5 Things Prevent Intimacy With Your Alcoholic


Relationships sometimes start with a burst of emotion.

Others start slowly.

The key is for the relationship to grow over time.

When alcohol’s involved the growth of intimacy is inhibited.

Let’s look at some of the reasons intimacy is prevented with your alcoholic.


Initially alcohol may seem to make your alcoholic the life of the party.

This phase may actually last a number of years.

When the change actually happens people are less and less important to your alcoholic unless there’s booze around.

This changes the dynamic a lot.

What you may have been attracted to becomes less and less likely to occur.

Gradually, there’s a shift toward isolation.

This isolation isn’t just away from family and friends who aren’t supportive of your alcoholic’s use.

It includes YOU.

You’re pushed away. The isolation you feel is due to you being perceived as a threat to continued alcohol use.

Intimacy is the the growth of both you and your alcoholic to a close sharing of who you are with the other person.

This breaks down when you’re continually trying to figure out who’s responsible for the isolation.

Regardless of how much you try to take on the responsibility ending the isolation, it takes two.

If your alcoholic isn’t willing to participate the isolation continues.


There’s one thing the alcoholic is protecting and it’s not you.

Your alcoholic is committed to protecting every opportunity to use alcohol.

This means eliminating friends who may not choose to drink.

Or those ‘social drinker’ friends who actually drink one or two are avoided for those who drink to get drunk.

This protection’s personal and generally unspoken.


In any relationship it’s difficult to develop intimacy when there’s a fear of sharing what’s inside.

Your alcoholic to perserve the addiction has had to resort to shading the truth.

It may be overt lies or total denial of the truth.

Either way, your alcoholic isn’t open to self disclosure.


Sometimes the limited self disclosure is a result of shame taken on by your alcoholic.

There’s almost two separate lives for your alcoholic, the drinking life and the sober life.

There’s often shame associated with the poor judgments of the drinking life.

In sobriety the shame may actually be a factor in using again.

When your alcoholic comes to understand alcoholism is an illness the shame can actually be released.

When shame is center stage there’s a massive wall preventing intimacy.


Your alcoholic may actually want to become intimate, but the behaviors create walls that result in secrets.

You know how difficult it is to trust what your alcoholic says.

How are you supposed to get close to someone when there a prickly porcupine?

The quills are there for a protection, to keep the secrets.

There’s usually bottles stashed, things that have happened and many difficult things to admit to themselves let alone you.

Intimacy’s limited by the lack of disclosure.

What can I do?

You need to accept there’s a lot going on in the addiction to alcohol.

It’s not that your alcoholic doesn’t love you or that there’s no desire for intimacy.

The alcoholism actually prevents the ability to disclose.

We call this denial.

Your alcoholic’s responsible for breaking through denial.

This will usually require rehab and ongoing support to be successful.

You’re self disclosure will go unmatched by your alcoholic.

You may want to decide how much self disclosure is given, or limit your self disclosure to times when your alcoholic’s sober.

This isn’t an easy journey and there’s no guarantee intimacy will be attained.

You can know it’s not likely to be all because of you like you may hear from your alcoholic.

In what ways have you recognized your alcoholic avoiding intimacy. Share with us in the comment section below.


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Here’s What 34 Other People Thought...

  1. David

    The only things David really hides from me is anything to do with drinking. We don’t talk about money (because then he’d have to acknowledge how much he spends on booze) which means we live without a budget or any kind of plan for the future. We don’t talk about how we’ve turned into a couple of hermits. Dave was the life of the party. When we first got married, we had people over a lot. He went out a lot with his friends which was fine by me. I had friends too. And we went out to dinner and movies and dancing. Last time I asked him out to dinner I thought he was going to pass out from fright. That seriously was the look on his face. Now we just don’t even talk about going out anymore. Sometimes when he’s drunk he’ll be nice and suggest a movie sometime but he always forgets. We don’t talk about how we don’t get to have the grandkids over in the evening that much because then we’d have to talk about how he dropped one of them once and almost fell on the other when he was drunk, and how he’s passed out most of the time. We also never talk about sex which used to be a ton of fun but is now regulated to rushed morning sex. Which I really am starting to hate as I am not a morning person. We did talk about it once when he tried to insist he couldn’t perform in the evening because he’s getting older but I said, sure, now that he’s older he has to choose between booze and sex because his body can’t do both. End of discussion. He still loves to share what’s going on his life but he’s a bit miffed that I’m not as interested when I’ve heard the same story 3 or 4 times in an evening and then again in the morning because he forgot that he told me the night before. I never really talk to him for much the same reason. I get tired of having to remind him I already told him something many times, or better yet, he tells me he’s tired of always being the one listening to me. We also don’t talk about how forgetful he’s become. I tried once or twice a few years ago but he just made a joke. We have become roommates who happen to have sex a couple of times of week. The only person having an intimate relationship in our marriage is Dave and that’s with the booze, not with me. What I’m working on now is intimacy with myself. Being honest with myself and being nicer to myself.

    • FreeMyAddict Team

      You really need to take care of your needs to be there when he’s ready for recovery.

    • MrsVain

      OMG!! you just told my story!! even down to his name!!! the only difference is that my David found some hood rat that “understood” him (and his drinking since she is an alcoholic too) and i divorced him last year since this is not the first time he cheated on me. now he is very happy (?) in love with some woman who is actually married to another man (not living with him or her kids obvisiously)

      i just dont understand it. he has forgotten all about me and his 2 boys. i guess i made him feel so bad and so guilty that the better opinion was to f*ck someone he just met? she actually told me that all i do is make him feel bad. WTF? she had no problem being with him even thou she knew he was married. (he was unhappy and i was mean dontchaknow) she had no problem taking him away from the woman and children who loved and needed him.

      meanwhile i am devastated because i just cant believe the man i loved could and would do this to me.

      • FreeMyAddict Team

        Alcoholic’s by definition make impaired (poor) decisions. This is a good example. Thanks for your comment.

  2. Kat

    And again , While Rod was drinking heavily He could not commit to sexual desires. The thought was there but the strength and energy were sapped, our intimacy in sharing grew cold and unwanted, the smell of alcohol was to great the nasty thoughts were overwhelming , it interfered with our martial vows. on top of that the sweats at night, all this made it almost improbable to love. the stop drinking has helped with this allot but my emotions were still there ,after forty years of it i had to retrain myself to love him again in another way, it was like being with a stranger of which i really did not wan tot be with, your drunk changes you then they don’t understand why your not changing because he did, you have to date and become friends all over again ,and it really does help if your honest with each other and going to church for the word of God is strong
    check out this verse
    Revelation 21:5
    Jesus’ incredible statement that he is “making everything new.” Jesus brings spiritual restoration to everyone who believes.Women !
    Unfortunately, a lot of women want to give God a little help in reconstructing the old boy. So she brings out her hammer and chisel – nagging him to change, pushing, criticizing, attacking, putting him down. She’s making this guy her personal makeover project – “I’ll change him.” Not likely. All those push tactics make him feel cornered, attacked – less secure and therefore, less likely to change.

    • FreeMyAddict Team

      It’s not easy to ‘turn things over’ and leave them there. We like to stay actively involved in the ‘fixing’ things.

  3. Diane

    It is me pulling away from my husband that prevents intimacy. Even if he’s out of his mind drunk he wants to be next to me, with me, or just talking. I totally block him out when he’s drinking which is mostly every night and all day and night on the weekends. When he has been sober I have explained that to him. Separating myself from him is the only way I can survive right now.

    • FreeMyAddict Team

      You’ve applied one of the best strategies…important conversation only when sober.

  4. David

    I’m like Diane in that I also pull away. My husband always wants to be around, always wants to talk but I’ve come to see that just being around and talking at someone isn’t really intimacy unless you can listen and be responsive to your partner. What the drunk husbands are doing isn’t intimacy, it’s neediness. Think about it. A small child wants your attention when you’re on the phone but they don’t neccessarily want to have to pay attention to you if you get off the phone for them. So what you’re doing and what I’m trying to do isn’t denying intimacy. It’s recognizing that it really isn’t there to begin with. It won’t be either until they quit drinking. At least that’s how I fee about it. I can’t really trust him with anything until then.

    • FreeMyAddict Team

      I’ve heard it said that intimacy is best described as ‘in to me you see’. In the case of your alcoholic it’s not real likely self disclosure is on the top of the list to share.

      I hope someday your alcoholic will get free from alcohol and open up to you.

  5. I guess the ways I’ve experienced them avoiding intimacy is them avoiding me all together. But I keep them in my heart. I think of their freckles, their goofy laugh or the silly things they laughed at and my heart feels happy. The bad stuff, well it does no good to dwell on it but It’s easier for me because I’ve never lived with “them”. So,.. I guess I just try and focus on myself, making my life better and learning how to apply what I’ve learned about myself from my experiences with them. It’s not easy. In fact it feels impossible sometimes because you almost feel you’re doing them a favor by not hating them or staying angry at them. But you’re really doing yourself a favor because all the negativity takes too much energy and your energy is precious; you shouldn’t waste it that way. It is better applied elsewhere. Still, I’ve missed them and think of them often. If someone doesn’t want you in their life though,… even if YOU think you’d be good for them, … well… you just have to let go. So I keep my distance, respectfully, afraid of causing more fights or tension if I reach out. From there on, your faith has to take over. I hope they’re happy and healthy in the end. And I’m here if they ever decide they want to talk. I just hope, like with my son’s father, it’s not too late and they’re already on their way to prison. But it’s not in my control. that’s what I keep reminding myself. This was a sweet article. I really liked it :)


    • FreeMyAddict Team

      It’s hard to want closeness and find out the person you want it from seems incapable of returning it. Now that’s patently unfair. How you resolve the unfairness is key. I’m glad you put it in the context of how you expend your energy. Another way to say it might be what are your going to spend your life on and what do you expect as a result? Caring and sharing with someone who’s ill isn’t easy but it may be very important.
      Thanks for your thoughts, Michelle

      • Caring isn’t the problem. That I do, I care a lot. But sharing, that’s the issue. Sharing takes two. You can’t share with someone who has thrown you out of their life. You have to stay away. I’m pretty sure it’s the law. So yeah, for now, I’m solo and happy with what I have in my life. There are many wonderful things going on and ways to spend my energy. It’d just be nice to share some time with him again. but like I said, that is beyond my control.

      • FreeMyAddict Team

        Agreed it does take to for sharing to be successful, maybe it’ll happen in time.

    • Cayli

      This is exactly what I’m going through right now with my boyfriend. When we first started dating he was not as bad about drinking as he has become over the last year. We both fell for each other fast and hard, and many of our friends tell him all the time that I’m the girl he’s been waiting for. But after he got a DUI last summer and faced prison time but was given drug court instead. all the stress and anxiety drove him deeper and deeper into drinking and countless times I’ve been pushed away. He just stops wanting to hang out, spends all his time out drinking or home alone drinking when he’s not working. Your post made me happy to know I’m not the only one that goes through this. It breaks my heart because he still tells me he loves me but “it’s just better this way”. I’ve never understood that. I don’t want to walk away because obviously I don’t want to lose him but also because I know he’s not going to have anyone when I’m gone since all his friends are big into partying. Part of me says to walk away and part of me says to stay. I’m so torn on what to do. I can’t imagine not being able to spend time with him or talk with him but I know I can’t force that on him. What are some ways you got past all the guilty thoughts? I just don’t know what to do in the situation period :(

      • FreeMyAddict Team

        Alcohol steals the relationship. It becomes like the mistress. Even though you want to relationship to be better; even though he may want the relationship to be better; it won’t be until the alcohol issue is put to rest.

        What can YOU do? Well, you need to take special effort to know and care for your needs. Realize what this disease does to your bf. You alone can decide what you’re willing to deal with in the relationship.

        Some simply walk away. Others go along for the journey even though it may be emotionally painful.

        There’s support for whatever your choice may be. Thanks for your comments.

  6. robin

    intimacy …..alcohol stole his manhood years ago …”ED”he makes attempts that are really sad to watch and be a part of. what passes for sex with us is being in the same bed naked. Celibacy is a cruel way to live when your world is seeped in the sense of touch. unconditional love is not easy. too live celibate for God is something honorable to live celibate for another person is hell. There is no easy way to do it . It tests your constitution want to know if you really love someone be celibate for a few years …still with them ? its love .
    This is by far the hardest part of my devotion to this man. What few and far between attempts he makes are while he is drunk …enough said . pleasant conversation …not happening he chooses to relate whatever has gone on at work …and repeats it over and over …I think but know nothing ,that he is losing his short term memory he can replay the past like it was yesterday . but a conversation we had yesterday he can never remember. at this point in our lives I just want him to be loved and never be lonely . The future does not look too bright .

    • FreeMyAddict Team

      Alcoholism extracts a high price and intimacy is one major part of that price.

  7. David

    Hi Robin,

    My husband has also mostly given up trying to engage in sex when he is drunk but he’s alway capable in the morning. I personly do not like it in the morning. I am a poor sleeper and I feel miserable and tired in the morning, worse really than the evening. Plus he has that stale, boozey smell. I don’t enjoy it at all. But I prefer that to no sex at all. Maybe that would be an okay time for you and maybe it would work for him. My husband also has very poor short term memory. He’ll ask me about something or tell me something 3 or 4 times in the space of a few minutes. The only way I have come to terms with that is to just not expect him to remember anything plus I avoid even minor conversations as much as possible after 4:00 pm. I am learning not to be disappointed. What is the point?

    • FreeMyAddict Team

      Brain cells are actually killed by alcohol consumption. Apparently some of his were needed for memory. Hang in there!

  8. Willow

    I think it’s harder too when there are promises or those long sober stretches. We just came off another one. I thought because the alcohol has affect his health and he again has issues with the law and it has now affect our entire family he would have woken up. He was sober and engaged like he was years ago, said he knew the issues and was going to get help. I was ready with a few names, love and support. Then it started right back up again. I keep trying but I am really tired. It sucks when he says I never set up dates or try. So I did. I planned a nice night and met him at his work only to find him drunk. Because I didn’t drink at dinner he made a big deal out of it and I stupidly took it personal and let it ruin dinner for me. After that it was just his rambling how and what stinks in his life and that is why he drinks and I should just accept it. Right now I feel so alone as I keep working on me but it’s lonely when you don’t have someone to share with you and have those intimate moments with. I need the emotional support to want to have the physical part. I feel like I am done and it might be time to figure out how to get out of this marriage. It’s just I know who he use to be and I still love him.

    • FreeMyAddict Team

      Unless your husband get the help and support he needs to stay sober it’s almost impossible on his own. I would agree it may be a little harder when your alcoholic has periods of sobriety and relapses. It bolsters the idea he might be able to handle recovery on his own. Very unlikely. My recommendation is to urge rehab followed by a strong support system like AA.

      • gonzo

        Divorce the guy, natural consequences are great for their recovery. You get rid of a drunk that tries to finagle his way in life using and abusing others. you are the sacrificial wife as you have been all along. He loved the bottle more than you all along, so has really been having an affair on you all along. Marriage is just a prop front for sake of integrity projection. All fake.

      • FreeMyAddict Team

        Alcoholism does behave like the other person of an affair. The big difference is this is an illness. A very insidious illness. Some choose to walk away and who could blame them. Others decide to stay and do what they can to help the alcoholic. No one need judge a person regardless of which you decide. Thanks for your comment.

  9. MaryJane

    I cannot get intimate any longer with my husband due to his drinking. He has major liver issues which we spent thousands of dollars on followed by two DUIs. I don’t know what to do and he thinks I am terrible for not wanting to be intimate. I am at my wits end and I feel so trapped right now.

    • FreeMyAddict Team

      Intimacy can be viewed as “in to me you see”. When your husband is lost in the booze there is no wonder you find it difficult to share your innermost self. The conflict between desire to share but knowledge of how alcohol makes it impossible is a major tension. You are NOT crazy. Your feelings are quite NORMAL. Be you and speak truth to your husband. Thanks for your comments.

  10. Emma

    I lost the man I loved to alcoholic hepatitis liver disease. Prior to him dying he pushed me out of his life, he was selfish. I knew this was the alcohol, but still thought he hated me and I still wonder if he cared. I told him I loved him and he pushed me away. He struggled with ED and intimacy. I was intimate with him but he could not return it. His friend told me afterwards that he had loved being with me he just did not, for some reason, believe a “man showed affection” and did not know how to show his feelings. I will always wonder now if he pushed me away because he knew he was dying and maybe didn’t want to hurt me or if he hated me for telling him I loved him…I guess I will never know.

    • FreeMyAddict Team

      Sorry for your loss.

  11. Carrie

    Ive been with my partner for nearly a year and a half. It was brilliant ..good fun and lots of sex..then we calmed down a bit still very happy deciding that we were hopelessly in love with one another. A few times now his drinking has caused violent outbursts calling me a slut etc to which I’ve tried to walk away from and calm the situation. The next day he’s very upset and I just want to hold him and tell him I’ll never hurt him and we go on from there hoping there won’t be a next time. The last time was last week and I had to call the police and now we aren’t allowed to contact each other until the court date comes I’m so confused and hurt. I don’t think he knows he has a problem. But I’m reading up to try to understand him. I want to fix this I can’t let it go to waste because of alcohol it’s ruined others in my life!

    • FreeMyAddict Team

      Your hunch about him not knowing he has a problem is very likely. Addicts are most often in denial about their own issues. Chances are the addiction will continue and even escalate if he remains in denial. Hopefully you’re able to relate to many of the articles on this site. Learn to set some boundaries, don’t enable and expect him to face his addiction. Thanks for your comments.

  12. In Such Sorrow

    I am having a hard time figuring out my alcoholic girlfriend. I wasn’t even sure she was an alcoholic, because it would seem she only drinks once every two weeks. But when she drinks, she drinks to get so smashing drunk, this is not like a little tipsy. Often she will remember nothing of what we have talked about, she falls over herself, and she will tell me about getting drunk when she is away from me and blacking out, not remembering anything, and she has come back with bruises. Intimacy has been incredibly difficult. I try to give such love, to be so caring, and to try to be considerate, but often it seems I am the only one being considerate. She doesn’t like talking on the phone, rarely texts, and has really, really neglected me. I used to bring this up all the time, but since she threatens to break up with me if I talk about my need for more time and intimacy, I just suffer in silence. I know she suffers a lot, so I try to tend to her. For a couple months, she was basically living with me, and I thought finally at last a “we” was beginning to form, after almost two years of dating. It seemed we were forming a home together in that emotional sense of togetherness. But recently an apartment she had been holding onto she basically just moved back into, and is now only hanging out with me once or twice a week. She claims it’s because she needs to work a lot, and her work is nearby, but it feels like it’s more than the workaholism. Friends and family familiar with alcoholism tell me it’s very likely she has that apartment and is staying there so frequently so that she can drink, because she may be ashamed to drink around me because I don’t. I have never shamed her because of it, and although it is VERY troubling to me when she drinks, and I really want her to stop, I’ve never given her a hard time about it. She has told me she went to AA at some point before she met me, but stopped, and has mentioned about three times that maybe she should go back. Of course I wanted to yell, “YES! PLEASE! PLEASE!” but knew that would be counterproductive, so I said, “If that’s what you feel you need, I would support you in that”, and the last time, I even said that I would go with her if she chose to do that and needed support. But I just can’t explain why she wants to spend so much time apart from me, particularly when we were really beginning to bond. I don’t have any proof or evidence that she is drinking at her apartment, so I don’t know, nor would I know how to confront her. The one time I tried to initiate conversation about her drinking — in an incredibly loving, diplomatic way — she uncharacteristically got mean, and we basically had a huge (one way) fight about it, which kind of taught me to not bring it up. But I am feeling so emotionally starved I don’t even know what to do with myself. She never likes to talk on the phone, she texts very infrequently, almost never responds to my emails, is completely blase about love poems I send her, often doesn’t even text to say goodnight when she gets home from work, yet claims she loves me, and wants a future with me, and that she is just “busy” trying to get her life together so we can have a future. I understand people can get really busy with work and schooling, but my heart does not understand how she can isolate so much. I feel like an idiot for asking this, but is there any likelihood that the reason she is at this apartment an hour away from me so much now is so she can drink? Could it be as simple as that? I keep trying to find emotional explanations, and try to tend to what’s going on inside her. I’ve had to clam up my feelings, so I don’t seem “needy”, and act nonchalant, but inside, it’s really hurting me. A couple weeks ago for several days she completely ignored me, and when I finally sent her an email telling her I needed more communication and to please make me more of a priority, she said, “We need to talk about breaking up.” This was a terrible shock to me. She has told me she is often depressed, and I have tried to talk with her about this, and help her, but she is often very clammed up. It has felt at times like the drink is the other person, the main relationship, and I’m just a side thing. Does this sound like a situation where her staying away may be due to drinking, so I don’t see how much she drinks, and if so, how strong a likelihood? Although there are obviously other problems like depression and her focus on work, sorting those out from what may mainly be alcoholism is proving very difficult for me, and I know those who know a lot about alcoholism might have a hunch about this.

    • FreeMyAddict Team

      You describe your girlfriend as having times when she doesn’t remember what happened when she was drinking. This is what we refer to as a ‘blackout’. Social drinkers don’t have blackouts, period. Whether your girlfriend drinks every day or only in binges the damage is relatively the same. Remember alcohol is a depressant. When she feels down she may turn to alcohol, drink some thinking it will make her feel better and it only makes things worse. This is a typical cycle. I’m glad she wen to AA before and suggest she might return. I think she needs some help from a professional who is trained in addiction and for her to establish a strong support system such as AA as part of her ongoing recovery. You have been very supportive and caring. Make sure you don’t enable her drinking. I suggest you read some of the articles on this site regarding enabling.
      Often times there is more than addiction involved. Sometimes there are co-occurring disorders such as depression, anxiety, bipolar or other things. A good addiction professional should know how to screen for other issues as well.

      If you want to talk with people who understand what you’re going through you might try an Al-Anon meeting in your community.

  13. In Such Sorrow

    p.s. it’s really important for me to figure this out, because I don’t know how to explain it, but it’s almost like she has a way of “normalizing” her behavior, so that I feel like the crazy one for wanting to spend more time with the woman I love, like I’m being unreasonable and demanding for wanting more than one or two nights a week with each other, and some communication during the week. It’s having some weird “gaslighting” effect whereby I’m even questioning myself, but while I may express wanting to spend time with her, I never put demands on her, she comes and goes as she pleases, she often breaks or forgets appointments we have made to do things. It feels like everything else has priority in her life except for me. If all this seems like an alcoholic thing, I need to know, so I can name it, and stop feeling like I’m the bad one for craving and valuing intimacy.

    • FreeMyAddict Team

      Generally alcoholics don’t like the label. There’s a problem with alcohol and behavior is effected. Encouraging her to get an evaluation is not being critical of her it’s being caring. The professional MUST have training in Addictions.

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