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How Alcoholism Affects Relationships

Last Updated: September 22, 2023

Alcohol abuse is one of the leading addictions many people face. Not only can alcoholism wreak havoc on someone’s personal life, but it also greatly affects every single relationship they are a part of. Perhaps, the biggest and most detrimental impacts come at the level of intimacy, partnership, and marriage.

Anyone who is engaging in heavy drinking on a regular basis will be faced with many emotional, physical, and psychological challenges, which tend to be most fully expressed inside of their closest relationships.  People with an alcohol problem usually have a very hard time maintaining healthy relationships because of their alcohol intake.

The effect of alcoholism on relationships and intimacy is widespread and touches on many different areas of intimate affairs. This article will take a look at different facets of relationships that may be disturbed and how alcohol causes relationship problems of multiple kinds.

How does alcoholism affect intimacy and sex?

Alcoholism’s effects on relationships can be quite harmful. The first area that is usually affected is intimacy, which doesn’t always mean sex, either. Parts of an intimate relationship that can be affected by the effects of alcoholism include:

  • Trust.
  • Stability.
  • Affection.
  • Expectations.
  • Commitment.
  • Shared values.
  • Respect.

When alcohol is involved this raises concern for codependency probabilities as well as abusive behavior both verbally and physically. Deterioration in married or unmarried couples often stems from arguments, financial troubles, acts of infidelity or, worse, domestic violence.

Most people are left asking can my relationship survive alcoholism? There is evidence that a relationship can make it, but some that would argue that it most likely won’t. For the married population with one person being a heavy drinker, research shows this is 50% more likely to end in divorce according to a study in Medical Daily.

How Alcohol Impacts Sex Drive

Alcohol abuse, over time, will most likely result in a lack of sexual functioning in both men and women. As a person becomes more addicted, they tend to lose interest in sex or being close with someone as their abuse becomes their number one priority. Alcohol abuse in males is known to create difficulty in becoming or staying aroused often resulting in erectile dysfunction. Women have been known to suffer from a decreased libido from alcohol use disorder also.

Alcohol and Sexual Promiscuity

For people outside of a committed relationship, alcohol can lead to unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease due to having sex while under the influence.

According to a study reported by NetDoctor, research suggests that sexual promiscuity as a result of alcohol is definitely something to consider for people who are not in a committed relationship.  The study found:

  • Alcohol was a major factor in persuading men and women to have unsafe sex without the use of a condom.
  • Seventy percent of people who regretted having a sexual encounter stated that alcohol had been an influence that their decision.
  • When young people were surveyed, ten percent said they had been so intoxicated that they couldn’t even remember whether they had sex or not with someone.
  • Of that group of young adults, 28 percent said that they had sex with someone they wouldn’t normally be attracted to mostly due to alcohol—often referred to as “beer goggles.”

How Treatment for Alcohol Abuse Can Impact A Relationship

When faced alcoholism inside a relationship, seeking treatment may be the best option. Treatment can help the person with the drinking problem begin recovery and start living a healthier life.

In treatment, therapy is encouraged and available for both people involved as they work to rebuild their relationship. Usually, individual counseling, as well as group or family counseling, is part of the treatment program for alcohol abuse.

Partners and spouses should seek personal therapy and a supportive community with others who understand what they may be experiencing. This can help to restore peace and balance as you support your partner through their recovery.

Relationship counseling is also highly recommended because there are also usually deeper issues that will need to be compassionately addressed and resolved.

Getting Help

If you are in a relationship or in love with someone and either of you is struggling with alcoholism, help is available. Understanding the signs that you may need rehab for your alcohol addiction is a good first step. It’s also important to keep in mind that you cannot save anyone from his or her alcoholism. They must want to get help on their own.

Contact us today to speak with one of our treatment specialists to see if rehab is right for you and to learn more about your options.


Sex and Alcohol, NetDoctor.co.uk, <http://www.netdoctor.co.uk/conditions/sexual-health/a2236/sex-and-alcohol/>, December 2015

Heavy Drinking Will Lead To Divorce Unless Both Partners Drink Equally, Medical Daily, <http://www.medicaldaily.com/heavy-drinking-will-lead-divorce-unless-both-partners-are-equally-alcoholic-263648>

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