Saturday 19 August 2017

Dear Mary: He's a decent man, but he upsets me when he's drinking all night

Photo posed
Photo posed

Mary O'Conor

I would welcome your advice on how to handle my husband's drinking. He is a regular drinker of four or five pints on two or three nights a week. He works hard and it is his way of relaxing and meeting up with the locals, etc.

The problem is that every so often, without any prior warning he will stay out drinking for most of the night. This could happen straight after work or a normal weekend night could turn into an all-nighter. These nights usually happen as a result of him bumping into an old drinking buddy. The nights are never planned, so I don't think he stays out purposely for the drink per se but he is like an easily led teenager.

So my point is, I don't think he is an alcoholic but he enjoys the escape.

My problem is his total lack of responsibility towards me and our children. The unpredictability of his behaviour is unsettling as I can never 100pc depend on him coming home even if these all-night episodes are separated by months.

The kids are getting older and it is harder to hide this behaviour. The days following are spent in silent conflict - with me annoyed, short-tempered and fed-up and him staying out of my way - not exactly a happy place to be for any of us.

I know I can't change another person's behaviour, I can only learn how to deal with it. So how do I do that? He is a good father and a decent person generally and the kids adore him.

Mary replies: Alcohol is certainly at the centre of many people's lives in Ireland as it is interwoven with our socialising to a far greater extent than in most other countries. So it is only natural therefore that it causes problems in relationships, such as the one that you describe.

You don't have a problem with your husband going to the pub two or three nights a week which a lot of women would have, as it means being left at home with the children without adult company on those nights. So you are being very accommodating in understanding his need for relaxation and seeing his friends. I hope he appreciates this and if not then it should be pointed out to him that a lot of wives would not be so agreeable. I hope that you get your own nights out with your friends also, otherwise it would be a very one-sided relationship.

We all know that alcohol weakens the resolve. Just ask anybody on a diet and they will tell you that it is much more difficult to refuse the crisps or the chips or the dessert when they have had a few drinks. So your husband may fully intend coming home at a reasonable hour but then four or five pints later with his old buddy, and he is much more liable to weaken and continue drinking.

The big problem here is that you don't know what is going to happen on any night that he goes out, so you are in a constant state of worry and fearfulness as to whether he is going to have another all-nighter.

Because of this it would be a good idea to talk about this with your husband when it is not an issue and when it hasn't happened for some time. Explain that it is awful for you never knowing when he is coming home, and that you need for him to either call or text when it looks like he will be staying out. If he promises to do this then you will accept that he is going to be out very late and not complain. You should also point out that as the children get older and are aware of what is going on that you feel he isn't showing them a great example.

I know that people will write to me expressing strong opinions about this letter, so I would like to point out that I have purposely not made any judgment about the amount of his drinking as that is not what you wrote to me about.

You wrote about a specific problem related to your husband's drinking and so that is what I have addressed.

You can contact Mary O’Conor anonymously by visiting www.dearmary.ie or email her at dearmary@independent.ie or write c/o 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be treated in confidence. Mary O’Conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately.

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