Ask Amy: Even with sobriety, alcohol dominates marriage

Dear Amy: From the day we met, over 40 years ago, my wife and I have been social drinkers.

Get-togethers at weddings, holidays, concerts, sporting events, etc., have always featured alcohol.

While I can have a couple of drinks and stop, when it comes to my wife — not so much.

She will keep ordering drinks right up to 2 a.m. And while sometimes stupidly funny when we were younger, as we’ve aged the end results were becoming frequently embarrassing.

I was becoming very concerned about my wife’s drinking and her health.

One night when she went way over the edge, I filmed her, sent the video to her, and told her that I no longer wished to be a part of that lifestyle.

I dumped all the alcohol in the house, and neither of us has had a drink since.

I hardly miss it, and she had no trouble quitting, either, but mentally it has been very challenging for her.

Alcohol was her social lubricant. Alcohol is what allowed her to get past her social anxiety and self-esteem issues.

Now she either doesn’t attend events at all, or sometimes we leave early because she is so unhappy.

How do I get her to see that she can still enjoy these same events without using alcohol as a crutch?

— Sober Husband

Dear Sober: Your wife has managed to give up alcohol, but she has not successfully dealt with the underlying reasons she used alcohol in the first place.

In recovery and 12-step circles, her challenges might be called “dry drunk syndrome.” Her crutch is gone, and now she is limping along, trying to function without it.

Even though your wife gave up drinking quickly, prompted by the videotaped shame of seeing what alcohol abuse was doing to her (and propped up by your subsequent sober support), she would still benefit from seeing an addiction specialist, a therapist, and/or by attending meetings with others in recovery.

Spending time regularly talking with others who also struggle to “white knuckle” their way into and through recovery might help her to understand her anxious responses, and to feel less alone.

I hope you’ll be patient and supportive as your wife continues in the life-changing process of recovery.

Dear Amy: My partner and I have broken up. I was blindsided.

I thought he was happy with me, although he was struggling with depression and undiagnosed (but obvious) ADHD.

I adjusted my expectations and behavior to accommodate him on many occasions because I also have depression, so I understand the need for flexibility.

I never hounded him about not wanting to go out and would go by myself.

We had a lot in common and a healthy intimate relationship.

I was sad and confused when he said he wanted to break up. I started crying and asked him why he was doing this.

He answered that I was being selfish if I wanted him to stay with me as a couple. He said he felt trapped. I didn’t expect to hear that, either.

I’ve always seen myself as a giving, loving person. I never imagined that anyone would ever call me selfish. That hurt almost as much as the break-up.

I told him that I wouldn’t stay where I wasn’t wanted, and made arrangements to move out.

Can loving someone be a selfish act?

— Suddenly Single

Dear Suddenly Single: People say hurtful things when they’re pushing a partner away.

The way I would interpret your ex’s “selfish” statement refers back to the old aphorism, “If you love something, let it go.”

Your former partner is saying that he feels trapped in the relationship, and that (in his opinion) it would be selfish of you to urge him to stay in a relationship that he no longer wants to be in.

And … he’s right. In that context, pressuring someone to hold on to a relationship can be a selfish act.

This doesn’t mean that you’re a selfish person.

You are on the unfortunate receiving end of a depressed man who might be spiraling. As hurt as you are, it would be kindest to peacefully part and to offer to keep the door open to friendship.

Dear Amy: “Time’s Ticking Away” wanted to lie to and cheat on her long-time partner, and you encouraged her to do that!

I can’t believe you would be so heartless.

— Upset

Dear Upset: I didn’t encourage her to leave; I did encourage her to be honest and to understand the consequences of her choice.

(You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)

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