Ask Amy: Wife ponders leaving marriage to alcoholic

May 10, 2012

DEAR AMY: I have known my husband for 16 years. It was love at first sight. He is a down-to-earth kind of guy who is not trying to impress anyone. Back in middle school he was into the party scene. That lasted through his young adult life.

He is an alcoholic. His first marriage ended in divorce because of his drinking.

He was sober for six years. We got married three years into his sobriety. We have two children. His drinking made him lose his job last summer and now he does odd jobs. He is still in total denial about his drinking and simply tells me he is a loser.

I feel like I am dying inside. I wonder if our marriage and family can take any more.

I am thinking seriously about divorce because I feel he doesn’t want help. He doesn't want to change and tells me I don’t understand (I guess I don’t).

We have had many disagreements, arguments and some pretty ugly fights. How do I figure out when things are done? -- Unhappy Wife

DEAR WIFE: Your children have only one childhood. As their mother, you should do everything possible to ensure that theirs is safe, secure and as stable as possible. Look at your family through their eyes. This may help to clarify things for you.

Attend Al-Anon meetings. Al-Anon offers a community of support for family members and friends of alcoholics (check al-anon.alateen.org for local meetings).

Sobriety is a daily struggle, but it is also a triumph and a considerable accomplishment. If your husband started drinking in middle school, staying sober would be an extreme challenge — taken one day at a time. Unfortunately, you cannot get him there.

DEAR AMY: My boss and I are both in our early 50s and have been working together for more than 15 years.

My kids have graduated from college and my husband and I are working to save for retirement. Our home life is great.

On the other hand my boss is married to a very demanding gal. His business partner retired three years ago. The business is doing well, but every day is a grind and it is all on his shoulders.

It is just the two of us in the office. I've noticed he has started a new habit. He will come to my desk, sit down, and start an argument. At first I couldn’t figure out what was happening and we went round and round until I stopped it.

Recently I've been able to escape with an excuse that I had an errand to run. He is very passive aggressive about these arguments and tries to make me feel like I am causing them.

I have always loved my job but not so much lately. How can I help my boss stop this new habit? -- Looking for Easy Street

DEAR LOOKING: A passive-aggressive person will goad you into an argument and then wonder why you are so hot and bothered. When your boss does this, he is using the argument as a valve to release his pent-up anger and frustration.

This is not only inappropriate but very bad for business.

Ask for a meeting during a calm time. Tell him, “I know you are under a lot of stress and I want to try to help. But lately I have noticed that you have been behaving differently and it is really affecting my ability to do my job well.”

Tell him what you notice and give him a chance to change. If he can’t, avoidance isn’t a bad strategy.

DEAR AMY: For all of those stressed-out couples wondering whether to invite boozy family members to their weddings, my brother has a terrible drinking problem, and he always acts out when he is drunk.

Before our daughter’s wedding I met with him privately and told him we really wanted him to be with us but that if he drank at all at the wedding we would ask him to leave.

I was so proud of him. He showed up and was a perfect gentleman. -- Proud Brother

DEAR BROTHER: Your approach was firm but compassionate. I’m so happy this worked out.

Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

2012 by the Chicago Tribune

Distributed by Tribune Media Services

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