Mumsnet has not checked the qualifications of anyone posting here. If you need help urgently, please see our domestic violence webguide and/or relationships webguide, which can point you to expert advice and support.
Planning to split up with my alcoholic partner but filled with doubt and guilt(209 Posts)
Hello all, I've been with my partner for 12 years now. And it's only just becoming apparent that he's an alcoholic. He's not a falling down type. He works full time. He only drinks in the evenings. But he drinks every night until he's drunk and then goes to sleep. And he smokes about 4-5 joints a day. I feel like I'm being SO unreasonable splitting up with him. I've been wanting to split up since the day he moved in - but it's taken me 12 years to feel strong enough to split up. But we have a 4 and a 7 year old together. The second I think of them and how much this will damage them, I just feel like, no matter how much I want to split up, no matter how miserable I am, this just isn't bad enough to justify ruining their lives. They're both such sensitve girls - the elder one has a terrible temper and gets angry really easily and the younger one can burst into tears when something even slightly goes wrong. But I don't think that's got anything to do with my relationship because from the outside there is NOTHING wrong. It's just me that's miserable. But I keep it all in. I'm not cross with them. I am pretty happy really. My life is great apart from this problem. I take them all over the place doing lots of stuff and we have lots of friends. They don't see him drunk - he doesn't fall down. He might sway abit but that's it. But I've worked my arse off with my own business for the past 18 months only to discover that he's spent £3K on booze in 6 months and was hiding the credit card statements. Basically my business isn't that successful and he's drunk ALL the profit I worked so hard to earn. I also do 99% of all household chores and childcare. I confronted him yesterday, he said he was sorry but that he was planning to stop on Sunday because that's the day before his new job starts, and he got drunk tonight as usual. Even though I'd told him his behaviour had devastated me and he said he was 'sorry'. Isn't that abit..odd?
SuperAmoo, I can only reiterate what others on this thread have said, it would be best for you to get out and take the children away from this situation which is draining you and causing you to feel so resentful. As for your post at 00.22, please don't put yourself through this any more, it sounds hellish. You really owe it to yourself to get away from this situation.
And your children. They may not see him actively drunk but I suspect the anger and sensitivity you describe is exacerbated by his alcoholic neglect and the unhappiness of the relationship you describe so graphically.
You are not your partner's keeper, you are not responsible for him and if you leave him it will not be your fault if he turns into a pathetic falling down drunk.
He may pull himself together and I hope he does but that's up to him. As you know he will find it incredibly hard to stop drinking without help. I think it's unlikely he will stop for any length of time at all if things stay as they are with you protecting him and providing a safety net. I am an alcoholic, now teetotal with AA, but not before I wore out my safety net. Alcoholics will do a great deal to avoid facing reality. Sometimes it just has to come and kick us up the @rse.
Look after yourself and the girls now. Best of luck.
You are desperately unhappy. Alone, you are shouldering the burden of being the responsible adult in the house looking after not just the home and children but also a dysfunctional adult.
I read a lot of threads on here by people who are desperately unhappy, but because they have coped with so much, have learned to live with such ill treatment, they are convinced that "its not bad enough to leave", they cite how much worse it could be "he's not a violent drunk" or "he's not very physical, it was just a shove" etc.
In truth there is only one thing you need to know before making the decision to end a relationship. It is that you do not want to be in the relationship any more . You don't have to pass some test of how awful the other person is or justify your reasons to him or anyone else. You've had enough.
As it happens, there is a heck of a lot of people who would think that drinking every night, getting stoned every night, being emotionally absent, leaving the other partner to do almost all the chores and childcare, being sexually pushy (and yes, abusive, you should never be in a position of being scared to say no, even if that fear doesn't come from what the person will do to you but to themselves) are all pretty darn good reasons to run for the hills.
The problem is, you are coping and surviving these circumstances, which is good in the short term, because surviving is good obviously. But it makes you think that "it's not too bad, I've coped up till now, I can handle it" and makes you stay, much longer than is healthy for you.
Please believe us that we have heard that you don't consider him the worst kind of drunk. It doesn't matter, it's bad enough that he is controlling and damaging your life (and that of your children though you may not realise it till they are no longer living with him).
You also seem to think that you are not a typical spouse of an alcoholic. I don't know what is typical, and maybe it is true that what you've looked at of these support groups doesn't ring true to you. But, you have said things, about not wanting to hurt him, needing to protect him, being responsible for him that make me think that some form of support for you (be it one to one counselling, or a group support or both) while you are leaving him would be a good idea. You might not feel that you are co-dependant, that you don't enjoy being needed by him - and maybe you aren't. But you are in a situation where you feel responsible for protecting his feelings to the extent that you end up freezing and being subjected to sexual contact that you do not wish to have. Where you are so busy trying to keep everything normal (making sure he is fed, that the children and home are looked after) that he isn't able to feel the consequences of his actions, so he never hits rock bottom and seeks help.
There's a lot of strength in your posts btw, about how it isn't your job to make him seek help, how angry you are about the money etc. You can do this. You can leave.
You might not feel he is actively harming his children. But they are missing all the normal interactions a father who isn't drunk would give them that show that he is interested in their lives, that he cares about them. And you are both modelling how relationships work, what women should put up with, etc. And they know how unhappy you are, even if they never mention it and you think you hide it well. Instinctively they know all is not right in their world, and they may well think that it is them that is not right because we are programmed to trust that our parents are right.
Even if they weren't suffering. You are, you are a human being who shouldn't have to live like this. You deserve to be free. I think you know that. Ending the relationship is the right thing, for ALL of you.
The refrain here (and it may well have come from AA or similar) is that you didn't cause it, you can't control it and you can't cure it.
(this is a fairly long and rambling post - many apologies, I tend to do that and there was so much in your posts to respond to, I doubt I've done it perfectly ).
It is very hard to face up to the reality of what is happening. Leaving your partner will be hard. Staying will be harder still. By supporting him - financially, feeding him, washing his clothes etc you are enabling his behaviour.
SIL's husband was a functioning alcoholic for many years, like your partner. It wasn't until he collapsed a couple of times (he had an acoholic fit in the supermarket) that it was obvious that the drinking had permanently ruined his health. His brain is damaged by the toxins his liver isn't processing and he behaves like someone with advanced alzheimers.
This is the reality you face.
You need to try and overcome those feelings of guilt. SIL stayed because of guilt - drummed into her her by MIL who is very anti divorce. Her children, who are all grown up now, hate their dad. MIL goes around saying that it would be better if SIL's husband was to die (this from the woman who is against divorce for religious reasons!). Her husband is dragging her down
The fact that your partner drinks is not your fault.
I see these on here a lot:
You didn't cause the problem
You can't control it
You can't cure it
Remind yourself every time your partner gets drunk
I'm sorry you feel that you are responsible for him. Having been married to a functioning alcoholic myself I know the process of finding reasons to forgive or explain their behaviour. He may not be specifically aggressive or antisocial but his behaviour is affecting you very negatively. If it's affecting you this way, if there is anxiety & unhappiness in the household, chances are your DDs are also affected and much of the behaviour they're exhibiting is a result..
My functioning alcoholic ex had a father exactly the same. He learned from an early age that the way to deal with every emotion from stress to elation to bereavement was to hit the scotch. Emotionally he was a mess.
Sorry you've not had the courage to end it up to now. I didn't realise how low my exH had brought me until he finally left. Good luck
He is telling you what you so want to hear and not very well at that. He has no interest at all in giving up drink and the cannabis; these are his sole reasons for being. His primary relationship is with drink and drugs.
Only around 4% of alcoholics make it to AA: its of no surprise to me that he won't go. He does not want to and you cannot make him. He has to want to stop drinking for his own self, you cannot influence that in any way at all.
Your man is currently able to hold down a job, note I said currently. This does not make him any less of an alcoholic, not all alcoholics are crashed out on park benches. Many are on the surface at least quite plausible.
Interesting you write that you seem under a spell with this person; this is because you are codependent and this is often a feature of such dysfunctional relationships where alcoholism features. This is also why you feel conflicted about feeling so unreasonable. You have and continue to put your own self last and co-dependency is often learnt behaviour. That also brings me to the question of what you learnt about relationships when growing up. You learnt about being codependent to others.
Your other primary role here is one of enabler; you have and continue to prop him up. You feel still very responsible for him and he exploits that knowledge as well.
Would suggest you now read Codependent NO More by Melodie Beattie. You are in those pages.
I can also only reiterate the counsel of the other respondents who have advised you to get this person totally out of your day to day lives; they are seeing and hearing far more than you perhaps care to realise. This whole experience has and will damage them emotionally and as adults they could end up with a heap of emotional problems themselves. They learnt all that from you two. You chose an alcoholic as a partner; why?. I realise that you cannot help whom you fall in love with but you may well also have rescuer and or saviour tendencies (which often go hand in hand with co-dependency) which he has exploited to the full.
What do you want your children to remember about their childhoods?. Surely not this dysfunctional role model of one!!. You have a choice re this man, your children do not. They will not thank you either for staying with him long term and will wonder of you why you were so weak and stayed thus putting him before them. Your long term relationship with them is thus at risk of being permanently damaged.
I left a relationship with a man who was very similar in his alcoholic behaviour. And my young children never ever saw him drunk as he was an evening, out of the home drinker. And I can say clearly how much happier and less sensitive they are now, 1.5 years later, not just my view but people have commented a lot on it too. They were 2 and 4 when he stopped living with us, and they were most definitely deeply emotionally affected in many ways. My denial didn't want to see it because it hurt me too much. An alcoholic's behaviour when sober isn't normal either, it is just such a deep relief after the enormous strain of seeing them slurring etc, so it becomes acceptable.
Your DH's behaviour is bad enough to justify leaving. Reading your posts they are heartbreakingly sad. Yes he doesn't give you a black eye, but it is no way to live and just as bad ime. Your DH will/may not change. Mine lost his children, a few jobs and is still drinking and partying away. And just don't be surprised if he has created more than 3k on booze.
I don't mean to be critical, really, but you are enabling him. You say he will be a fall down drunk without you to protect, support, shelter him. You are paying the price of his drinking, not him. You have probably much more in common with al anon attenders than you think. It might be helpful for you to attend a few meetings with an open mind. He doesn't want to change and has no reason to at the moment and you can not control him. Let go. I think the place to start to get your life back and have some normality as a family is with you, al anon might be massively helpful.
OP, I was in a similar position to you. My ex was an alkie; the kids loved him deeply (and of course still do). His repeated promises, stop and start drinking, his lack of real responsibility towards the kids, the fact I couldn't trust him.... All of these led to him leaving.... In the end it was that I didn't want to go down with him. He held down a job and to all intents and purposes was functioning. Apart from that when he had a drink he literally could not stop.
I worried about how he would manage. For the first few weeks after he moved out he was drinking and drinking. I really did worry he would drink himself to death. By that time I was just glad it wasn't in our house. Before that one if my big fears was finding him dead after a big drinking frenzy.
After this I think he realised that he was the only one looking after him! He gave up the booze, went back to AA and hasnt drunk since. It's two years now.
We will not get back together, there's too much water under the bridge. But if you can take one thing out of this- you have to put yourself and your DCs first. He is an adult and has to learn to take responsibility for himself.
It sounds simple- of course in real life it's much messier than that. It took me literally years to get to that place. But you cannot control his drinking; only he can do that. Good luck. And take heart- you won't be depriving your DCs you will be improving their lives long term.
The only functioning Alcoholic I have really known was a lecturer on my MSc course. It was very widely known he was an alcoholic. His first wife had divorced him and taken his children.
He had a second relationship, but she had made it very clear if he ever started drinking again she would leave him.
He started drinking during the year I knew him. His partner left him.
But he could function amazingly well. I remember sitting in a lecture, and I was the only person there who knew he had been on a three day bender. If the other students noticed anything they could have put it down to tiredness, no one got close enough to smell his breath.
I would very much suggest you go back to AlAnon. You are still with him, why?
Read back through your posts, it obviously isn't for your DC, he barely interacts with them and they are already showing signs of stress. What need in you does he fulfill? Is it healthy?
Who needs you more Him or your DC? Who is more important to you?
As everyone else has said, your and your daughters' lives would be much, much better if you were not living with this addict.
Your daughters are old enough to be aware that all is not well with their father, and with you. Living with him has been/will continue to be far more damaging than their parents' relationship ending.
If your leaving is a spur to him getting sober, then great, but he needs to do that for himself and by himself. Don't be fobbed off by promises. If you go and he then continues or gets worse, that is his responsibility. Your priority must be your DC and yourself.
Thank you everyone. I feel clearer in my mind about it all. I can justify my stance and tell you how made it is and then in the next setence flip to making excuses for him and feeling guilty. But I can't escape from the fact that, regardless of the precise circumstances and how 'bad' they are, I can't do it anymore. I have two chronic illnesses, one of them brought on my stress, the other an autoimmune disease and I'm starting to feel really really ill. And it's his alcoholism and my reaction to it that's making me ill. I am exhausted with analysing the situation. I am exhausted with flipping from anger to guilt. I am exhausted from worrying about what will happen if we split up. It isn't in my DCs interest to keep going until I have a nervous breakdown because there's no family to help us if something happens to me. Well not unless I want to upsticks and move 300 hundred miles away where I don't know anyone, no thank you. What do I say to them - we'll be staying in the house so we'll have to stay living together while my partner finds somewhere else to live. DD1 is nearly 8 and DD2 is 4.5. How on earth do I explain to them that daddy is going to live somewhere else?!
Superamoo, if you can make the decision to leave, there is lots of help available. Plan things, seek information and support, before you tell your P or your girls.
A poster called olgaga has a thread with links to all kinds of useful info, in particular on legal advice.
Sorry you're unwell.
It will be OK, or at the very least much better than now, if you leave him.
This book can be helpful in explaining sometimes. It may not be totally truthful to your situation, but it can be a starting point.
What do you get from this relationship now, what has kept you within this to date?.
Is the property in your sole name or joint names?. You can use legal means to get him out if he refuses to leave. The current situation as it stands is untenable. You will likely end up with a nervous breakdown if you do not act.
Olgaga's information is top notch, I would suggest too that you read this as well.
Also it is not your problem where he goes after he has left; that is your co-dependent nature kicking in again. You are not responsible for him when all is said and done.
I called Gingerbread and they were very helpful and pointed me in the direction of some good leaflets about telling children. It hammered home to me how important it is to talk positively about my partner. Unfortunately me and DD1 already tend to talk quite negatively about him because DD2 is the favourite and he is generally pretty horrible to DD1 and so I tried to toughen her up from quite early on. She's already noticed that he never does anything with them and doens't take them anywhere. But I need to big him up abit, I see that. Because he is and always will be their father and a part of them. To be negative about him is to hurt them a little too I think. So I won't mention that he has problems at all unless DD1 presses me to know why he's so detatched from us all and from her. I just don't want to give her the idea that if he has a 'problem' then there must be a solution and maybe she could have the solution or at least help us to 'fix the problem'. There is no solution now. I don't want to think she has any power over this situation.
He is their father, but primarily a drunkard of one. He is no decent role model to them is he?.
Your own relationship with your girls going forward is also at risk of being damaged. They could well ask you why you did not leave years earlier.
How would you feel also if either one or both of them ended up with alcoholic men in their own relationships?. You're both currently teaching them here all sorts of damaging stuff about relationships as you yourself likely were.
Why do you have any need at all to big up this man?. What's he done to deserve you bigging him up, that just suggests that you're trying to put a gloss on everything. Your children, both of them, are very perceptive and they know all too well their parents have problems. Also such overt favouritism by him should not be at all tolerated by yourself as such behaviour will damage their relationship as sisters.
Your only realistic option going forward is to leave him.
I tried all the workaround explanations but in the end I had to tell my 4 year old that daddy drank too much beer and wine, it was making him ill and meant that he couldn't look after her properly even though he loves her. I told her that it was wrong to behave like that and that only he could sort himself out.
I had to tell her this because 4 year olds aren't. stupid and she knows a lie when she hears one.
There's a big difference between telling the truth and badmouthing the other parent. I want my child to grow up knowing the difference between right and wrong.
Again, this all took me years and wasn't as simple as it looks written down. I should really have kicked exH out while I was pregnant and told DD an age appropriate version of the truth from Day 1.
I do see what you mean ChangingWoman but I'm concerned that if I present them with a problem - 'daddy isn't well' - they'll fall into his trap of feeling sorry for him and thinking I'm a bad person for asking to leave and making him suffer. And also they'll think that if daddy stops drinking he can come back which will be over my dead body. I think it will help to tell them the truth because how anyone, regardless of age, understand alcoholism and the fact that it's nobody's fault and you can't the person etc, unless you are either an addict yourself or live with one? I just think they'll end up thinking that daddy didn't love them enough to stop drinking. So better to say that our relationship doesn't work and we're very unhappy living together although we both love you to infinity etc.
I used the daddy is not well with my DS, but together with he is damaging us and we need to be apart.
Our children need to know that as sorry as we feel about people, some behaviour just can't be tolerated.
He may not be able to cope on his own, but what if he brings down the entire family with him?
You'd be doing a disservice to yourself and your children by staying with him.
Possibly to him as well, as addicts often don't feel the need to change until they hit rock bottom.
I guess it depends how quickly he finds somewhere else to live. If it takes him a while and he stops drinking in the meanwhile then saying he can't stop drinking is going to look like a lie! Hopefully that situation won't arise but knowing him, once I tell him he has to move out then he suddenly will stop drinking and be all sweetness and light. yuck
Sorry - they will both know you aren' being honest. They can't possibly not know that there is something seriously wrong with their father. Your older child probably already blames herself.
He behaves appallingly on a daily basis, sexually abuses you, neglects his children etc.. and you're prepared to pretend that it's ok? Really?
If you don't tell them and show your DC, how else will they learn how to behave or interact with others in a normal, healthy way? It certainly isn't going to come from their father.
Your elder daughter is aged 7.
"the elder one has a terrible temper and gets angry really easily"
"the younger one can burst into tears when something even slightly goes wrong"
"he is generally pretty horrible to DD1"
"She's already noticed that he never does anything with them and doesn't take them anywhere"
"then he sits in front of the telling, drinks till he's fairly drunk and then goes to bed and he does that every night"
and THEN you say:
"Hardly traumatic for a child."
Look at what you are saying! It sounds INCREDIBLY traumatic to me. Do you really think they are better off living with this man? Do you really think they aren't affected by him?
Your lovely girls. Protect them now and leave him.
And that is besides the fact he molests you, records you when you are unaware, pesters you for sex and blames his abusive background for giving you and your girls an equally awful time.
FFS he's so awful sexually that you have to drive away to get away from him!
Yes, he will probably drink more if you leave. He'll also drink more if you stay. You don't owe him your whole life or your daughters' lives.
You do owe your daughters a peaceful and happy home, where they are secure in the love of their mother.
Stop drinking is not for a week, or even a month. It has to be a permanent change. Certainly over a year.
Regardless, do you want to risk it?
Yes that's true. It's one of the reasons that I've tried to have alot of friends in our lives and send the children round to friends houses alot and have tea with them. And we do alot outside the house. I've tried to expose them to 'normal' people as much as humanly possible. But in a way it makes DD1 sad because she gets jealous and asks me why her daddy doesn't play games with her, why is he grumpy all the time, why doesn't he take her out anywhere etc? It's heartbreaking really. But then I grew up with very neglectful parents so it's sort of normal to me too. But I'm not totally disfunctional, I have alot of good close friends. But I have to admit that none of them know that this is going on. I just can't bring myself to be vulnerable in front of anyone if I'm honest. Hence I'm on here telling strangers instead. No offence. I really appreciate the warmth and kindness that's been shown to me here.
Join the discussion
Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.Register now
Already registered with Mumsnet? Log in to leave your comment or alternatively, sign in with Facebook or Google.
Please login first.