The Addictions That Have Effects on Marriage


Marriage is the basis on which a family is grounded. It is a natural social system that occurs in heterogeneous forms today and represents a diversity of cultural heritage. The addictions that have effects on marriage can be classified into two groups: substance addiction and process addiction. Prominently ranked among the various types of substance addiction is alcohol addiction. Drinking alcohol is not bad in itself. With the notable exemption of Islam, it is permitted by most major world religions including Christianity. But such permission and toleration come with a keyword: moderation.

Among the 3 causes of Alcohol Addiction are genetics where alcohol addiction is inherited from parents or grandparents, excessive imbibing of alcohol up to a point where drinking ceases to become a choice, and lack of proper impulse control. Not only has alcohol addiction been identified as the No.1 cause of marriage problems in the U.S, but a survey conducted by Silverstein in 1990 found 25% of marriages in the country suffered from problems caused by alcohol addiction. Joint studies by the U.S Department of Health and Services {HHS} and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration {SAMHSA} found that 76 million adults in the U.S have become victims of alcohol addiction in their families (Parsons). Alcohol addiction has several detrimental effects on marriage.

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The first effect is that alcohol addicts are unable to discharge their proper role in marriage because of the compulsive drinking habits that drag them into a cycle where their inability to fulfill their obligations in marriage, coupled with the disapproval of their addiction, are often employed as justification to drink even more (National Treatment Referral).

The second effect is that the spouses of alcohol addicts become codependents, namely, they unconsciously become addicted to the alcohol addict’s unnatural behavior, going to great lengths to conceal their partners’ problems, maintain the family integrity, and outwardly appear to be the ‘perfect married couple.’ By doing so, codependent spouses unconsciously develop into ‘enablers,’ persons who unknowingly help alcohol addicts by refusing to accept or acknowledge the drinking problem exists, thus enabling the addicts to escape problems brought about by their drinking. Enablers lie to protect the alcohol addicts and thus help them continue drinking.

The third effect is related to marriages of Adult Children of Alcoholics {ACOAs}. It is estimated that the odds of ACOAs becoming alcohol addicts themselves is four times greater than children born to non-alcohol addicts. The childhood of such individuals is riddled with depression, aggression, and impulsive behavior difficulties. They develop negative self-images exacerbated by perceptions of worthlessness and failure. All these drawbacks make ACOAs fail when they marry. They are unable to develop healthy relationships with their spouses. They are unable to properly discharge their responsibilities with relation to their spouses because their alcohol-addicted parents were irresponsible and did not discharge similar responsibilities. The bad experiences with their parents make ACOAs frequently develop intimacy problems. They tend to distrust others. They believe that if they love someone {like their non-alcohol-addicted parents did towards their addicted spouses}, that person will hurt them later {like their alcohol-addicted parents did towards their non-alcohol-addicted spouse}.

The fourth effect is related to marriages involving female alcohol addicts. The addiction paves the way for future instability in the form of unnatural children. Children of female alcohol addicts run the great risk of being born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome {FAS} which has been identified as one of the three most widespread causes of birth deficiencies. Figures released by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence show that nearly 5,000 children are born with acute damages due to FAS each year in the U.S, while a further 35,000 are born with milder forms of FAS. Children born with FAS are retarded with radical personality problems, phobia, and studying impairments.

The fifth effect is battering and even the rape of spouses. It has been estimated that 75% of domestic violence in the U.S is caused by alcohol-addicted parents (Parsons). In almost all such cases, it is the husband who is the alcohol addict, and it is the wife who is subjected to physical battering and/or rape.

In conclusion, the overall effect on the spouse of an alcohol addict is massively negative. The spouse is likely to develop feelings of strong dislike, self-pity, shunning social interaction, exhaustion, and even physical and mental illness. Such spouses are forced to take on the role of both parents in the marriage, while frequently contending with financial difficulties brought about by the married partner’s job-related problems and excessive amounts spent on alcohol. As a result, the non-addicted spouses are greatly burdened, making them inconsistent, demanding, and neglectful of their children. The ‘Exposure to Alcoholism in the Family’ survey carried out in 1988 in the U.S found that alcohol addiction is a major reason for divorce and premature widowhood among women in the United States (Parsons).


“Causes of Alcoholism”. National Treatment Referral. 2002. Web.

Parsons, Tetyana. “”. All Psych Journal. 2003.