Problems from Spouse’s Alcohol Use

QUESTION: My 40-year-old wife seems to think she is going through menopause. For this reason she is just not interested in sex at all. Her memory seems to be short, too, because when I tell her that she has a problem and needs to talk, she is all willing to, but then as the day goes on she forgets what we talked about. To top this all off (while drunk as a skunk) she told me that she loves me but is not in love with me anymore and has feelings for my oldest son’s friend who is 20. I’m rambling and wouldn’t normally ask for help, let alone online, but please help. I’m at my wit’s end.

ANSWER: Your wife has memory problems, gets drunk, has feelings for a man half her age, and has no interest in sex whatsoever. Because you have the courage to ask publicly for my help, I offer it. Hopefully my frank response will not offend you. The short answer isthat there is nothing YOU can do to change HER. While there may be problems in your relationship (I have no way of evaluating), she definitely has problems that must be addressed. In all likelihood they must be addressed by a professional. Even then, it becomes her choice as to whether she deals with her issues. A basic truth of life – though we often do not like to hear it – is that no one can change a person but the person herself.

Why do I believe she needs help? Obviously, I have to make some guesses because I do not know you, her, or the situation other than your brief description. However, your mention of her being “drunk as a skunk” may well explain her memory problems, her lack of interest in sex, and her budding infatuation with a man half her age. All of those fit within the parameters of difficulties resulting from alcohol abuse. You did not say how often she becomes inebriated, but, in truth, frequency is not the only sigh of alcoholism. From my experiences with alcohol earlier in my life that created tremendous marital difficulties for Alice and me, I believe misuse of alcohol is more than how often you drink. It is why you drink and how it alters reality. For example, in Alcoholics Anonymous they talk about a dry drunk; that’s a person who is not currently drinking but does not have her drinking under control. Going for a while – even a long while – without drinking or drinking in moderation does not indicate that one is on control of his drinking. Until the root causes are addressed and handled wisely, the problem continues to exist even if dormant for the moment.

In summary, my guess is that your wife is an alcoholic. Until she gets the right help – either a counselor or a sponsor from a local group of Alcoholics Anonymous – she will continue drinking. When she deals with the underlying causes of her alcohol abuse, she likely will also discover the roots of her no longer feeling in love with you and her attraction to a man so much younger than she.

However, that does not mean that you have no role in her change. It will be incumbent on you to do what it takes to get her to see a professional, or, at the very least, attend Alcoholics Anonymous. If you do not know how to do an intervention to get her to get the right help, look online for an AA group near you, go to a meeting, and ask if anyone there has done an intervention and will be willing to help you do one with your wife. If I am correct about your wife, your problems from spouse’s alcohol use will continue until she deals with her addiction.

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