When Your Partner Still Drinks and You’re Cutting Back

With Valentine’s Day coming up, romantic partnerships and plans for the 14th are top of mind for many. Especially around a holiday that’s often celebrated with a champagne toast, it can be challenging to stick to your drinking goals. This is even more true when your partner is not on the same path as you. Maybe they drink casually, maybe they drink heavily — but whatever the case may be, it’s important to find a solution that works for both of you.

Here are five ways you can support yourself, and the relationship, through Valentine’s Day and beyond:

1. Set Some Boundaries

All relationships have boundaries and compromises. Work with your partner in a constructive way to establish routines that support you, and respect their ability to make their own choices. For example, you might request a sober Valentine’s Day this year, featuring a delicious mocktail recipe you found online, or suggest a number of drinks for the evening that you’re comfortable with.   

2. Avoid Conflict in Communication

Valentine’s Day is a time to recognize and share how much you appreciate and care about your partner. Challenge yourself to assess how you express those feelings in your relationship through your communication style. Rather than telling your partner how they should behave (“you” language), focus on “I” statements that revolve around your feelings and needs.

For example, rather than, “You need to stop coming home drunk,” which has a blaming tone, you can try, “I feel like it’s hard to connect with you when you’ve had a lot to drink. I want to have at least X sober evenings this week.” Ask their thoughts and remain empathetic: it’s an open dialogue, and your partner’s feelings are always valid.

3. Timing Matters

For all important conversations, good timing is key. Avoid initiating an important conversation, like the example above, when one or both of you is tired, angry, or stressed. Try to postpone “in the heat of the moment” conversations.

For example, if you come home looking forward to a quiet evening and find your partner drinking with rowdy friends, see if you can delay a conversation about it until next morning, when you’re both rested and able to see the evening with a bit more perspective.

4. Stay Connected To Your Values

It can be exasperating to have a partner who doesn’t want to stop or cut back on their drinking when you do. But the reality is: you’re only in charge of you. Their behavior can’t stop you from staying connected to your values (tips for staying connected to your values here) and goals. Recommit to your reason for changing your behavior. Reach out to a therapist or coach if you need support.

5. Limit Your Exposure to Their Drinking

Finally, a word of advice for the rest of February and onward. Your partner might drink heavily during certain events, around certain times of day, or with certain people. It might not be realistic for you to completely avoid their drinking, but where possible, limit your exposure.

For instance, if they like to drink while watching sports/with their book club/on Saturday nights, see about making alternate plans during these times. Be proactive: identify and make plans to avoid your triggers (more tips more coping with triggers here). As always, clear communication is key.

I hope you found this helpful. Your partner should be your number #1 supporter, regardless of what their goals may be. Make it easier for them to be the great partner they want to be by letting them know how they can best help you stick to your goals. Wishing you a Happy Valentine’s Day!