Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine offers her perspective on a husband who binge drinks, a partner who refuses to go to the doctor and what to do when you get nervous in social situations.
QUESTION: I’ve been married for four years and I love my husband very much. He’s a good man and a great husband, but on Friday nights he likes to go out with his friends from college and get really drunk.
They’re all in their early 30s and this has been going on for years. When he drinks too much he gets very loud, aggressive and thoroughly unpleasant. He likes me to join him at the pub but I never enjoy it and none of the other men bring their wives or girlfriends.
On Saturday mornings he usually has a hangover, so we don’t get much done around the house. If I ask him whether it’s worth it, he always says it isn’t and promises he won’t get so drunk next week. Then next Friday comes around and his mates persuade him to go out drinking again, and so it continues.
I wish I could get him to understand how unpleasant I find all this.
FIONA SAYS: Doing the same thing every Friday night must be very tedious for you. If he’s getting unpleasantly drunk, it must also make you quite angry.
Regular, excessive drinking like this isn’t healthy for him or his friends, and their behaviour is that of adolescents, rather than mature men.
I can only assume he is prepared to put up with the hangovers because he feels a need to be seen as ‘one of the lads’, but I think it’s time he d his ‘lads’ grew up.
You’re never going to get him to understand how unpleasant it is if you continue to support him by going along. He will probably resent your attempts to stop him from taking part, but that doesn’t mean that you have to put up with it.
You could point out that as you’re the only woman there, it’s not much fun for you and that there are other things you’d rather be doing than watching them all make fools of themselves.
Without blaming him, try to explain how bad it is for his health. Remind him that as he gets older, his body can’t process alcohol as easily as it did when he was younger.
Alcohol is a depressant too and it can also disrupt his sleep patterns, so it’s not surprising that weekends – a time when the two of you should be able to relax – are being spoiled.
I wonder if he’s aware how loud, aggressive and unpleasant he becomes when he’s drunk too much? Could you or a friend film him so that, when he’s sober, you could show him what he’s like? If he could see himself as you see him, then he might understand better why you want him to change.
Suggest that if he is determined to keep getting so drunk, perhaps it might be best if he went without you. If you were to find something else to do on Friday evenings, it’s possible that he’d miss your company and break what has become a bad habit.
If he still continues to go out drinking with his mates, then you’re going to resent him – at that point you may need help.
I suggest you contact Adfam, which provides support to the families of those affected by drugs and alcohol. Don’t forget, as long as you continue to go along with this routine, why should he want to change?
QUESTION: I get very nervous when I’m in company and, on those rare occasions when I do go out, I go to pieces and start babbling.
I can generally manage if I am on the outskirts of a group but, if anyone asks me a question, I say the most ridiculous things, and then get in a bigger mess if I’m asked to explain what I mean.
I know this sounds silly, but is there somewhere I can go to learn how to be more confident and dynamic in conversations?
FIONA SAYS: As I am sure you already realise, a lack of self-confidence is at the heart of your problem but the good news is that it’s possible to learn to be more confident.
Assertiveness training courses may be available locally through your local adult education centre. You could also look at online courses too.
Failing that, talk to your doctor who may also have advice. Being assertive is not being aggressive. It means being able to stand up for your own or other people’s rights in a calm and positive way.
You could also read one of the many self-help books on the problem – a short and easy read is How to Start a Conversation and Make Friends by Don Gabor (Sheldon Press).
Finally, practice would help, so rather than only going out rarely, try and get out more often and take every opportunity to chat to people. Before long, you’ll find that you’re able to relax more.
QUESTION: I was made redundant four months ago and although I was initially devastated, I’ve since realised it was the best thing to have happened to me in years.
I’ve also realised just how much I’d grown to hate my old job, as I now do so much more with my life – sport, walking, gardening, reading and spending time with my family.
The problem is that my redundancy package will soon run out and I know that I must start looking for another dead-end job. I’m 35 so there is no chance I can give up work, but life seems so unfair.
FIONA SAYS: Short of winning the lottery, we all have to find some way to support ourselves. That being said, why should all these other good things in your life stop just because you now need to work?
While you won’t have as much free time, you can surely carry on with most of the things you enjoy. Also, why do you think you should settle for ‘another dead-end job’?
Why not consider re-training for a job you do find interesting – perhaps something that involves one of your new-found interests? You’re still young and there’s plenty of time for you change direction. You really don’t have to be unhappy at work.
QUESTION: My husband has a history of back problems. For the most part he works through it with painkillers, but often it’s so bad that he ends up sleeping on the bedroom floor for a few nights until it improves.
I have asked him to see a doctor, but he simply refuses, saying that he doesn’t want to make a fuss. The problem is that he’s only 45 and I worry that if he doesn’t start getting this under control soon, it’s going to get worse and worse as he gets older.
What should I do?
FIONA SAYS: I believe you are right to be concerned. If the only treatment your husband is giving his back is painkillers and rest, then he isn’t treating the problem and it will keep coming back.
Activities like yoga or pilates might make a substantial difference and they could even make the problem go away altogether. However, without a doctor’s examination, it could make things much worse.
Backcare is a charity that provides information and advice to everyone affected by back and neck pain. I would encourage you to contact them. They might be able to convince him to get the help he needs.