Style Sex & Relationships

Wednesday 23 January 2019

Dear Mary: My husband's 'secret' visits to the pub are threatening our marriage

Stock image PA
Stock image PA

Mary O’Conor

My husband and I have a reasonably good marriage. We have small kids and we both have good jobs. There is one recurring problem, however, that has blighted our relationship and family life.

My husband likes to go to the pub regularly. He never drinks at home but sees the pub as his main outlet to meet friends. It's a social thing for him more so than alcohol dependence but it causes a lot of stress and rows. He regularly goes straight to the pub from work, or leaves to go out without telling me and thinks nothing of drink-driving which has got him in trouble before.

I have tried speaking to him about this but he just insists I knew what he was like before we married, or else he says nothing at all knowing it will all soon blow over.

I am mainly upset as the example being set for the kids is not good and the dishonesty of not saying where he is or where he is going, sometimes hiding his car behind the pub, is so hurtful and quite frankly juvenile.

I have threatened separation but he probably knows it is an idle threat. I've tried compromising - I am reasonable and don't mind him going out to some extent if he would just clear it with me and leave the car at home. I've also suggested counselling but he dismissed it.

Life is stressful enough without having my husband coming in late, drunk and disturbing me or others especially during week nights. I am poor at talking about my feelings so we are not good communicators.

He is a good father but I can't help resenting him for how he makes me feel and how difficult he makes what would otherwise be a good marriage and family life.

Our sex life is very important to him but is becoming less so for me as I find being intimate shallow when a few nights before we've argued and possibly spent the intervening days ignoring each other.

Mary replies:  You certainly have your hands full with small children, and both of you working full-time outside of the home.

It can be very draining to face household chores and childcare on returning home from work. But instead of getting full support from your husband you are alone a lot of the time which must be very tiring and is certainly not good for the relationship.

I share your concerns regarding your husband's behaviour on two counts.

Firstly, and most importantly, drink-driving which is unforgivable, and secondly his not letting you know when he is going to the pub.

You have tried lots of different things and none of them have worked. Now you will have to let him see that you are in earnest by changing how you operate with him.

As you are not very confident in your ability to communicate it might be better for you to write him a letter where you will be able to let him know exactly how you feel and just how worried you are. Tell him that things will have to change with regard to the drink-driving and suggest some alternatives.

You don't want to stop him going but you want him to go less frequently and not take the car.

I don't know how far away you live from the pub but would it be possible for somebody to collect him and/or bring him home if the cost of a taxi would be too prohibitive?

Tell him you are seriously considering reporting him to the gardai next time you know he is drink/driving. After all you would never forgive yourself if somebody was injured or killed as a result of his actions.

I think indeed that you need to question your own assumption regarding his dependence on alcohol.

As his sex life is so important to him let him know that until things improve you are no longer willing to have sex.

Explain that you feel so resentful that it is asking too much of you to have sex with him while you are inwardly seething.

You should also tell him all that is good in the marriage and emphasise how much better it could be with some adjustments.

You can contact Mary O’Conor anonymously by visiting or email her at 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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