Advice For Woman Deciding To Divorce An Alcoholic

deciding to divorce an alcoholic

By Jackie Pilossoph, Creator and Editor-in-chief, Divorced Girl Smiling site, podcast and app, Love Essentially columnist and author

 I remember hearing awhile back that alcohol addiction was the number one cause of divorce. I don’t know if that’s true, but if it is, I wouldn’t be surprised. Deciding to divorce an alcoholic (or stay) is not an easy choice. There can be guilt involved, along with fear, frustration, anger, resentment, compassion, and a lot of other emotions.

Here is one reader’s story about deciding to divorce an alcoholic:


My husband and I are in our 60’s and have been married for 22 years. We are in the process of getting divorced, but now I am having second thoughts. My concerns are my husband’s use of alcohol and other drugs.


He doesn’t get falling down drunk, but seems to need alcohol, pot, sleeping pills, and anti-anxiety meds to manage his anxiety. He has struggled to stop drinking, but always starts again. I have done my best to detach from his drug use and live my own life, but I worry about our future together.


Patricia Van Haren, Divorce Attorney


Recently, I found him drinking wine in a coffee cup on a Sunday morning. He had told me that he had stopped drinking, but then it came out that he had hidden a box of wine in the basement. He won’t go to AA or otherwise seek help; he wants to do this on his own. I see his mind slipping; don’t know if this is due to all the drugs or just age.


In addition to this, we have very poor communication. Any discussion about anything important devolves into an ugly argument, often with him making insulting, hurtful comments. For example, in an argument about money, he threatened to cut me out of his will and called me petty.

We have tried 4 couples’ therapists, with little or no improvement in our relationship. I still love him, he can be a sweet, sensitive guy, but there is another side to him which is not so nice. We have a beautiful home together, travel with each other, and basically like each other.

He has so many good qualities, but I never feel heard when we have a disagreement. We are more like companions than a couple. I am realizing I will really miss our life, but I don’t feel that I can rely on him and don’t know how to be close to him. 


I subsequently corresponded with this woman, and found out she did decide to go through with the divorce, but that it was a very, very difficult decision for her, and that she has decided she will still stand by her husband and help him. In other words, she isn’t just going to abandon him.


Here is how I feel about this, and for anyone deciding to divorce an alcoholic. Every couple has marital issues. There’s no getting around it. But the problem here doesn’t seem to be the marriage. The problem is an ugly ugly disease called addiction. This woman’s husband is an addict, in my opinion.


Want Financial Security After Divorce?


I feel terrible for this couple because addiction is a tricky disease that causes so much conflict and pain, and destroys marriages and lives. A person living with an alcoholic can feel love and compassion and feel like they want to help so badly, and then after a bad night have so much hatred and anger and disgust for the same person. It’s very conflicting and emotions are all over the place. It’s a vicious cycle that really never stops.


The husband, in my opinion, cannot break his addiction on his own. He needs to go to a professional place and let doctors and therapists help him. It works in so many cases. I have seen it work. But he has to want it. Hopefully the separation will be the motivation he needs to get help.


It's time to find the money - Divorce Money Guide


Addiction has a personality of its own, which is why the guy and his wife can no longer communicate. It’s like she is trying to have a conversation with a bottle of wine. It’s not possible.

Addicts (even during the times they are sober) can’t cope with any type of stress or conflict, and therefore cannot communicate effectively with others, especially a spouse. They tend to get angry, irritated quickly, impatient, mean, and hot-tempered, whether they have been drinking or are sober.


I personally think this woman did the right thing deciding to divorce an alcoholic. But, I would never judge anyone for staying, either. The decision to stay or leave an addict is very personal and there are lots of factors that go into the decision. No one should judge someone for staying or leaving or how long they wait before leaving.


Here is the good news. I know someone who has been in AA for two years. He said the reason he went into AA is because his wife said she was going to leave him if he didn’t.


In his recovery, he realized he was an addict and has never had a drink to this day. The couple and their children are so much happier and life is good (even though he says it is still very difficult not to drink.)


Anna K. Law- Filing for Divorce? What women need to know beforehand.



Having an addiction is like having another disease or chronic condition, like cancer or Parkinson’s or anything. But, in my opinion, it is much more difficult because it’s not so cut and dry.

If you have cancer, no one is mad at you, you go to the doctor and get help, and everyone feels compassion for your situation. And, I don’t think someone would want to divorce someone because the person has cancer. But when it comes to alcoholism, part of the disease is not being able to face the fact that you need help, your family is frustrated and angry with you, and you might be functioning fairly normally. So, deciding to divorce an alcoholic isn’t something that’s unheard of.

On the upside, there are countless stories of addicts living in recovery for very long periods of time—some for the rest of their lives.


I hope this guy ends up getting the help he needs, but I also want to stress that his wife needs to get help, too. She has lived in an abusive situation for a long time. (Not that the guy meant to be abusive because he’s a bad person, but the addiction is the abuser.)

She would benefit by therapy or going to Al Anon. She is greatly affected by this ugly disease, too, and she would be comforted by hearing the stories of others and how people cope with a loved one who is an addict.


Tiffany Hughes Law


Addiction is an ugly disease. It creeps in and ruins relationships, it lies, it’s tricky and plays with people’s minds. And, there is no cure for addiction, only management of the disease. The number one weapon to managing addiction (getting it under control) is education and support.

I hope this couple understands that and takes steps to do that. But, the wife has to realize that she is powerless. The desire and realization that he needs professional help has to come from him, not her or anyone else close to him. I pray for these people, and for all addicts.

If you think you or your spouse might have a problem, PLEASE tell someone: a therapist, or your physician, or contact a local AA support group. 

Like this article? Check out, “20 Things I Wish I could Have Told My Newly Separated Self”


The Center for Divorce Recovery


Rita Morris, Certified Life Coach and Parenting Coach
Take the quiz to get recommendations Divorced Girl Smiling Trusted Partners

Sign up for the Divorced Girl Smiling newsletter to get weekly articles on divorce and dating.

Sign up
Listen to the Divorced Girl Smiling podcast! a weekly show about divorce and dating Download the Divorced Girl Smiling mobile app


Tracy Coenen - The Divorce Money Guide
Jerfita Compass Team since 2004
Divorced Girl Smiling welcome video
Jackie Pilossoph

Editor-in-chief: Jackie Pilossoph

Divorced Girl Smiling is here to empower, connect and inspire you. Jackie Pilossoph is the creator and Editor-In-Chief of Divorced Girl Smiling, the site, the podcast and the app. A former television journalist and newspaper features reporter, Pilossoph is also the author of four novels and the writer of her weekly relationship column, Love Essentially. Pilossoph holds a Masters degree in journalism and lives in Chicago with her two teenagers. The author of the novels, Divorced Girl Smiling and Free Gift With Purchase, Pilossoph also writes the weekly dating and relationships advice column, “Love Essentially”, published in the Chicago Tribune Pioneer Press and the Chicago Tribune online. Additionally, she is a Huffington Post contributor. Pilossoph holds a Masters degree in journalism from Boston University.

3 Responses to “Advice For Woman Deciding To Divorce An Alcoholic”

  1. Elizabeth

    I’m currently in the middle of something very similar to this woman’s story. I am married to an alcoholic, whom I love very much, but it is just as this woman described – we are a companion, not a couple. We too have good times, and travel, but then we have alcohol-induced arguments. Those arguments outweigh the good times. The anger and feelings of hatred on those bad nights have made the good times harder to enjoy.
    Recently, after a really bad fight, I decided that I was done. I found and put an offer on a home for myself to start a new life. Hoping that with me gone, I won’t hold back his recovery or his life. When I told him a few days ago, he was devastated. I close on the new home in just a few short weeks. He feels blind-sided and when I try to explain the reasoning, it is just as the woman above described – my words do not resonate with him.
    I feel for this woman because I know exactly what she is going though. And one of the main reasons I am doing what I am doing now is so that I can still have many years of happiness. I’m in my early thirties, and I have so much more to accomplish.
    I really needed to read this blog today, because I needed to hear from someone who has been in my shoes first hand. Thank you for having this resource for women.

  2. stephanie

    Thank you for the great read! I was in a great dilemma and am looking for inspiration on how to get everything going. Thanks to your blog post, I feel more and more confident about how to get started. I’m gonna contact Divorce Attorney Yolanda Torres ( ) to get on with it! thank you!

  3. Gwynne

    I don’t know even know how to start….I am right there. In a marriage for over 20 years…It brings tears to my eyes when I think of leaving at the same time in the same moment I feel so hurt and angry that he fails to even try to realize or recognize that he has a problem. I tell myself I need to leave…but I also tell myself he needs my help…that he would be or get worse if I leave. Yet I want happiness for myself. I’m in my 50s trying to get to retirement …seeing myself in Elder years with this person is frightening. Yet still afraid to leave him to himself. I never really heard of Al Anon. No therapy or any type of counseling…Im actually embarrassed about it all. I pray about it asking King Jesus to help us both. This is a reach out for help because I feel if I talk to family they will say to stay because of how much they love him. Only they don’t have to live with him. If anyone has more or more specific guidance to my situation please respond. Thank you for this blog and any advice you may have.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *