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The Impact & Effect Alcoholism Has on Marital Relations

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More than one-half of adults in the U.S. have a close family member who has abused alcohol or is addicted to the drug. When the drinker is a husband or wife, the effect of alcoholism on marriage can be dramatic and damaging. Not only are the mental and physical well-being of the drinker at risk; the marriage relationship and family unit can be significantly affected.

With alcoholism in marriage, compulsive caretaking often grows alongside the deteriorating self-care of the compulsive drinker. An alcoholic spouse may neglect or abuse his or her family, deplete financial resources, and create legal problems for the family.

The scholarly journal "Alcoholism and marriages" ( Bailey, 1961) also emphasizes that alcoholics, like all abusers and addicts, lie- blatant and lies of omission. Hey engaged in cover-ups, and minimization, make excuses, blame others for their drinking, and continue to use alcohol regardless of consequences. If there are children present, they copy the behavior they see modeled by the drinker and learn how to grow up and be alcoholics themselves. Alcohol abuse increases marital distress. "Individuals in marriages in which one or both spouses are alcoholic report higher levels of marital distress or trouble than non-alcoholics." (pg. 86)

Marital satisfaction is related strongly to a couple's ability to communicate effectively. But heavy alcohol use is associated with more negative and hostile communication, more expressions of anger, and less warmth and unity in the relationship. These factors decrease a couple's satisfaction in their marriage and create greater tension.

"Alcohol abuse decreases marital satisfaction because it decreases the drinking spouse's ability to participate in everyday household tasks and responsibilities." (pg.87) This inability leads to greater stress on the non-drinking spouse and decreases satisfaction in the marriage.

Alcohol abuse increases the psychological distress of the non-drinking spouse. An adult's alcohol abuse also is related to children's increased social, emotional, behavioral, and academic problems, which, in turn, leads to more stress in the family and less marital satisfaction. Drinking patterns and drinking problems by age and sex in 1979 from the age range of 21-25 for men were 54 drinks a month as where for woman it was 78 drinks a month.

Personal interview data for adults 18-39 years of age were analyzed to assess the effect of positive parental history of alcoholism on the probability of ever having been married. The data were collected as part of the 1988 National Health Interview Survey. The effects of parental history were estimated using logistic regression models that adjusted for age, race, gender, and respondent history of alcohol problems. "Nonblack adults who lived with one or more alcoholic parents when growing up were 50% more likely to have been married than those with

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