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How Alcohol Ruins Relationships

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Medically Reviewed By: Diana Vo, LMFT

April 1, 2024

Table of Contents

Although socially acceptable, alcohol destroys relationships in many ways when it is abused.

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Recently published data from the annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows a huge increase in the number of adults in the US with alcohol use disorder (AUD). While NSDUH 2019 reported 14.5 million over-12s in the US had alcohol use disorder, the current survey reports that over 28 million people satisfy the criteria of AUD.

When alcohol use shifts from purely social to more compulsive consumption, the consequences rippled outward far beyond the person drinking. If alcohol use disorder develops, reaching out to an alcohol rehab in California can help you get the care you need.

Learn how alcohol destroys relationships in some cases in the following post.

If someone you love is struggling with an alcohol problem, call our free recovery hotline at 866.330.9449 and we can help you work through the situation.

How Does Alcohol Affect a Relationship?

Anyone drinking alcohol heavily or frequently is liable to find most close relationships impacted in various ways. Often, when a drinking problem continues, this can even rip relationships apart completely, from marriages and friendships to business relationships.

According to NCADD (the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence), these are the areas where drinking most commonly ruins relationships:

  • Neglecting duties and responsibilities: Alcohol abuse impairs both your physical capabilities and your cognitive functioning. This is liable to spill over into the neglect of the things you need to do within your relationship.
  • Time spent recovering from alcohol abuse: Among the multiple short-term side effects of alcohol abuse, hangovers can be particularly damaging, leading to canceled arrangements and missed appointments along with many broken promises. Recovering from periods of alcohol abuse can also trigger other unhealthy behaviors, including poor dietary choices and a lack of exercise.
  • Legal issues: From driving under the influence to disorderly conduct and violent disputes, alcohol abuse can lead to a myriad of legal consequences.
  • Financial problems: The costs of drinking heavily soon mount, and this can easily strain the family budget and your relationship.
  • Reckless behaviors: Consuming alcohol lowers inhibitions and increases the likelihood you will engage in risky and reckless behaviors.

NIDA (the National Institute on Drug Abuse and Health) states that the following problems are most reported by spouses in a relationship where one partner abuses alcohol:

  • Infidelity
  • Domestic violence
  • Marital conflict
  • Financial instability
  • Jealousy
  • Stress
  • Unplanned pregnancy
  • Divorce

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How Does Alcohol Affect Friendships?

Alcohol is a common fixture at many social gatherings. However, drinking can ruin a friendship if not properly managed, as alcohol addiction often drives a wedge between you and the people who care for you. 

Alcohol addiction often has negative effects on social relationships, as it often leads to isolation, unreliability, heightened emotions, and other difficult issues to navigate. 

At this point, open communication and understanding your friends’ boundaries are important if you’re struggling with an addiction. If you have a friend struggling with addiction, expressing your concerns in a supportive manner can make a big difference in them deciding to get help.  

If you are drinking to the extent of developing alcohol use disorder, you may find you spend increasingly less time with your friends, especially if your friends do not drink to excess.


As alcohol use disorder progresses, many people find their friendships are predicated on alcohol. For someone who finds friends commenting on their alcohol intake, it can be more tempting to spend time with others engaged in heavy drinking who are unlikely to call you out for alcohol abuse.


Not only do those abusing alcohol make changes to the friends they spend time with, but they are often incapable of the best form of friendship. Selfish and unreliable behaviors often lead to rifts in friendships, and sober friends usually drift away from those actively abusing alcohol over time.

If someone you love is dealing with alcohol addiction, please give our team a call today.

Now let’s take a look at how alcohol destroys relationships. 

How Alcohol Abuse Destroys Relationships

Managing an addiction to alcohol and relationships often can be difficult to navigate.  Consuming alcohol does not always lead to the development of alcohol use disorder, and many people can drink moderately and without incident. You may be wondering, “how does alcohol affect relationships?”.

For more than 28 million adults in the US, alcohol abuse is not benign and these are three reasons why it can affect people negatively:

  • Alcohol is a drug: Alcohol might be legal but consuming even small amounts of alcohol can alter your perception, mood, and thought processes. Alcohol is a CNS depressant that lowers both mood and inhibitions. This can lead to an acceleration in conflict between partners.
  • Alcohol is socially acceptable: The negative effects of alcohol abuse are often and widely downplayed. Just because alcohol is socially acceptable, it is unacceptable in the context of your relationship if one partner is drinking problematically.
  • The psychological effects of alcohol can directly impact social interaction: Drinking heavily can induce aggression, lower inhibitions, and prompt irrational behavior. These adverse effects sometimes linger after alcohol leaves the system. Long-term alcohol abuse leads to changes in brain function and structure.

Here are some of the most common reasons how alcohol destroys relationships:

  • Abusing alcohol can change you as a person
  • Alcohol can be responsible for inciting arguments
  • Often, alcohol abuse triggers secretive behaviors
  • Abusing alcohol reduces your availability

Abusing alcohol can change you as a person

If you or your partner has alcohol use disorder, this condition will profoundly impact the brain, as well as behavior. Resultantly, you are likely to behave differently than when sober. 

The lowering of inhibitions after drinking alcohol can lead to promiscuity, aggression, and sometimes even violence, especially damaging in a domestic setting. Alcohol and abuse in relationships can tend to go hand in hand as statistics show that a vast portion of domestic violence calls occur with an individual who is intoxicated. 

If one partner is engaging in risky behaviors like driving under the influence or gambling, this can easily cause a relationship to implode.

If you or your loved one find they no longer recognize the person they fell in love with, it’s inevitable that relationship problems will ensue.

Alcohol can be responsible for inciting arguments

When alcohol is involved, there is more chance of an argument with your loved one developing. Alcohol and relationships can create a situation that is difficult to navigate if one or both individuals are engaging in alcoholism. 

It is normal for the partner not abusing alcohol to worry about the physical and mental health of their addicted loved one. It is commonplace for accusations to be met with blanket denial.

Regardless of the reason and nature of these arguments, ongoing conflict about alcohol can lead to breakdowns in communication and ongoing relationship problems.

Often, alcohol abuse triggers secretive behaviors

Healthy relationships are grounded on mutual trust. Frank and honest communication is vital to promote trust.

Regrettably, many people grappling with alcohol use disorder become secretive in an attempt to hide their drinking problem.

When lies and suspicion build, this places a significant strain on romantic relationships, possibly even leading to a breakup. This is a major factor in the chances that alcohol ruins relationships. 

Alcoholism and Infidelity

Alcoholism and infidelity can often go hand in hand as alcohol affects the brain’s rational processing systems and begins to reduce the ability to make healthy decisions. Alcohol lowers inhibitions and can create a perfect storm for poor decision making

When alcoholism is a secret to the individual partaking in it, it can feel like just one more secret once infidelity starts. Some people already feel so much shame for their alcoholism, they tend to begin rationalizing their other morally detrimental decisions. 

If you are struggling with alcoholism and infidelity, it’s always encouraged that you seek help with therapy and counseling. It’s never too late to get help putting the pieces of your life back together. 

Abusing alcohol reduces your availability

One of the symptoms of alcohol use disorder is spending time drinking to the exclusion of other activities. If drinking becomes transparently more important to you than spending time with your partner, problems are imminent at home.

If you find yourself frequently too intoxicated to spend quality time with those you love, this will drive you further apart over time, potentially ruining your relationship.

It’s not only romantic relationships that are unraveled by alcohol abuse, though. 

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If you are looking for a Huntington Beach rehab, call our team today!

Overcome Alcohol Addiction at Renaissance Recovery

Alcoholism is a chronic and progressive condition, but you can fight back and enjoy sustained sobriety with the right treatment.

Here at Renaissance Recovery Center, we offer highly personalized outpatient programs, including virtual IOP, for alcohol use disorder. Reclaim your life from alcohol abuse before it destroys your health and your relationships without necessarily needing residential rehab.

With MAT (medication-assisted treatment), the intensity of alcohol withdrawal symptoms and cravings can be reduced through one of several FDA-approved medications. MAT is most effective when delivered in combination with talk therapies like CBT or DBT. You’ll have access to both if you engage with one of our treatment programs.

When you complete your course of treatment, we’ll ensure you have the appropriate level of aftercare in place so you and your loved ones can enjoy all that sober life has to offer.

To reclaim your life and avoid how drinking ruins relationships , reach out to the friendly admissions team at 866-330-9449.



At Renaissance Recovery our goal is to provide evidence-based treatment to as many individuals as possible. Give us a call today to verify your insurance coverage or to learn more about paying for addiction treatment.

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Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

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