Whether it means drinking beer with friends or sipping wine with family, alcohol use and socializing very often go hand in hand. In fact, many people consider drinking to be a good way to loosen up and have a good time, without considering the effects alcohol can have on a relationship.
In moderation, this approach to fraternizing is usually harmless. However, when it comes to intimate relationships, alcohol use can pose a major threat to the happiness and health of all parties—especially if one person or both, has a drinking problem .
Elements of an Intimate Relationship
Before discussing how alcohol has a negative effect, it is a good idea to define an intimate relationship. An intimate relationship is a relationship structured around intimacy. As a concept, intimacy means closeness and an intimate relationship, which can be physical or emotional, is composed of the following elements:
- An intimate relationship is trusting
- An intimate relationship is loving
- An intimate relationship is reciprocal, with plenty of give and take
- An intimate relationship is compassionate
- An intimate relationship is honest
- And intimate relationship is respectful
Keeping these traits in mind, we can now turn to how problem drinking negatively affects intimate relationships.
Problem Drinking and Unhealthy Relationship Systems
A problem drinker is never an island unto him or herself. Whether with a spouse, a parent, a brother, a sister or a best friend, most problem drinkers are involved in intimate relationships. In addition, the issues inherent to problem drinking contribute to the construction of unhealthy relationship systems.
Problem drinkers create unhealthy relationship systems because of their dysfunctional behaviors. Instead of operating out of love, trust, honesty and compassion—the foundation stones of true intimacy—problem drinkers create a relational environment based on deceit, manipulation, and even verbal, emotional and physical abuse. There may be times when a problem drinker exhibits kindness and care for the people he or she loves, but as soon as alcohol enters the picture, all bets are off. The problem drinker’s relationship to alcohol takes center stage with his or her loved ones left to pick up the hangover pieces the next morning.
Problem drinkers are typically orbited by spouses, siblings, children and friends who help them—consciously or unconsciously—continue with their destructive habit; hence the unhealthy relationship system. Maybe the wife makes sure that her husband passes out in bed instead of on the lawn. Maybe the daughter gives her mom the money out of her piggy bank so she can buy one last beer. Maybe the sister agrees to drive her brother to and from the bar so that he does not end up driving drunk. These enabling behaviors keep the problem drinker from getting the help he or she needs and keep all parties from experiencing true intimacy and fulfillment in their relationships.
Quitting Drinking: The Key to Intimacy
If you, or someone you love, are a problem drinker, then quitting drinking, or encouraging your loved one to quit drinking, is the only way to begin building relationships based on real intimacy and true happiness. When you stop drinking, you can give up unhealthy behaviors like lying, fighting and manipulating; instead, you can start to relate to people out of genuineness and authenticity, and doing so will improve your life in many areas, from better self-esteem to increased productivity at work.
Giving up drinking isn’t always the easiest road to navigate. There are many stumbling blocks that can arise along the way, but you can learn to live your life without alcohol if you allow yourself to tap into the reserves of willpower and strength that are inside of you—qualities that everyone has and that everyone needs to become alcohol free.
You can learn how to improve your intimate relationships by taking control of your drinking.
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