Wednesday 22 November 2017

Dear Mary: My wife's wine-drinking is wrecking our marriage

She has turned to drinking wine more often than just casually
She has turned to drinking wine more often than just casually

She has turned to drinking wine more often than just casually.

Myself and the wife have two children and we are married 10 years. She has turned to drinking wine more often than just casually and her drinking is wrecking our marriage and our friendships. I have exhausted lots of avenues and feel I have no option now but to give her an ultimatum. I cannot come home to this anymore  - it is too hard and I can't cope.  I'm about to retire after 25 years of service and I don't think I can live with this anymore.  What should I do?

Mary replies: Very worryingly, this is one of a number of letters I have had from husbands who are concerned with their wives' drinking. Some of the men have complained that not alone has it affected them as a family, but it is also having financial repercussions that they cannot cope with. As a nation we are drinking far more wine than previous generations, and health professionals are constantly warning us about the dangers of over-indulgence; and the suggested limit is up to 11 standards drinks a week for women.

However, I have to say that there is nothing better than sitting around a table with friends and sharing a few bottles of wine. Or indeed, sharing a bottle with a loved one can be so relaxing and a lovely experience particularly at the end of a busy week. Unfortunately this does not seem to be the case with you and you are obviously very concerned about your wife's drinking.

Firstly, I have to question why your wife is drinking so much. Is she very unhappy with her life and turns to alcohol to make her feel better, or has she an addictive personality and finds it difficult to stop once she starts? From your letter it seems that when you arrive home from work your wife has already been drinking, and this is indeed worrying, especially as there are children who are witnessing this. If somebody's drinking is affecting either their relationship or their work then there is a problem that needs to be addressed, so as you feel that your relationship is being affected then something needs to change.

Concerned people find that the biggest hurdle is getting the drinker to acknowledge that they have a problem to begin with, so you will have to tread carefully if you feel that your wife is indeed addicted. She probably knows by now that you disapprove of what you see as her excessive drinking, so you could start off by asking that she cut down and have her wine say, at the weekends when you are both together. You haven't said whether you take a drink or not, so I'm assuming that you do. Ask her to prove to you that she doesn't have a problem by curtailing her drinking to the weekend and promise if she does that you will not complain when she does have a drink.

If she refuses, or says that you are going overboard with your criticism, then you will have to enlist the help of either a family member or friend to let your wife see how serious the problem has become for you. Your GP is another resource for you. I am not in favour of your issuing an ultimatum, no matter what it is, as this will only serve to make your wife feel very antagonistic towards you and will most likely not address the drinking.

If this doesn't work then you should contact the wonderful organisation that is Al-Anon, who are there to support those who are in some way affected by their loved one's alcohol intake. You will find lots of people in a similar situation to your own there. The website for Al-Anon in Ireland is

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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