work to the house and spent alot on may other things. His contribution was getting drunk and laying it all on me. I fought with mine too, in all honesty how could someone not get upset and frustrated living like that. To me that isn’t a relationship that is a nightmare.I even went to alanon. but living with a mean, useless, irresponsible drunk was more than I could handle.My life was in constant unheaval, and the longer I stayed the worse it got.
    Pez, you are so right, sometimes on here someone just says something and a light goes off for me. It is the truth, they want you to accept there drinking,Some thing I just couldn’t do. I felt like a mother taking care of an out of control teenager who needed to grow up, I honestly don’t think even if mine wasn’t mean I could of put up with it, I would of still been stuck doing everything by myself, while this person who told me they loved me was drunk all the time, not much of a relationship if you ask me, I’d rather be alone…

  • Rae

    I am an Al-anon Member I am living with a chronic we are common in law He is moving in with his son shortly I am OK with this but he is a little thrown off I am hoping he works through it
    I am learning the Step s please go to Al-anon and learn this program and stay with it as much as you can I am only one yr and have been going thru the steps very slowly I am lucky to be alive after all the substance abusers I have been with
    I know this is God separating us temp . we don’t really conceive of it as a break up
    I feel we need this time apart I really will miss him but not the drinking part no no no I hate him for that part and I hate what the drinking does to him on a daily basis
    I am not lonely I have my son living with me I am not with out I am working on my career
    He is a back slid ing AA member he knows the program well he is not abusive I am trying not to be I grew up in an drinking home I did not know about other life styles for a straight person like me
    I am learning to put myself first it takes awhile but you can do it

  • Liz

    It is horrible living with an alcoholic. It is like living with a lazy, out of control, idiotic teenager at times. I too, do all the work in the house; even the few little jobs he has eg. taking the rubbish out, is way to demanding for him. He only grooms himself eg. shaving, cutting nails, after I nag him to death. I have begged, pleaded, left notes, sent txts etc, etc, etc. Threatened to leave him repeatedly. Nothing to date has worked. Last night, another usual night that I make dinner and he disappears as I am about to serve dinner and he’s collapsed into bed.

    Our lease is up in a few months and I am looking forward to some peace and solitude. I just hope I won’t have to be single for too long but being single is much better than being in a relationship with a selfish and sick alcoholic.

    All I think, is don’t hang around. Very very few alcoholics embark on a recovery journey.

  • Jenn

    OMG! I can relate to all these stories. My ABF almost died because of his alcoholism and he went to jail-yet he still drinks i guess he likes being sick

  • Juanita

    Wow, all this makes so much sense to me now! I have been around alcoholics all my life and yes, my Dad was an alcoholic AND my (2) ex-husbands. The last one killed someone as a result of his driving and drinking. After all that you’d think I’d learn to recognize the symptoms of an alcoholic, but now I’m struggling with leaving another one. Yes, of course, this one appeared to be “different”,at first…a well respected man, polite, enjoyed being with me, etc. Then he retired from a very high stress job of 30 years and that’s when this one started to slowly drowned himself in a bottle. I simply need to stop giving, giving, giving and start living MY life. Thank you for putting into words, what has helped me realize I AM THE ONLY ONE THAT I CAN CHANGE! Thank you.

  • Thank you for this forum. I have been dating what I thought was a wonderful man for over two years, we do not live together, but he visits often. Last October he suffered a stroke, his family did all they could to break us up, but somehow we managed to stay connected. He is driving again now and back to work.
    What concerns me is his sudden need to drink alcohol, he gave it up (well now I wonder!) all the time I was with him on weekends before his stroke.
    He told me last week that it is okay to drink again. All this despite the fact he knows I have asked him not to. This man was a very heavy drinker before he met me. He became angry when I told him he could choose the bottle or me, this man professes to love me dearly, but he did not reply.
    I told him good luck as he will need it. He has had fairly recent heart surgery, is diabetic who eats sweets, had a stroke last October and wears a defibrillator monitor, he is also on blood thinners. To my mind he is courting disaster … But he will no longer be courting me ……sad.

  • Laura

    I moved in with my boyfriend in 2012. He works for a wine company and drinks their wine samples. He drinks every night starting at 6:30pm and drinks until he goes to sleep. He has to finish the last drop. He’s sneaky! He only pours a little in his glass when I’m around and then you hear him sneaking to pour more when I’m not in the room. He drinks a whole bottle each night. Some nights it’s more. He starts with white and and then goes to red. So 2 bottles are open. We say a prayer before dinner each night and I noticed his hands were shaking last night. Body withdrawing… It has effected my relationship with him. We have had NO intimacy from the beginning, 3 years now. At first, he blamed his ex-wife. Now I know why. The drinking! I don’t drink due to a sensitive digestion. It bothers him. You’re right, you can’t stop them from drinking. I miss the closeness. I do know someone who has Al-anon classes. He so happens the be this guys best friend. He lives in another state and I asked him for advice. You’re right, my boyfriend will have to hit rock bottom. I’m disabled at the moment. Needing my knees replaced, so I’m not working. I’m stuck here in the meantime and grateful I have a roof over my head. So I’m just going to stick it out for now. I do get lonely because I don’t have any family to support me mentally. They all have issues I can’t go into here. I will work on myself and get better and get out of my situation and move onto a better life. Thank you for writing this page. It’s been very helpful.

  • Lesa

    I’ve been with my boyfriend for a year. From day one he has drank. I threatened to leave once and he quit drinking for 2 weeks and started up when we had a fight. He works hard and does a lot around the house we rent (which is his rental, I moved in). He drinks every day. Some days are okay. But others are a nightmare. We fight and I get verbally abused. He accuses me of his friend and other men, he talks vulgar to me, he fights me about money. We have a savings together and we withdraw money and he accuses me of stealing the money he says he worked his ass off for. I already had the account and had $500. I keep threatening to give him all the savings so he will quit fighting me, and the next day when he is sober he apologizes and tells me to keep the money in the bank. I get so lonely and depressed and feel if I leave I will be by myself and no one will want me. I drank very little until I met him. Since I recently got a full time job I have cut way down on drinking, usually on a Friday, but then the fight begins. I,m not saying its all his fault, I feel like its mine for staying. My friend tries to talk me into leaving and getting my own place but I am scared of being alone. I know I am so codependent on him. I’ve read all the comments and I hope I can get to that level of leaving and being in control of my life. Thanks

  • Kali

    Hello friends…I’m honestly relieved to realize that I’m not alone in this battle with an alcoholic relationship.

    Sometimes the loneliest place on earth is this beautiful house that I helped to create. Even with our active baby boy just 9 weeks from arrival — a baby I prayed for and yearned for — I have felt hopeless and trapped.

    Relief comes in short bursts, usually only after near catastrophic fights. I worry about what the stress does to our baby in my tummy. But even if I could I wouldn’t leave….maybe that will change when I see the tears my ABF will cause our son to cry in the coming years.

    Do you think alcoholics are genetically predispositioned or was it his alcoholic father that taught my guy to live this half life between cans and bottles?

  • Ashley


    Wow, this was me a few years ago. I was deeply in love with my alcoholic husband and pregnant with our second child. I never ever thought I would leave him. As time went on and he went to multiple rehabs and relapsed immediately every time. I finally left for the safety of our children. I have thrived since being on my own with the two kids. We are happy and the nightly tears and fear are gone. I still do and always will love him but he will not change so I had to change. Best decision I have ever made. Now I can concentrate on my career and giving my kids a healthy environment to grow up in.

  • Ali

    It’s incredibly hard to ever distinguish between nature vs. nurture. Would he become an alcoholic without his father’s influence? You don’t know.
    What you do know is he has the choice to make changes in his life and he is choosing not to.
    Is this man going to be a good father? Wishful thinking would say “yes, he’ll change once the baby is born” for example but he hasn’t changed now. The fetus is feeling your stress…you are going through immense stress as well when he should be supporting the giver of life.
    You don’t deserve this, nor does your son.
    I sincerely feel for you.
    You’ll never know whether to blame DNA or what he grew up with. At this point it doesn’t matter. YOU matter and so does your unborn son.
    If he won’t stop, you must be brave and make changes to protect both of your lives.
    It would be a shame if your son witnessed this all and became another question of “was it in his genetics or was it his father’s fault?”
    Be gentle with yourself and think about walking away.
    The house doesn’t matter if it’s not a home.

    Bless your heart as a woman struggling, a human being, and a mother to be.
    Sending love and support.

  • Bill

    Kali, it’s nice of Ali to have answered your question. Also, congratulations on the baby on the way. I always like answered prayers!

    Many people on this site have found help through attending Al-anon. Give it a try…

    How to find a meeting,

  • SC

    This was written by Dr. Drew.

    One of the ways the scientific community describes the genetic component of addiction is they will say that alcoholism is 60 percent accounted for on the basis of a genetic component alone. Sixty percent of alcoholism is created by the genetic component. So not 100 percent — but I always say that it is a necessary but not sufficient cause for addiction. Because there has to be some genetic potential, in my opinion, because I have just never seen it otherwise.

    Usually with somebody like that, I will question them more about their ethnic heritage. Usually you will find that there is some Scottish, Irish, North American Indian, Central European — you usually find the genetics and follow that lineage and, lo and behold, you’ll find the alcoholism. So you could have a mild genetic burden that has not yet been expressed what we call phenotypically. There are some people who have a profound genetic burden where it is just exploding all over every family member all the time. So although 60 percent of it is accounted for on the basis of genetics, the genetics themselves can be more powerful in certain situations than others.
    Dr. Drew answer to someone’s question.
    You must have been raised in an alcoholic family and those traumas have to be processed or they are a constant problem.

  • Kate

    Hi Kali

    From what doctor friends have told me, the studies the proportion of adopted children who go on to have alcohol problems, despite being brought up in a stable environment, indicate that it is largely genetic. On the other hand my grandfather was an alcoholic but none of his 6 children or 21 grandchildren have been affected. I look at my girls and wonder if they could end up like their father. I feel very optimistic now but perhaps that’s because they haven’t quite hit their teenage years yet.

    My husband is the mellow drunk that Pez describes, non threatening, faithful etc. the kind you can live with for a very long time until one day you realise that you are helping them deteriorate and that they can’t get as far as breakfast without a strong drink. I don’t love or live with my husband now but I will always look out for him to a certain extent for the kids’ sake.

    I’m not looking for anyone else right now because I love my girls so much that my heart feels full to overflowing already (for me having kids feels a bit like being in love all the time). I have been happy in many areas of my life since my recent separation. I feel proud that I’m setting a good example now to my girls and learning to be Daddy and Mummy all in one. I don’t want them to see me crying again and hopefully they’ll forget witnessing me going through the sad times.

    Financial separation has helped me to feel calm and I’m using his constant requests for money as leverage in order to get him to the doctors/blood tests etc. I’m hoping for a medical scare that might make him come to his senses.

    But I’m also working towards letting him go altogether – he’s quite near to loosing everyone that loved him – and that’s a lot of people. I’m torn between wanting to preserve him a bit longer for the kids’ sake and taking a gamble on him letting him get to rock bottom in order to have a chance at facing up to what he’s doing to himself. Unfortunately he doesn’t have much chance of a real rock bottom as he can still turn on the charm so I think he’ll always find someone to take care of him.

    Feels like I’ve got a long way to go on this journey but I’m very glad to have this forum to accompany me now. Thanks to everyone that contributes here. Best wishes to you all.

  • SC

    All alcoholics have the no talk rule.
    My father was a dry drunk,I was the scapegoat. My sister is NOT an alcoholic but she scapegoated me. She still has the no talk rule, I try to talk because I want to be seen,heard and understood and she gets angry. We do not have a relationship (my only sister).

    I married a very high functioning alcoholic, you couldn’t see that he was drunk. He also had the no talk rule,which is why they get mad when you try to talk about something. This divorce took me down, I ended up in The Dark Night Of The Soul.
    Google if wondering what it is. Because of this experience, I began my spiritual journey .
    Alcoholism will take everybody down around it.
    I would always see what I called the normal side of my xah and think he was gonna to get it and the truth is they don’t and won’t.
    I started self-help from growing up in an alcoholic home in the 80s and I got married to my ex alcoholic husband 20 years later and he still got the better of me . I have spent the last 3 1/2 years trying to find the person I was before I met him. I will never get involved with an alcoholic or a recovering alcoholic again!
    I said when I got divorced that I was gonna be a better person when I got through this but I had no idea how difficult the journey was gonna be .

    I have been on a spiritual journey since my divorce and I’ve had the aha moment that it all goes back to the no talk room which I cannot live with.
    Feels good to express this, thanks for listening. 😉
    No Talk Rule
    Codepentence is usually developed in a dysfunctional family system. Dysfunctional families can range in severity, but some common characteristics include a distorted set of spoken or unspoken rules. These rules can continue to dominate and control our life into adulthood. Since we have believed we need to live by them, we may not even recognize how they are damaging us. See if you can recognize any of these patterns.

    Adapted from J. Bradshaw, Healing the Shame that Binds You. Every alcoholic has shame.

    Control—One must be in control of all interactions, feelings and personal behavior at all times—control is the major defense strategy for shame.

    Perfectionism—Always be right in everything you do. The perfectionist rule always involves a measurement that is being imposed. Fear and avoidance of the negative is the organizing principle of life. Members live according to an externalized image. No one ever measures up.

    Blame—Whenever things don’t turn out as planned, blame yourself or others. Blame is a defensive cover-up for shame…Blame maintains the balance in a dysfunctional family when control has broken down.

    Denial of the Five Freedoms*—Each freedom has to do with a basic human power—the power to perceive; the power to think and interpret; to feel; to want and choose; and the power to imagine. In shame-based families, the perfectionist rule prohibits full expression of these powers.

    The No-Talk Rule—This prohibits the full expression of a feeling, need or want. In shame-based families, members want to hide their true feelings, needs or wants. Therefore, no one speaks of the loneliness and sense of self-rupture.

    Don’t Make Mistakes—Mistakes reveal the flawed vulnerable self. To acknowledge a mistake is to open oneself to scrutiny. Cover up your own mistakes and if someone else makes a mistake, shame him.

    Unreliability—Don’t expect reliability in relationships. Don’t trust anyone and you will never be disappointed.

  • C

    There are so many marvelous stories here to help a young mother find support in order to make sound decisions. The baby is the most important angel – the alcoholic is a disaster! I am for him going to AA and Al-anon for the rest of the family. It affects everyone. It takes more than a young mother to raise a child, and the other family members need to be able to support her. Maybe the father will find a sponsor and be ready to be sober before the baby arrives. Al-anon will teach the mother and family members how to cope with the dad.

    My ex was an alcoholic so I know how difficult it is to raise babies almost all alone. For me, the loneliness was the most difficult part of being in an alcoholic relationship. Mine just came home after work and drank beer and fell asleep!!! Not a life by any means!

  • SC

    Fyi. John Bradshaw has worked with hundreds of alcoholics and he said that not one did not have shame.
    He had a PBS series that aired in the 80s. Some of the series can be seen on YouTube. He is also recovering alcoholic.

  • AM

    cannot tell you how helpful all these comments have been to me. I haven’t seen my alcoholic friend since memorial day weekend……last spoke with him about 4 months ago……and then he shut me out of his world completely. I did everything for him……helped him financially …..8 years of “friendship”. you are right he loves the bottle more than anything. I miss him and am struggling to fill the void. I keep busy and pray for strength. but it is hard. Hard because you cared and loved someone deeply.

  • Liz

    Hello. I have been dating an alcoholic for 2 yrs and lived together the 3rd year. Oncewe lived together I noticed her getting stupid drunk 2-4 nights a week , stumbling home, peeing in our condo parking lot, stbling and falling down several times a night on the way to the bathroom. We were engaged. Then my fiancé/alcoholic was rear ended In a motor vehicle accident 1 yr ago. 2 months ago started 2 cortisone shots in bad back disk. Then my fiancé started taking Vicodin, became combative, argumentative and decided to move out. What the hell? I witnessed severe personality changes, mood swings, irritability and spacing out on me. My fiancé has passed the 7 week mark and, I think is addicted/ abiding Vicodin. What is the worst is a Jekyl/Hyde personality change. I feel like my heart was ripped out of my chest and tossed in a meat grinder. Help! Has anyone gone through this? I went to an alanon mtg sat but no one else showed up – what the heck?

  • Karen

    Hello, I don’t have children only my dog. All my family has passed away and I am left with an alcoholic husband that I have been married to for 22 yrs. He drank when we first met and quit when I told him that was the condition for marriage. I am a long time survivor & fighter of Sarcoma and Kidney failure. In 2007 a tumor or my spine left me with a leg I can’t use and the drinking started again this time it’s mainly beer. He puts down well over a six pack during the week and on weekends its a suitcase everyday. We don’t do holidays or vacations, no friends just the fighting and trying to keep my mouth shut. He doesn’t do Dr’s anymore or hospitals with me so I am on my own but let me just say that I would not be able to survivor both of these diseases without God’s help and grace. My dr’s know so its no surprise not to see him with me and truthfully, I would rather he not be there when you know they smell it. My heart goes out to you mothers that have to keep your children safe. My father was an alcoholic I guess that’s why I never took to drinking of any kind. I was abused by him and you can get past it but never forget it and your children, they are smarter than people give them credit for. It is hard to hide it so they don’t know, but believe me they do. Prayers to all of you for staying the course and trying to find some beauty in each day God has given us even if it’s only in seeing a rainbow or butterfly. Time to go. Thanks for listening and letting me share. I never have, feels better.
    God bless, Karen

  • AM

    LIZ….. to quote you…. heart was ripped out and tossed in a meat grinder. I used to say feel like a bag of trash that was left at curb. Yes know how you feel. These people are not rational. The person I thought I knew used me. Painful and hard to accept. Everyday I think I am making progress and then I take a step back.
    Prayer has helped me and good friends. Big hug for you.

  • Kate

    my boyfriend cooks me dinner every night, lights candles,
    Does dishes laundry and hands me his entire
    Pay cheque. My boyfriend is a functioning alcoholic.
    He starts drinking the first minute he is awake.
    Until the minute he goes to sleep.
    The problem is lying about drinking, no intimacy,
    I feel alone emotionally . I try to explain this to him
    He says you’re not alone I’m with you all the time.
    How do I explain in a way he may understand
    How I’m feeling.

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