I Quit Drinking But My Partner Won’t

I often have readers come to me and lament – “I quit drinking but my partner won’t.” It can be difficult to learn how to navigate relationships – that includes romantic relationships, friendships, and business relationships – when you become a non-drinker. Suddenly, you have become the outcast and you no longer fit in with the cool kids. In some cases, it feels like you’ve lost your common bond. How do you deal if you quit drinking but your partner won’t? Or your friends won’t?

i quit drinking but my partner won't

I quit drinking but my partner won’t.

Every relationship demands compromises.

This is a big change and will take a lot of adaptation on both your parts.

You need to do this for yourself, without expectations. Look at that bold sentence up there. It says I quit drinking but my partner won’t. Using the word but negates the sentence. It also sets up an argument which isn’t the point here. A big part of marriage, in my opinion, is loving someone as they are.

My Experience

In my experience, my spouse pressuring me had the effect of my drinking more. Once he stopped pressuring me I felt more loved and accepted and it resulted in my starting to self-reflect on my own drinking.

My advice: Make it a priority to keep your marriage and your friendships together as you navigate this massive change. If this is the focus, rather than changing their behavior, then the reality is there is a much higher chance of their behavior changing! 

Here are a few things that come to mind.


Everything has changed for you. You are free, you are excited about it, you see something they don’t. You know that if they could just see what you see then they would understand. The problem is that they need to WANT to see it – and that has to happen on their own. And in my experience, it does not happen through comments on their drinking, or unsolicited advice or judgment. It does not happen through words, it happens through your actions. You are an example you want them to want what you have – that freedom, that happiness. If all they see you have is a poor attitude and a nagging spirit, they won’t quit drinking.

Accept yourself first, make sure this is your path and that you’re whole. Focus on you.

They drink alcohol, I mean didn’t we all? So does the majority of the western world? I don’t want to downplay it – and you know how passionate I am about not drinking – but it is good to keep it in perspective. When you accept yourself and your decision fully you can accept them and exactly where they are. You were once there too.

Remember that their drinking does not reflect on you.

It’s easy in marriage to think that the other person is responsible for your happiness and that their behaviors should be controlled, they are not and they shouldn’t be.  Even if you desperately want to control their behavior you have to know that the best way to achieve that is through grace and acceptance which encourages self-reflection. I want to make an important exception. If your partner’s drinking is putting you or your family in danger with either physical or emotional abuse that is a totally different story. In that instance, you need firm boundaries that keep you and your family safe. Otherwise, if it’s just “I quit drinking but my partner won’t” that is bothering you realize that this is similar to starting a diet, an exercise, or any other lifestyle change. They might not join you initially but once they see how the positive changes it’s making in your life, they will want it for themselves.

Social Situations

When it comes to navigating friendships, social outings and business relationships I have one hard and fast rule that made my life easier. Have a backup plan, drive yourself, and leave when it ceases to be fun.

I tortured myself for the first 6-8 months because I was so determined to do everything I used to do. The truth is that when your friends start repeating themselves, or can’t stand up straight they become incredibly boring. The part of them that you love and admire and that makes you laugh has to some degree disappeared. Which sucks. What’s even worse is when it is a work colleague or manager that you begin to lose respect for because of their actions. I now take it as a reminder that you used to be that way too. I become very grateful that I am not and I make my excuses to do something I would rather do, curl up in bed with a great book or watch Netflix. Even better is being able to get a good night’s sleep so I can get up early and do something I would really enjoy.

Time is precious

Time is something that we have that we never get back. Spend it wisely. We have already wasted or lost so much of it. That goes true for fighting over the fact that you quit drinking but your partner hasn’t. Give them time. Let them see what being alcohol-free is bringing to your life. Ask them to download and read the first 40 pages of This Naked Mind and see if you can inspire them to change as well.

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