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TherapistMaryAnn, Counselor
Category: Relationship
Satisfied Customers: 5762
Experience:  Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues
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I have been married for 26 years, and my husband has been an

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I have been married for 26 years, and my husband has been an alcoholic for at least the last 11 years, and possibly all 26 years. We (the kids and I) thought he was drinking less until we realized he was just hiding it better. Our home is surrounded by alcohol. Promises have been made to do better, but never any follow through. Counseling only happens if I initiate it. My husband runs our evenings by being drunk, and the kids have started to find places to go every night. I am going to ask him to leave to decide what is important--drinking or our marriage. How do I approach him when asking for a separation?
Hello, I’d like to help you with your question.

It can be very difficult to face asking for a separation. At this point your husband’s behavior is harming you and your children so much that you avoid being in his presence. And he is choosing alcohol over a relationship with you and your children. That alone can hurt very much.

When approaching your husband for a separation, plan out what you want to say first and even write it down. It helps to clear your thoughts and highlight what you want to say to him. In asking him to leave, try to keep your words about you and not him. You can give the reasons why he needs to leave, but let him know that you are asking because you feel hurt by his behavior, as do the children. Use “I” statements as much as possible.

Also, tell him the purpose of the separation. You mentioned wanting to give him time to decide if alcohol is more important to him than his marriage and family. That is a good reason. You may also want to put a time limit on the separation such as 6 months. That prevents him from dragging it out and coming back to you to say that you didn’t tell him the boundaries of your request. You want to be very concrete so that cannot happen.

Spell out how much contact you want to have with him and how much is ok to have with the kids. They sound old enough to have input so you may want to ask them what is ok with them. Then make it clear with your husband that if he does see the kids, they are not to be exposed to his drinking or whatever parameters you want to set so you feel the kids are safe and still can see their father, if they wish to.

Include how much of the household expenses you wish for him to cover. He may not be able to do much if he has to support himself, but he should contribute to the care of the kids.

When you are able, try to get you and the kids into therapy. After what you have all been through, you need the support and the kids need a chance to work out their feelings.

Here are some resources to help you:

Should I Stay Or Go? : How Controlled Separation (CS) Can Save Your Marriage by Lee Raffel

The Divorce Remedy: The Proven 7-Step Program for Saving Your Marriage by Michele Weiner-Davis

Marriage On The Rocks: Learning to Live with Yourself and an Alcoholic by Janet Geringer Woititz

I hope this has helped you,
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thank you. You have verified what I was already thinking. I will write things down before I talk to him. My kids are 21, 19, 17, 15 and SICK of the drinking. They are ready to live in a home without alcohol. We are not hopeful for change (alcoholics disappoint again and again) but at least if he is out of the home we can try to live a normal life that my children have deserved. I will work on the finance part. My dad and brother have already stated they can help me in a bind so that relieves financial stress for me since I cannot count on my husband being sober and doing the right thing. I am resourceful and will do whatever it takes (extra duties for pay at work, cutting out cable, etc) just to live without alcohol every night.

I am sorry that you have to go through this. You are right, expecting change is probably not a good idea but you are giving this a chance so you are doing the right thing. I'm glad you have support for you and the children. That is going to help a lot. Most of all, take care of you. This is very stressful, even if it brings relief from the drinking.


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