My relationship is in trouble now that I’m sober

I find myself in a difficult situation with my wife of 18 years, now that I am sober.
The longer it (my sobriety) goes on, the more we seem to be growing apart.

I am very seriously considering choking down a drink and just going back to how we were before.

We were fine before. I was always quite a happy drunk. Of course, things occasionally went south, but generally we got on extremely well with or without booze. It wasn’t that things were becoming intolerable or that she was eager for me to stop drinking. I just knew that it was having a hugely detrimental effect on my health, and I knew how I felt about it from the inside.
Nowadays though, and I should say here that I am only five months sober, I don’t just let things slide because I can’t be bothered to think about them or confront them because I’m either drunk or feeling fuzzy from a hangover.
Now I can’t switch my brain off.
Now, if my wife is being selfish, I call her out about it - which doesn’t go down too well. Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t become antagonistic or confrontational. I’m calm and measured about it all, and I certainly don’t pick up on every little thing - just a bit more than I used to. I also wouldn’t want you to think that I am married to a selfish witch and that I’ve just woken up and realised that she is awful - that just isn’t true. Like all human beings, she can occasionally be selfish - I just find it hard to ignore now.
My self esteem has also improved over the last 5 months, which means that I’m a bit less tolerant of liberties being taken.
She is a ‘normal’ drinker, but she definitely misses our drinking together. I actually think that she is further down the path to being a problem drinker than she cares to admit, but she is at a very different level to where I am, and I think she feels bitter about the fact that she is being deprived because I can’t moderate. She doesn’t understand why I can’t.
I’m not looking for suggestions that I walk out and ‘just do this for me’, or anything like that. I don’t want to end our relationship for many reasons. The main one being that I love my wife very much. We also have 4 beautiful kids and a wonderful family life. Ending the relationship is not an option.
At the moment though, going back feels preferable to going forward.
Have any of you found yourselves in a similar position? Everything I read talks about how wonderful it is that drinking is no longer souring a marriage, but I am finding that the opposite is true. It was (seemingly) helping things to run a bit more smoothly in our case.

25 Likes

Hey Tony,
Oh, I can relate! For 15 years, my marriage was defined by my role as the hapless drunk and her role as caretaker. I couldn’t save money, I was bouncing from one idea to the next, I’d get arrested, I’d let her down. She would rescue me and take care of things.

When sobriety became the focus of my life, the dynamic of our relationship changed. There were times when I wanted to correct her or expect her to still continue to take care of everything while I went out with my sober crew.

What’s helped me the most is my Ninth Step, and making continuous ongoing amends for being a lousy husband by being a good one, listening and trying to put her needs and perspective first. The program of the steps of AA, rigorously applied to all aspects of my life,and with the aid of a sponsor, allows me to tolerate the uncertainty of new ways of relating to each other.

Half our time together I was drunk, and it’s as many years sober now. And it’s still changing and challenging.

Blessings on your house :pray:, brother.

15 Likes

Yes, I absolutely have. My last husband didn’t understand why I couldn’t moderate. As soon as I would try to quit, all of a sudden he started to drink more, even though I asked him to not drink in front of me for a few weeks. He would always literally drink my first day off booze. Then he would turn around and hate me for drinking, then hate me for not. I was damned if I did and damned if I didn’t.

Anyway, likely nothing has really changed, you’re just sober and aware it now. Sounds like you’re pretty in tune with what’s going on. It’s definitely an adjustment period. And you’re definitely not alone :hugs:

10 Likes

In my first few months my partner was really supportive and we made an effort to find fun things to do together sober. The energy and enthusiasm of the new and different did wear off though and I definitely felt a bit of that drift that you are noticing. I think its really normal that as we become more self aware, we also become more aware of others. For me that drift has gone away, my not drinking isn’t a barrier anymore. I’m sure part of that is because I’ve let go of some of the things I might have been critical of.

He has said while drunk that he missed our drinking together, which I understand, although it did upset me. I guess its just an adjustment for everyone… Our drinking and sobriety will impact those around us. But I believe that eventually things will reach their equilibrium.

There’s a reason a lot of people recommend no big changes in the first year of sobriety if it can be avoided. Things do change. Just keep on doing the next right thing and trust that everything will work out how it’s meant to!

15 Likes

Hi Tony and congrats on the sober days! In addition to the steps mentioned above with AA, your wife may want check out Al-anon. It doesn’t sound like she understands alcoholism very well if she doesn’t understand why you can’t moderate. Also, it’s beautiful and refreshing to hear your say that you still love each other and have your beautiful family. It’s definitely worth fighting for. Try getting some marriage therapy and literature such as the five languages of love. Good luck and I hope it all works out!

9 Likes

I can relate, spouse and I are evolving apart as I have to put effort on a daily basis to be who I am, to stay sober, and he just let himself slide self-awareness-wise. I don’t have any advice though. For my part I just try to be in the relationship as a buddy, feel without expectations, let him walk his path at his own pace and see what happens.

3 Likes

Don’t go back to the drink that’s a really rubbish idea.

I think she needs to go sober too.

4 Likes

So for all those years would you just get called out for things like being selfish but she always got a pass? If the answer is yes then all you are doing now is being fair and calling her out in return. There is nothing wrong with that and all you are doing is exposing her hypocrisy…

1 Like

When there is a big change then the dynamics of a relationship change. Although my husband is happy I am not drinking (I am not a happy drunk) he often says that I am “aggressive” now, because I am not feeling guilty and sucking up, and also point out his issues and don’t get the discussion-ending “well, u did x when u were drunk”. If u want the relationship to work then I second finding out about relationship issues online (I also found the love languages illuminating) or even proper couple’s therapy. Please don’t drink, for ur own health, relationship with ur kids, etc. It is not ur responsibility to provide a drinking partner for ur wife. U both have to make urself happy foremost, then share that with ur partner.

8 Likes

Thanks a lot for all of your responses. I find them all reassuring in their own way.
It is true that my not drinking is a huge change in the dynamic of our relationship, and that it will take some time for it to even out.
The reason that it has taken a while for me to respond is that I have been having a long conversation with my wife. I think we have made progress, but I have discovered that she is very resistant to the idea of therapy. I must confess that I suspected as much. She is a very private person.
I’m not a rash person - particularly when I’m sober, so I’m not going to rush into anything. I’m going to read what has been suggested keep a watchful eye on things for now.
Thanks again for your replies.

8 Likes

I find this really interesting, all what you are mentioning and all the responses. It reminds me of the very very first AA contact I had years before. Someone sober for some years was telling about his story and how in the beginning his wife wanted him to be sober. When he finally came out of therapy she was complaining that, though she wanted him to be sober, she wanted him to stay the way he was. I think this is not possible. Being sober changed me a lot.

8 Likes

Yes. It isn’t just me who needs to adjust to the new normal.

2 Likes

Just give it some time Tony. Both of you need to figure out how the changed dynamics work out.
But indeed, sometimes people change too much in different directions.
You change, which means she needs to change as well because that’s simply what a relation means : dynamic adjustments to each other.

Just give it time to see how it evolves :+1:

2 Likes

My ex used my drinking to manipulate me in a lot of ways. I am not sure she knew she was doing it but she did. Even when I wasn’t drinking much she would blame everything on my drinking. There were times when something would go wrong and even if I had not been drinking for days or weeks she would say it was because I was drunk and I would be like … I was drinking water.

I found that during my dry times I was less and less tolerant of that attitude. I pointed out that even when I change my behavior the same shit keeps going wrong and she had the same criticisms. That’s when I pointed out that her behaviors, attitude and approach to the world might need some adjustment.

Long story short… She strongly disagreed.

4 Likes

My (now ex) many times said to me…
You might want to start smoking again you anoy me. If anything its just an adjusting fase since you have a new find awareness and her baseline is shook up. Please remember why you stopped going back might kill you eventually or make you loose all.
The only way is forward whatever that may bring.
Maybe… Your drinking was an means to an end making it work smoothly.

But 1 thing is fact for me… It works if you work it!

3 Likes

I can totally understand that you are more aware of these things now that you don’t have a fuzzy brain, and also that you are less likely to just let things slide because you don’t have the alcohol to make your brain fuzzy.

But I guess my thought is…if your wife is occasionally being selfish, are you perhaps also occasionally being selfish? We’re all imperfect human beings and we all irritate the fuck out of each other sometimes. Maybe there is selfish stuff you do that she lets slide knowing that it doesn’t define you.

When we’re sober we see so many things more clearly but I don’t think our faults are necessarily bad things.

I’m not really sure what I’m trying to say. Maybe sober you is just expecting too much from her.

But then again, now that I’m sober and not able to avoid conflict with alcohol, my husband irritates the crap outta me daily. :joy:

3 Likes

There is no going back. It will just be another level of misery.

3 Likes

It’s not really only those two options. Those are two directions out of many possible directions. Have confidence in your ability to forge a path, clear-headed and sober.

I found as I sobered up that I became more respectfully assertive in my marriage. I speak using respectful strategies (I-messages and other similar conflict management tools), but I don’t ignore my needs if they’re not being met.

Over time I have learned that this respectful assertiveness actually strengthens the relationship. Be careful about assuming you know what she’s thinking. The key thing is to stay open and curious: you’re sober and clear now and there’s so much to live for. Maybe get some “Couples Cards” (they’re interesting cards, questions about one another, it’s a fun conversation after dinner.

You’re developing a stronger relationship with yourself and that means you can be yourself with others (including your wife). Explore what you marriage can become in this new chapter, and keep an open, curious mind. :innocent:

4 Likes

These messages have been a bit of a lightbulb moment for me. Thank you all.
In the same way that we feel everything when we’re sober, good and bad - and we are able to cope with it, we see a lot more too. I just need to recalibrate a little. I really don’t want to give the impression that my wife is a selfish person. She absolutely is not. Occasionally, as we all do, she may lean that way (or I may imagine that she does), and my sober-vision picks up on it. I am certainly not perfect, and I’m sure that my wife does let a lot slide.
My main issue, and my reason for thinking about choking down a drink, was that I miss the shared experience and the closeness of us drinking together. I’m undoubtedly romanticising it all, and the reality was probably closer to an embarrassing mess with us shambling through conversations, but in my mind and in my memory, we definitely had some great times.
The lack of that shared experience with the slightly blurred edges has made me feel like we are drifting apart.
Thanks again for all of your responses and for sharing your experiences in this area. They have definitely helped me to get a better handle on things.

10 Likes

Can the two of you look for interests and activities, the two of you, or the whole family together, that you two, and or, all would enjoy, where alcohol would not be expected to be a part of it? Therefore the old drinking camaraderie question would not be a factor during that time period.

2 Likes