How to Help an Alcoholic Boyfriend
While most adults in the United States consume alcohol at some point in their lives, for nearly 16 million American adults and about 623,000 adolescents, alcohol misuse leads to addiction, called alcohol use disorder (AUD). According to The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, AUD is the inability to control your alcohol intake even in the face of dangerous consequences. Alcohol use disorder is a medical condition that affects brain function. People can have mild or severe AUD, just like any other disorder. AUD is a chronic condition, which means relapse can occur and ongoing treatment is usually best. 1
If you need information on how to get help for your partner, our admissions navigators are just a phone call away. Available 24/7, our representatives can discuss possible treatment options and get you the information you need to start a journey towards recovery. Please call our hotline at to see if your loved one’s insurance may cover substance use treatment.
Signs You Are Dating Someone Who Drinks Too Much
Only a doctor or licensed addiction specialist can diagnose someone with alcohol use disorder (AUD). That said, some signs to look for include:3
- Using alcohol in higher amounts or more often than intended.
- Being unable to cut down on alcohol use despite a desire to do so.
- Spending a lot of time obtaining, using, and recovering from the effects of alcohol.
- Cravings, or a strong desire to use alcohol.
- Being unable to fulfill major obligations at home, work, or school because of alcohol use.
If you’re worried about your partner’s alcohol use, there are ways you can provide support for your loved one and point them in the right direction to find help.
How to Talk to Your Boyfriend about Drinking
A person watching their partner struggle with behavioral problems because of alcohol will naturally want to help. But what is the best approach? Generally, showing care and concern helps, but what if there is a serious problem? How should it be discussed?
Here are some suggestions that can help to start the conversation:
- “I’m concerned about how you behave when you drink because [example].”
- “I’ve noticed that you seem to feel bad about yourself/life/your job/etc. when you drink too much.”
- “You seem to get sick a lot after you drink and I don’t want you to feel bad.”
- “I wonder if you may feel better if you drink less/stop drinking.”
- “Maybe we can do something without alcohol this weekend.”
Talking to him alone may be a good start to encouraging him to seek treatment or make healthier choices, like quitting use of alcohol. However, denial is one sign that a person struggles with AUD or problem drinking, so he may refuse help, deny that he has a problem, become angry, or lie about the problem.
In this case, you could try learning the CRAFT approach. This training teaches family and friends good strategies for helping their loved ones get treatment.4 But note that these approaches may work only if a person feels safe with their boyfriend. Unfortunately, alcohol abuse is a major contributor to intimate partner violence.
Intimate Partner Abuse as a Result of Alcohol
Intimate partner violence is a term encompassing abuse of many loved ones, including domestic violence against spouses or romantic partners. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), these abusive behaviors of an alcoholic in a relationship can cause physical, sexual, or psychological harm within the relationship.
Signs of an Abusive Boyfriend
Common signs of an abusive partner can include:
- Physical aggression like hitting, kicking, or slapping
- Psychological intimidation, belittling, or humiliation
- Forced sexual intercourse or activities
- Controlling behaviors like isolating the person from friends and family
- Restricting access to certain activities
- Monitoring their movements or conversations
Worldwide, problem drinking is linked to an increased risk of intimate partner abuse. The reduction in self-control, the more intense mood swings, and the potential for an underlying mental illness make people who drink excessively more likely to abuse their romantic partners and more likely to become the victims of this abuse. WHO found that, in the United States, 55 percent of victims of intimate partner violence believed that their partner drank too much before physically assaulting them.
If you don’t feel safe because of your partner’s drinking, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for free and confidential support.
Alcohol Consumption for Men
Standards of problem drinking are different for men and women. This is largely because men have more water weight and more muscle while women have more body fat; hormonal differences change how alcohol is processed; and women are more likely to have a diagnosed mental health condition, especially a mood disorder like anxiety or depression, compared to men, which increases the risk of self-medicating with alcohol. For men, excessive drinking levels are different than they are for women.
- Heavy drinking is 15 or more drinks per week, or about two drinks per day, for men.
- Binge drinking is five or more drinks in a two-hour period for men.
How to Help a Boyfriend Stop Drinking
A one-on-one chat can help men decide to seek treatment, especially if their partner expresses concern. If you feel safe doing so, try these steps to approach your boyfriend about his problem drinking:
- Learn about alcohol use disorder to talk knowledgeably about the issues; this may include going to a physician or therapist to discuss symptoms.
- Practice what you will say to him.
- Pick the right time and place while he is sober.
- Listen to him with honesty and compassion.
- Do not enable his drinking. It is important to set clear boundaries on how you will help and when you will not support problem behaviors like drinking too much.
- Express love and concern.
- Find some treatment options that may be a good fit for his needs.
Talk about the Health Effects of Heavy Alcohol Use
Discussing the acute and chronic consequences of excessive drinking may help. Men are socialized to be more independent and rational, and to view emotions as weaknesses; adding data to a discussion of treatment can help men feel more in control and understand that they have a problem.
Short-term, or acute, health consequences from drinking too much may include:
- Increased risk of physical injury from accidents like falling or car crashes
- Risk of becoming a victim of violence, including robbery or assault
- Risk of suicide due to associated mood and behavioral changes
- Risky sexual behaviors, including unprotected sex and infidelity, which could lead to contracting a sexually transmitted infection (STI)
Long-term, or chronic, health damage can include:
- High blood pressure
- Cardiovascular disease
- Mental illness
- Learning, cognition, and Memory problems
- Loss of other relationships, including with family members
- Financial issues, including job loss
- Liver damage and failure
- Increased risk of mouth, esophageal, stomach, and liver cancer
- Other digestive issues, including ulcers
What if He Doesn’t Accept Help?
If expressing love, concern, support, and setting boundaries do not convince him to seek treatment, it is important to follow through on consequences. Maintain boundaries; for example, do not give him money when he spends too much on alcohol; don’t make excuses for his behavior to coworkers or other loved ones; and leave the house if he is unsafe to be around.
If he won’t accept help, don’t be confrontational. The types of “interventions” that you see on TV are rarely effective. They can even backfire and lead to anger or refusal to get treatment. Instead, try to imagine how you would like to be talked to if you were in your loved one’s shoes. Focus on getting your boyfriend to at least talk to a doctor if he won’t talk to you.
Don’t blame your boyfriend one for the problem. Remember that he has a disease that’s as real as any other chronic disease. So just as with other disease, they need treatment to get better.
Getting Alcohol Treatment for a Boyfriend
If you are finding yourself overwhelmed with where and how to help your alcoholic partner, call us 24/7 to discuss treatment options. We understand that many are affected by one person’s alcoholism and we’re here to help.
Knowing the warning signs of alcohol misuse, expressing your concerns, and encouraging your partner to reach out for treatment are ways you can help them on a path toward recovery.