Alcoholism and Failed Relationships: Why They Often Go Hand in Hand

Married couple

Alcoholism is a serious problem in the United States. In fact, millions of Americans abuse substances [1]. Addiction can negatively impact several aspects of someone’s life, including their relationships. Failed relationships are common when dealing with alcoholism.

Even if someone’s addiction is kept a secret, the effects of alcohol abuse make it harder to have satisfying relationships. This impacts the person struggling with an addiction and their loved one. Essentially the addiction has a ripple effect on loved ones and family.

There are several things necessary in order to maintain close relationships. Within a relationship, there needs to be a sense of trust and stability for the relationship to be intimate. Alcoholism threatens each of these. Here’s how.

Lack of Quality Time

One symptom of alcoholism is that sufferer spends a significant amount of time buying, drinking, or recovering from the effects of alcohol abuse. As an addiction becomes more severe, more time may be spent engaging in this behavior. This directly impacts the amount and quality of time that someone spends with their loved ones.

This impacts relationships by threatening the stability and trust within a relationship. If someone is inconsistent, it directly impacts the ability to trust and rely on them. For example, if someone’s parent is regularly absent from important events because they were drunk, it will be harder to trust them to show up to future events.

Financial Issues

Family holding hands and overcoming AlcoholismAlcohol addiction can cause financial problems because a significant amount of money may be spent on drinking. The financial burden can increase over time as someone needs more and more alcohol to get the desired effect.

As tolerance increases, the cost of the addiction commonly also increases. This can be very straining on a marriage or for a family and can threaten someone’s sense of stability.


Alcoholism can increase conflict within a relationship. This includes romantic relationships, friendships, and relationships between a parent and child. While conflict is normal in relationships to some extent, conflict as a result of addiction can be especially damaging. This could be for a few reasons.

Conflict can result from addiction-related financial stress, emotional distance due to a lack of quality time, unresolved emotions, or the impact of someone’s behavior on their loved ones while they are intoxicated. Increased conflict obviously can threaten the health of a relationship.

Even though alcoholism can wreak havoc on a relationship, there is hope. Substance abuse can be treated. Trained professionals can help someone, and their relationships, recover from the effects of alcoholism.


[1] Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2019). Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (HHS Publication No. PEP19-5068, NSDUH Series H-54).

About the Author:

Samantha Bothwell PhotoSamantha Bothwell, LMFT, is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, writer, explorer, and lipstick aficionado. She became a therapist after doing her own healing work so she could become whole after spending many years living with her mind and body disconnected. She has focused her clinical work to support the healing process of survivors of sexual violence and eating disorders. She is passionate about guiding people in their return to their truest Self so they can live their most authentic, peaceful life.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from multiple physical, emotional, environmental, and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on August 27, 2020
Reviewed by Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on August 27, 2020
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About Baxter Ekern

Baxter Ekern is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He contributed and helped write a major portion of Addiction Hope and is responsible for the operations of the website.