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"My Husband's Drinking Is Ruining Our Marriage"

His binges have become too much for her to bear; her nagging has created a wedge in the marriage. Can this marriage be saved?

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Her Turn

“He Never Outgrew College Traditions”

“The night Jack drove home totally drunk from an office party was the last straw,” said Claudia, 44, a youthful-looking mother of two. “I don’t want to be a widow and I don’t want our kids to be fatherless. But even if Jack doesn’t have an accident, he could lose his driver’s license. He runs his own insurance agency, and there’s no public transportation to his office. How would he manage if he couldn’t drive?

“What infuriates me most is Jack’s attitude. He thinks I’m making a big deal out of nothing. It’s true, as he likes to point out, that he doesn’t drink every day. But he’s a binger. He never outgrew the college tradition of staying sober all week long, then getting wasted on the weekend. But that doesn’t make the situation any less dangerous.

“It’s no surprise that Jack tunes me out about his drinking — he tunes me out about everything. He doesn’t have a clue about the normal give-and-take that happens between people who love each other. I trace the problem back to his childhood. He’s the younger of two boys, and his parents have always favored their older son, Bobby, a neurosurgeon who makes loads of money. Whenever the family gets together, my in-laws brag nonstop about Bobby. It’s always ‘Bobby this’ and ‘Bobby that.’ It’s enough to make me want to throw up! Look, Jack does all right! They should be proud of him, too. But I can tell that he’s the also-ran in his parents’ eyes. I’m an only child and my parents doted on me, so I can only guess how much their attitude must hurt Jack.

“I suppose I should be grateful that Jack works hard and brings home good money, but it upsets me that he’s so uninvolved with me and the kids. I feel so alone. What’s weird is that he was extremely sweet and attentive when we first got together. I met Jack through a friend when we were both in our mid 20s. He was funny and made me feel pretty and smart. Yes, he’d throw back one drink after another whenever we went out on weekends, but we lived in the city then and took the subway home, so I never gave it much thought. Because everything else about him was perfect, I overlooked the obvious.

“I Don’t Think He Should Be Behaving This Way”

“Jack and I love the water and a year after our wedding we bought our waterfront dream house. Our son, Tim, was born just after our third anniversary, and Susie came along two years later. By then, Jack’s business was doing well enough that I was able to quit my office job to be a full-time mom for 10 years (I only went back to work part-time recently).

“But that’s when Jack started working long hours and becoming remote. I’d try to get him to talk in the evenings, but he’d just shrug and turn on the TV.

“That was also when his drinking escalated. We’d have beach parties every weekend in the summer, and Jack would get totally hammered. He’s a ‘happy drunk’ and he’d make an idiot of himself in front of the kids and our guests — telling stupid jokes, flirting with other guys’ wives, singing off-key, and generally embarrassing himself. 

“The other guys drank a lot, too, but Jack was the worst. When the guests would start leaving, he’d always try to convince them to stay, regardless of the hour. He’d keep drinking even after everybody else had left. I hate the fact that the kids see their father behaving this way, and I worry that they’ll eventually follow his example.

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