addictioncodependencymarriage/monogamyReader Q&A

My Husband Doesn’t Notice My Alcohol Problem

Reader Married To A Saint writes,

My husband and I have been together since we were 16 and 17, high school sweethearts. On our first date I told him he should discontinue our relationship because he was an honor student with potential scholarships and I was a class skipper with an ecstasy addiction. This has basically been the situation for our entire relationship. (By situation I mean that he is so much better than me, not that I still have a drug addiction).
We are now 25 and 26 married with two children. He works very hard at his job (over 40 hours a week) and shares the housework and child care evenly with me. I work only every second weekend. If it were up to him we would have practically no debt. but I spend money much more frivolously than he does. Not on things for me but mostly on the kids and what I deem necessary, still though if I really sat down to think about it, we don’t actually NEED a lot of the stuff I buy.
Sometimes I feel so isolated just because he is such a kind selfless person and I feel as if I’m not capable of doing anything without my own agenda. Sometimes I feel like I have an innate badness to me and his innate goodness makes it worse.  He once saw a homeless person asking for money, realized he didn’t have any cash, so he drove to an ATM to get cash and then gave it to that person (I would never ever do that and if I did you could bet your ass I’m slam it all over my social media for attention). He cares about the environment so much that even when we are camping or on vacation he washes dishes instead of using disposables (Yeah no, the easier for me the better).
And the most amazing thing to me is that he never acts like a martyr. He never complains. He never brags. There are days where he will come home from work and cook dinner, bathe the kids, put them to bed, and then ask me what he can do to knock some stuff off of my to-do list. He tells me I’m beautiful everyday, looks into my eyes when he’s talking to me, and treats me with random dates or flowers often.
We have a group of friends who I’m fairly certain only hang out with us because they love him so much but secretly can’t stand me. Probably because I get too drunk and act like an idiot. And speaking of drinking, I am dealing with an alcohol problem where once the kids have gone to bed, I drink at least 2 bottles of wine. He doesn’t acknowledge this at all.
In fact, in an effort to save money, he’s started making wine himself with wine kits so that I have unlimited wine and our budget isn’t affected as much. It’s not EVERY night, probably about 4 days a week. The 3 days where I don’t get completely wasted I focus on him and sex because I know he deserves it. (And I am very attracted to him.) Perhaps that’s why he doesn’t notice my alcohol abuse, since we are having healthy sex and open communication 3 times a week.
I guess so far I haven’t been super clear in a question or concern so I will just end with this: How the hell did I end up with a husband like this and what can I do to either 1) get him to be a little bit more on my case about my flaws because frankly I think that would be healthy for me and 2) try to live up to him and become a person who I feel like would deserve him.
Dear MTAS,
I used your own closing name, but in reality, you are MTAE, married to an enabler.  The other day someone asked me the difference being helping out a spouse and being an an enabler, and I believe your story is a perfect illustration.  Help means that you are helping the person be the best they can be.  So, helping you with housework may give you some time to focus on the kids, so that would be “help.” Enabling is when you put your head in the sand about someone’s problem and even go to the other end of the spectrum and FACILITATE their problem, in a way that ends up making their life worse.  Help = helping someone be their best self.  Enabling = helping someone be their worst self.
Your husband is no saint.  He sounds like a nice guy, yes, but I am willing to bet anything that he grew up in a situation where there was one “problem” or addict parent and another who looked the other way and moved into the martyr role to compensate for the other’s deficiencies.  He is a codependent person whose identity is based on being the “good” one.  A version of your dynamic is here, in my piece “Mr. Perfect and His Crazy Wife.”  This is when one guy is like your husband, but more arrogant, and the wife doesn’t want to place herself neatly into the “bad” box.  But you have always been comfortable being the “bad” one, at least until recently when it seems like, on some level, you are reexamining this dynamic.
Speaking of upbringings, you likely had one a lot like your husband’s, where one parent, or sibling, was “worse” than the other, and the “good” one was always making allowances for an enabling the other.  When you guys first met, you were very young and had not had the time or maturity to think objectively about your own childhoods at all, in fact you were still children, so you moved into an even more extreme variant of a codependent relationship than many adults, where the disparity between the partners is more hidden or subtle.
Both of you get a lot from keeping the dynamic as is: you get to maintain your alcohol addiction and never have to fully be grown up or take charge of your own actions, and he gets to be worshipped as a “saint” by a wife who gives him more compensatory sex than likely is received by any of his male friends that look down on you.  (Because their wives are more tired, because they are doing more stuff, and also they aren’t making up for being “bad” with sex.) You are very attracted to him and he to you, of course, because you are each other’s imago.
You have to decide whether you are ready to move fully into adulthood and taking ownership of your own life.  I believe that writing this question to me may indicate that you are noticing that more and more is amiss in your relationship dynamic and you’re cautiously ready to explore what change would look like.  Change would mean confronting what sounds like a definite alcohol addiction, or at the very least a binge drinking problem.  It would mean going to therapy and working hard to explore difficult topics like why you feel that the “problem person” role is so comfortable for you.  It would mean that you tell your husband, “I have an alcohol problem and I need to stop drinking, and you need to stop helping me to get drunk all the time by literally making me wine.”
Please watch the movie When A Man Loves A Woman and discuss it with your husband.  In this movie, Meg Ryan is the cute, lovable, spontaneous alcoholic wife, and Andy Garcia is the supportive husband who takes care of everything.  Their marriage founders when she works on her addiction, because he can’t be the “good” one anymore. It is fairly close to your situation so I highly encourage you to watch it.
A last point that is really the most important: You have kids.  Do you want them observing this pattern and, one day, falling in love with someone who can either “take care” of them or find a “problem” person to “take care” of themselves?  They are always silently observing the dynamic between you and your husband, and it becomes what they think of as normal.  As hard as it may be to conceive of, one day there is a significant probability that they will sit in therapists’ offices and say, “Mom was a closet alcoholic, and dad was this passive guy who stuck his head in the sand like an ostrich.  Half the time Mom was too hungover to function but can you believe, Dad kept making her wine in our basement.  I’m seeing you today because of my alcoholism/codependency.”
I am sorry for being harsh, but it seems like you are deeply yearning for the reality check that your husband does not provide.  Hopefully this response can serve as a wake up call (although I am betting that you already, on some level, suspect everything I am telling you) and you and your husband can break free from this constricting, undermining dynamic and start living life as two adults and equal partners.  Look up couples therapists in your area, because you and your husband could really benefit from it, especially since you are so committed to one another. Read the book Codependent No More to understand more about codependency.  (And go to an AA meeting, just to check it out.)
Please keep me updated, and till we meet again, I remain, The Blogapist Who Says, Couples Counseling Really Works Especially For Couples Who Still Feel “In Love” But Need To Practice New Ways Of Interacting.

Order Dr. Rodman’s newest book, 52 Emails to Transform Your Marriage and order her first book: How to Talk to Your Kids about Your Divorce: Healthy, Effective Communication Techniques for Your Changing Family

This blog is not intended as medical advice or diagnosis and should in no way replace consultation with a medical professional. If you try this advice and it does not work for you, you cannot sue me. This is only my opinion, based on my background, training, and experience as a therapist and person

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