Q: How do I live with a difficult spouse who struggles with alcohol and is unkind?

A: There isn’t an easy answer to this question or an easy way to live with a problematic or alcoholic spouse because it’s not an easy situation to navigate at all. One thing is for sure: You can’t look to your spouse to fulfill your needs. When dealing with a spouse who is an alcoholic, it’s going to take forgiveness. If you need to forgive your spouse 490 times a day, as Jesus commanded in Matthew 18:22, that’s what you must do. 

Jesus clarifies that He understood our tendency to be tempted, to be hurt, and how much ability we had to hurt one another. So He knows how to navigate the most difficult situations — look to Him!

I have taught classes to thousands of women over the years, and because this is a classic situation that I have encountered time and time again in those classes, I can share three things you as a wife can do while living with a problematic husband. 

  • First, as I previously stated, don’t just look to your husband to fulfill your needs. (No spouse can stand up under that kind of pressure.)
  • Second, you must forgive often. (Guarding your own heart is so important, as Proverbs 4:23 urges.)
  • Third, you need to look to God for answers. 

You might ask, “How do I look to God for answers? I don’t even know what questions to ask!” Here are several questions to help you get started. You can ask God for help with the following: 

  • “How should I navigate this situation?”
  • “How is my husband’s issue with alcohol affecting me? How is it affecting my children?”
  • “Lord, according to James 1:5, I ask You for wisdom. Please show me what to do!” 

As you seek Him out, He will show you what to do!

So many different women have taken so many different avenues. I know of a woman who received and celebrated her spouse as he was. And through her kindness and unconditional love, she absolutely won him over. He wasn’t her husband at first, but he eventually married her, adopted her child, became a Christian, got a job, and quit drinking! He didn’t turn his life around because she griped and complained about his behavior. He turned his life around because of her kindness and love. Love overcomes everything. Acting in love in the face of adversity isn’t easy, but it really does overcome everything. 

Another thing about living with an alcoholic spouse who is unking is finding someone you can go to and have a safe space with, even if it’s just for a few minutes a week. Since you’re experiencing the pressures of addiction at home, you need a safe, pressure-free space to go to. I like to call it “breathing a breath of fresh air.” There might be some joy and laughter and some coffee or tea, but you’ve got to have a breath of fresh air! You can find it with the Lord or find just a few minutes with somebody in a safe environment. Either way, find something to rejoice about with that person! And rest in knowing that while you’re breathing that fresh air, the Lord is working on your situation.