A House Divided: When Our Spouse Drinks to Excess

I live in a house divided, and grew up in a house divided. I guess that my childhood experiences prepared me for a marriage where mommy goes to church and daddy doesn’t. I am sure psychologists and sociologists would have fun analyzing that scenario, but it is what it is. I was an unbeliever when I got married, and was saved later. My husband wasn’t. Simple fact.

Does that make life unbearable? No.

Am I a martyr for my faith? No.

Is my life different than other Christians? Yes, sometimes.

I was told when I got older that my dad was an alcoholic. Perhaps he was. I didn’t know that growing up because we don’t talk about problems in our family, and because I thought every dad went out and had a few beers with friends. I thought everyone had a beer when they watched sports, when friends came over, and when they got home.

Dad was dad and I loved him. He did drink but he wasn’t violent, angry, or abusive. He was just absent.

I think it’s important to understand that even Christians, and Christian marriages, can struggle with alcoholism. Just because you live with a spouse that doesn’t go to church doesn’t mean that you are the only one having problems. Christian marriages are having problems too. So don’t let Satan lie to you and make you believe that you are the only one.

Remember that God is in control of the world and rules it. He is so powerful that He made the earth and you. This means that He has the power to stop anyone from drinking. If He allows it then He also gives you the strength and provides resources for you to live through that. He can use any event and situation to bring Him glory, and for your eternal good. Even for your children’s good.

You may wonder if your children will be ruined. If they will become alcoholics because of mommy or daddy’s drinking. There are schools of thought that believe that children learn behavior from their parents, and to an extent I agree, however, I believe God’s Word adds a caveat that supersedes these schools of thought.

Matthew 15:19 states, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.”

If we drink to excess then that is a heart issue. If we or our children decide to live in drunkenness then we have a heart issue. It’s our own fault. What is great is that God has laid out a plan to deal with the heart. It’s called salvation, and sanctification, or being set apart to become more like God.

Remember that you are a sinner. You may attend church, teach Sunday school, make pies for Christian folk, sing hymns, open doors for the elderly, and read your Bible faithfully, but you are still a sinner. You are just a forgiven sinner. Your sin is no more pleasing to God then your unsaved spouse sin is. You weren’t saved because you are good. It’s only by God’s grace and because of Jesus Christ in you that you can claim righteousness. Your good deeds should be a display of what’s going on in our heart, but they do not make you superior to those in need of salvation.

There are some real implications if a spouse is an alcoholic or drinks to excess. Here are some considerations and tips for living with that:

  • Ensure that you have a godly advisor. You will need someone to support you, tell you the truth, and help you discern when the situation is one you should no longer live with. This should be someone who can be objective, is wise, able to use God’s Word to counsel you, is a prayer warrior, and is someone who can point you to Christ. If you don’t have one pray for one. God will send you what you need.
  • You may be shouldering all the responsibilities of the house and children. You can only do so much. So don’t strive for perfection. Set limits on what you can accomplish and then let the rest go. The reality is one person can’t do it all. So you may have to let the yard go, not worry about having a clean basement, or many other things. Just do what you can.
  • There may be a time when you have to consider ending the relationship. I would recommend seeking counsel from your pastor, or a biblical counselor before doing this. If the spouse is abusive then you will definitely need to consider leaving. There are many behaviors that can come with alcoholism so seek counsel in determining if these behaviors are something God would have you live with.
  • God calls us to carry out certain duties with our spouse. Husbands are to love their wives. Wives are to respect their husbands. We are to continue doing this even if our spouse doesn’t do their part, and if they aren’t connected to Christ there is a good chance they won’t. To wives I would like to say this means we still need to have sex with our husband. Withholding sex will not make him quit drinking. This doesn’t mean you need to do this when he is drunk, abusive, but you do need to do this. Talk with your spouse the best you can and tell them you need to continue a healthy sex relationship and explain what would help you to do that.
  • Consider attending a support group. It will help to be around other spouses who are struggling with the same issue. These groups can also provide you with information on resources to help you cope with your spouse’s alcoholism, and help for your children.

This is a big issue. Not one that can be tackled in a short blog post. You are not alone. God is with you. I know it feels like your world is caving in, and that a part of you is dying, but He is really there. I am not just saying that because it’s the Christian thing to say. He is there. He can help in real ways. I wish I were there with you, and we could talk. Let me pray for you now.

Lord, please help this person. Please provide them with the strength, peace, resources, and knowledge they need to live through their spouse being an alcoholic. Please make your Word alive in their heart and mind. Guard them from the temptation to doubt, and despair. Protect them from danger and violence. I pray their spouse sees you, and that the light they see stamps out the dark. Lord with all my heart I pray that you would deliver this person out of this situation, and until you do please be their all, and provide them with everything they need to glorify you, obey your commands, and live their life.

In His Name,

Marcy Pedersen

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