Partners of Alcoholics

As indicated in the merry-go-round story, partners of alcoholics develop a coping and management style of caring for the alcoholic. This style is drawn from the natural human nurturing trait mainly evident in mothers and other carers – especially nursing.


There is nothing wrong or pathological with caring for another person. However, partners of alcoholics may reactively develop nurturing to a degree that can be detrimental to both themselves, the alcoholic and, often, their families


The following properties of partners of alcoholics have been deliberately phrased in the extreme. Of course not every partner has such extreme life views. People can discern the continuum of nurturing attributes from the healthy to the following.

  • Self-sacrifice; I always put the needs of the alcoholic before my own needs.

  • Responsibility; It is my responsibility to devote my energies to helping the alcoholic solve their problems.

  • External focus; In order to get along and be liked and loved, I always need to be what the alcoholic wants me to be.

  • Reactivity; My life is controlled by the alcoholics Behaviour. I could manage things properly if only the alcoholic would change

This over concentration on ‘other’ focus has the potential for playing into the alcoholic’s demands.

And of course the alcoholic wants to drink so the partners Behaviour tends to enable drinking.

This style of caring has been labeled caretaking.

See also; The Dynamics of an Alcoholic Family

From the BriefTSF manuals



4 thoughts on “Partners of Alcoholics

  1. Yes i am exactly the same. For better or for worse but saying that i am not happy! While he should be at home spending time with his family, he is out and about in pubs, drinking alchohol and being with people that really has no interest in him! I have recently told him to leave our family home because he has to realise what he or his drinking is doing to our family and his career. We have 3 little children and my eldest who is five years old has now noticed which is horrible and the main reason why i have kicked him out! I have family and friends around us but they can’t really understand! I have done this in hoping he will wake up and realise that he has a beautiful family that needs him! He needs us to! But what if this doesn’t work and he carries on drinking….when is enough , enough!! Like you said they say they want to get better and i know its an illness but we always have that doubt in the back of our head that he is going to give in to it again! He is a good man and a good dad and i love him so much!

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  3. Not sure if this is where to post but I need help and guidance and am finding none where I live. My hubby who I love dearly is an alcoholic. He has been in a new job for 5 months and going well but drinking every evening. He used to drink metho daily and I have found it in his bag recently so know he is starting to drink during the day again. He also has been out of control on a weekend – now listening and reading this if I was speaking with someone else I would say get out of there but I truly married my husband for better or worse and know inside there is a man who hates himself and wants to do better but can’t seem to get control of his self-medication. Are there others on here who feel the same?


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