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Ask Ellie: Partner's alcoholism alienating friends and family

Regarding “for better or for worse” — what happens when there isn’t any “better” on the horizon?

Dear Ellie: I’ve been married to my third husband for 16 years. He’s gone from a heavy drinker to an alcoholic (20-25 beers/day). He’s alienated most of our friends/family with his ranting.

He recently sold his business and property so we’d move closer to my son and his family. He’s been critical of my two sons and grandchildren (in their 20s) but it’s now a bigger problem.

When my younger son was working nearby for a week, I invited all my family for dinner, because we’ve not all been together for several years. I was nervous about my husband’s behaviour but he offered to help. I cooked and baked all day.

He started drinking more than four hours before dinner time. Everyone was catching up but my husband began a tirade about how tattoos are stupid.

All but my husband and myself have tattoos so he was offending them. I asked him to keep quiet but he wouldn’t stop ranting. My older son suggested they leave. So, no one had any dinner. I was furious and realized that my husband cannot accept my family.

Since then, he’s not had a drink and thinks he’s cured. I don’t believe it. My family still won’t visit.

I now take them out to dinner at a restaurant or see them at my son and daughter-in-law’s home. I’m heartsick about this situation.

Also, my husband was charged with a DUI and hasn’t been allowed to drive for six months. He’s been dependent on me to drive him around.

He thinks that the whole “thing” will blow over and we can return to “normal.” But he’s disrespected me and my family so much that I don’t even like him anymore.

Regarding “For better or for worse” — what happens when there isn’t any “better” on the horizon?

Fed Up with Ranting Husband

The “horizon” for you two depends on your husband’s alcoholism. If he can truly end it, he owes you and your family a huge apology. And, you may be willing to give him another chance based on his staying sober.

But if alcohol was always his excuse for obnoxious behaviour, including insulting those dear to you, it’s unlikely you’ll trust him again near your family.

Yet 16 years together may still be worth an effort to learn if he suffers “alcohol use disorder,” or his alcoholism is a choice that lets him say/do whatever he wants.

Offer him a chance for rehabilitation, whether through a 12-step program, the help of an addiction counsellor, or sheer will.

If nothing changes enough for you to stay with him, leave and move forward with your own plans to enjoy your family, renew old friendships and hopefully enjoy new ones.

Dear Ellie: I’ve been dating a lady for four months, both in our 60s. I normally have sex or share some intimacy after three-to-four-weeks with a partner I enjoy being with.

But she turns away from my attempted kisses saying, “it’s just me…” She tells me to “keep [my] pants on.” I think there must’ve been a very bad marriage but she’s not open to discussion.

She keeps her dog on her lap and strokes it. I’ve asked her to put it in a room after dinner so we can talk… she refuses.

I had a solid, very lengthy experience with my partner who sadly died several years ago.


This woman is hiding behind her dog and her fears. Something’s hurt her very badly. She may become a friend in time. Respect her privacy.

Reader’s commentary regarding the woman whose online boyfriend emigrated here and married her. But he remains secretive about his past life and marriage, and his current private financial arrangements with his son living overseas (Dec. 14):

“I’d be a bit concerned that the husband’s possibly acquiring property in another country as a “Plan B” exit strategy if the marriage or something else doesn’t go well — i.e., he’s hiding assets.

“It would be understandable since he may have felt financially burned when his first marriage ended. And many immigrants strive to have some assets in their country of origin.

“This wouldn’t have to be a problem, since in second marriages with no shared children, couples are more likely to maintain separate financial lives.

“It is, as Ellie noted, the secrecy and the reason for it that’s making this worry the woman as an issue that’s driving them to argue a lot.”

Ellie’s tip of the day

A partner’s alcoholism can become unbearable when used to alienate friends and family.

Send relationship questions to [email protected].