Should I Be Dating an Alcoholic?

Should I Be Dating an Alcoholic?

Dating can be an exciting and fulfilling experience, but it can also come with its challenges. One such challenge is when you find yourself dating someone who is recovering from alcohol use disorder.

Continue reading to learn about the signs to look out for when dating someone with alcohol use disorder, the importance of open communication and setting boundaries, and how to support both yourself and your partner in this journey towards recovery.

Understanding Alcohol Use Disorder

Before delving into the intricacies of dating an alcoholic, it is essential to understand what alcoholism is and how it manifests. Alcohol use disorder is a chronic condition characterized by excessive and repetitive consumption of alcohol, leading to physical and psychological dependence. It is important to note that not all individuals who consume alcohol excessively are alcoholics, but for those who struggle with alcohol use disorder, their relationship with alcohol has become problematic and harmful.

Signs of Dating an Alcoholic

Identifying alcoholism in a partner can be challenging, particularly in the early stages. However, there are several signs to look out for that may indicate a partner is struggling with alcohol use disorder. It is important to approach these signs with compassion and understanding while prioritizing one’s own well-being. Here are some common signs that a partner may be an alcoholic:

1. Preoccupation with Alcohol

One of the tell-tale signs of alcoholism is a preoccupation with alcohol. If a partner frequently plans dates and activities that revolve around drinking, such as going to bars or parties, it could indicate a dependency on alcohol. Additionally, a lack of interest in non-alcohol-related hobbies and activities may suggest that their focus is primarily on drinking.

2. Drinking Alone or Regularly and Heavily

Many alcoholics find themselves drinking alone, as they may have strong cravings for alcohol that they cannot control. If a partner regularly consumes alcohol alone, it could be a sign of alcohol dependence. Similarly, heavy drinking or binge drinking, defined as consuming excessive amounts of alcohol within a short period, may indicate a drinking problem.

3. Physical and Behavioral Signs of Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol abuse can manifest in various physical and behavioral changes. Pay attention to signs such as breath smelling of alcohol, bloodshot eyes, excessive sleep, secrecy about their whereabouts, or a sudden increase in solitary activities. These signs may indicate that a partner is struggling with alcohol abuse.

4. Personality Changes After Drinking

Alcohol has the ability to alter a person's mood and behavior. If a partner becomes irritable, angry, or exhibits other drastic personality changes after consuming alcohol, it could be a sign of alcoholism. In contrast, some individuals may exhibit high tolerance to alcohol, showing no signs of intoxication even after consuming large amounts.

5. Problems in Different Areas of Life

Alcoholism can significantly impact various areas of an individual's life. If a partner frequently experiences difficulties at work, neglects responsibilities, or has strained relationships with family and friends due to their drinking habits, it may be an indication of alcohol use disorder.

6. Legal Troubles Related to Alcohol

Repeated encounters with the law, such as multiple DUI (driving under the influence) charges, can be a red flag for alcoholism. While a single DUI incident may be considered a mistake, multiple instances suggest a potentially dangerous alcohol abuse problem.

7. Agitation When Confronted About Drinking

Denial is a common defense mechanism among individuals with alcohol use disorder. If a partner confronts the other partner about their drinking habits and they become agitated or defensive, it may indicate that they are in denial or unwilling to acknowledge their problem. This is especially true for functional alcoholics who may excel in other areas of life while concealing their addiction.

8. Family History of Alcohol Abuse

A family history of alcohol abuse can increase an individual's susceptibility to developing alcohol use disorder. If a partner has a family member with a history of alcoholism, they may be at a higher risk themselves. Pay attention to any stories or interactions that reveal a family history of alcohol abuse.

Should Individuals be Dating an Alcoholic

Deciding whether to pursue a romantic relationship with someone who has alcohol use disorder is a deeply personal choice. While alcoholism is a treatable condition, it requires commitment and effort from the individual seeking recovery. It is important to consider the potential challenges and impact on one;s own well-being before embarking on such a relationship. Here are some factors to consider:

  • Understanding the Nature of Alcoholism

Educate oneself about alcoholism to gain a better understanding of the condition and its impact on relationships. Recognize that alcoholism is a chronic disease, and recovery is a lifelong journey. Having realistic expectations and being prepared for the challenges ahead can help a make an informed decision.

  • Prioritizing Your Own Well-being

Maintaining one’s own well-being should be a top priority in any relationship. Evaluate how dating an alcoholic may affect emotional, mental, and physical health. Consider seeking support from friends, family, or support groups to navigate the complexities of being in a relationship with an alcoholic.

  • Open Communication and Setting Boundaries

Communication is crucial when dating an alcoholic in recovery. Create a safe space for open and honest conversations about their journey, triggers, and boundaries. Encourage them to share their needs and concerns, and establish boundaries that protect both members of the relationship.

  • Supporting Their Recovery

Supporting a partner's recovery is important, but it is equally vital to remember that their sobriety is ultimately their responsibility. Encourage them to seek professional help, attend support groups, or engage in therapy. Offer support, but avoid enabling behavior or taking on excessive responsibilities.

  • Taking Care of Yourself

Caring for someone with alcohol use disorder can be emotionally demanding. It is crucial to prioritize self-care and maintain a healthy balance in one’s own life. Engage in activities that bring joy, seek therapy or counseling if needed, and set aside time for self-reflection and personal growth.

  • Seeking Professional Guidance

If a partner finds themself struggling to navigate the complexities of dating an alcoholic, consider seeking guidance from a therapist or counselor. They can provide valuable insights, help establish healthy boundaries, and support in making informed decisions about the relationship.

Supporting A Partner in Recovery

Dating someone in recovery from alcohol use disorder requires patience, empathy, and understanding. Here are some practical ways to support a partner on their journey towards sobriety:

1. Educate Oneself About Alcoholism

Take the time to educate oneself about alcoholism, its causes, and the recovery process. Understanding the challenges the partner faces can help to offer informed support and reduce any stigma or misconceptions one may have.

2. Encourage and Celebrate Milestones

Recovery is a process marked by milestones. Encourage the partner to celebrate these milestones, whether it's completing a certain period of sobriety or achieving personal goals related to their recovery. Celebrating their progress can boost their motivation and reinforce their commitment to sobriety.

3. Create a Supportive Environment

Ensure that the home and social environment promote sobriety. Consider abstaining from alcohol oneself or limiting its presence in your shared spaces. Encourage activities and hobbies that do not revolve around drinking, and be mindful of potential triggers that may tempt the partner to relapse.

4. Practice Active Listening

Be an active and attentive listener when a partner wants to share their thoughts, struggles, or achievements related to their recovery. Show empathy, validate their feelings, and avoid judgment. Sometimes, all they need is someone to listen and offer understanding.

5. Attend Support Groups Together

Consider attending support groups or couples therapy together. These resources can provide a safe space for both of the relationship members to address any relationship challenges that may arise during the recovery process. Connecting with others who understand similar experiences can also offer valuable support.

6. Encourage Healthy Coping Mechanisms

Help a partner develop healthy coping mechanisms to replace their reliance on alcohol. Encourage them to engage in activities they enjoy, such as exercise, creative pursuits, or mindfulness practices. Support their efforts to find healthy outlets for stress and emotional well-being.


Dating someone in recovery from alcohol use disorder can be a challenging yet rewarding experience. By understanding the signs of alcoholism, practicing open communication, setting boundaries, and prioritizing self-care, an individual can support their partner's journey towards sobriety while also taking care of themself.


Department of Mental Health- Family History of Alcoholism

University of Rochester Medical Center- Alcoholism and Family History

The New York Times- How Family History Influences Your Drinking

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