A Spouses Guide To Temporary Separation From An Acoholic

temporary separation

If you’ve thought about a temporary separation from your alcoholic husband…

You’re not alone.

After many vain attempts to keep the marriage together it’s not uncommon to want your own space. You might feel time away from each other is the answer.

It could even be worse when children are caught up in the situation. Especially if they live in fear of your alcoholics anger problems. You might believe you would feel more comfortable if he wasn’t in the home.

If you decide to pursue a temporary separation, keep in mind the majority of them end in divorce.

Unfortunately, most lawyers will refuse to take up a legal separation case. They know what the final outcome will most likely be… divorce.

The only real reason an attorney may take the case is if there’s substantial assets involved. Such as bank accounts, stocks, pensions, real estate or a business.

It costs almost as much in legal fees to separate as is does to divorce.

If you feel the only hope is to separate, here are a few factors to consider.

Who Should Move Out?

He needs to be the one to find another place to live.

If you leave, and the separation leads to a divorce, it’s possible he’ll be the one who gets the home. Until then he can be alone and drink. If he wants to do that, let him get his own place.

The same if children are involved. The parent who keeps the children while separated is the one most likely to get physical custody at the point of divorce.

I’m sure you don’t want them in the home with his alcoholic behaviors if you’re not there.

If you take the chance of leaving the children with your husband, and the separation ends in divorce, it’ll be much more difficult for you to make the case to gain custody. Do you want to take that chance?

Reconciliation Requires Change

If you’re dead set on separation, consider this.

If you think your communications isn’t good now, just wait until he’s not in the home. It’s going to be even harder.

What was five to ten minutes a day of conversation becomes five to ten minutes, once or twice a week. Do you really think it will get better if communication is reduced?

A temporary separation may not work if your alcoholic husband isn’t willing to change. What is the chance of that happening?

If both of you want the marriage to survive, it’s his responsibility to focus on recovery after he moves out.

Reconciliation is possible but not probable if he gets help. Time away from you and the kids, may give him a chance to think about what he’s lost, and realize what his addiction cost his family.

You may find that the stress is so reduced that his return to the home is out of the question.

If he doesn’t change, you may choose to pursue legal action. Do that while you live in the safety and comfort of your own home.

Make sure you look out for yourself and the children, and hope he has a desire to deal with his alcohol problem.

If you’ve tried a temporary separation, let us know in the comments how it worked out.


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Here’s What 32 Other People Thought...

  1. Ross

    after reading this, I’m concerned. I was advised by my interventionist, and read about other people in al-anon who chose seperation until the alcoholc wants to get well. I didnt know the odds were so stacked against us!
    Am I also, making it easier for him to be tempted to keep contact with the other woman, he said he wants to move away from, who lives in same complex? He wanted to come home…Please advise!I didnt want my marriage to be lost.

    • Tom

      I understand your concern based on what your interventionist told you and what was in the article. The purpose of this article was to help you explore the options and allow you to make the best choice. We can’t tell you what to do…just give you ideas. You’re the one who has to make the final decision. Regarding contacting other women, that’s his decision. Don’t you think no matter where he lives…if he wants to contact them he can. And if he does make the decision to contact him…how important do you think you are in his life?

      • Ross

        I dont understand, he told me that he doesnt want a divorce, he’s told me he knows his thinking isnt “right’ at times.I dont understand how he can do these things now?Or rather, when relapsed?I’ve read on sites, that infidelity isn’t uncommon when it comes to alcoholism.(not that that excuses it).May be it was only me that thought marriage was special, My husband and I used to have conversations about how we’ve had many challenges and glad we stuck it out. We were arguing more before we seperated because I didnt understand his amturity level was what it was and he hit a roadblock in his coping. I’ve seen it before.

      • Tom

        You’re right. Just because he’s drinking doesn’t mean infidelity is okay. When he tell you he doesn’t want a divorce, is he just saying to get you off his back…or does he mean it? If he means it, don’t you think he’d doing something about his behaviors? If he knows his thinking isn’t “right,” it’s his responsibility to get some help. In the meantime, I suggest you stand firm in your decisions and focus on you. We can’t control what other people do, but we can control what we think, say and do. Maybe it’s time to put all your energy on yourself…and let him deal with his own problems.

    • Ross

      Thanks Tom for your responses. Sometimes reality is hard to deal with. But I am finding that it’s still better than the alternative.I appreciate your work.

      • Tom

        Hi Ross…I was wondering how you were doing. Yea…sometimes reality is hard to deal with especially when it causes us pain…but in the long run we learn and grow. Glad you’re okay!

  2. Brian

    Hi, this posting could not be any more relevant for me right now.
    My wife is and has been an alcoholic for a few years now. She did a 4 week rehab last year but drank as soon as she came out. Despite me telling her that unless she seeks some professional help and at least tries to stop, i will have no other choice than to seek a divorce, she still cotinues to drink. She does not attend any meetings and our two young children aged 9 & 6 are being badly affected by her behaivour.
    I have asked her to leave for at least a week or two to give us a break and concentrate on her recovery but she refuses. My children and i really cannot take much more, but it breaks my heart to think that i may have to tell them Mummy and Daddy are divorcing and the possible effects a divorce may have on them.
    At the same time, by letting my wife stay here drunk, the kids and i continue to suffer.
    Just tonight she has come home paralytic drunk. I cannot leave her alone with our children for even one hour any more and she can’t even pick them up from school.
    I attend Al Anon when i can, but the meetings here in London are only at 8pm, which is when i need to get kids off to sleep.
    It is amazing that although my wife knows she may lose her beloved children, she still cannot stop, such a nasty disease.
    I know there is no magic answers, but i am in such a bad way at the moment, stress levels are through he roof!

    • Tom

      I can feel your frustration in your words. It appears you’re at your “wits” end. Since she’s been in rehab, she knows what to do. She just doesn’t want to do it. Maybe it’s time to show “tough love.” That starts by doing whatever you need to so she suffers the consequences of her behavior. Even if it means going to a homeless shelter or living on the streets. That sounds harsh…when she loses everything, she may seek help. As long as she has a roof over her head…food on the table…a bed to sleep in…and a place to drink…why should she get sober.
      The reason I can suggest this, is because that’s what my family had to do to me. Once the pain…mental, emotional and physical…is greater than the pleasure (from drinking) the chances of her getting sober are very high.

      • Brian

        Thank you for your reply. That is interesting that your family making you go made you eventually find your ‘rock bottom’. I have often thought that this would be the only thing to make her possibly stop.
        Only problem is my wife completely refuses to go. I have tried to seek advice on how I can make her leave but aparantly the only option is to get an occupation order.
        I was advised that this is a very long, drawn out affair and can be more hassle than its worth.
        If I change the locks and throw her stuff out, she’ll only come banging on the door upsetting the children.
        Do you possibly have any advice on making her go? The only other option I can see is divorce, but there is no way back for her then.
        Many thanks

      • Tom

        I’m not familiar with the Occupation Order you have in the UK, but if it’s a long drawn out process that may take some decision making on your part. Here in the Us we have a temporary restraining order and they’re fairly easy to get if the person has unacceptable behaviors. Have you thought of an intervention? Maybe if family members and anyone close to her all meet with her in one room and express their concerns, and she hears what her behaviors are doing to herself and the loved one’s…there’s a chance she’ll get help. As far as what my family did to me…it was the hardest thing for them to do…and I hated them for it. But today I can see they did exactly what was needed. Today, I’m grateful for what they did!

  3. Rhonda

    Well I did move out and wish I could have been the one that stayed in the home but he lives in a house that is an inheritance from his father for him and his sisters. so the probate is still up in the air and nothing has been decided on who gets what. Basically he moved in and caused his sister to have to move out because of his behavior, this was before I was in the picture. Anyway, I moved out a couple of weeks ago and I think the part I have messed up on is that I have went back for a few days and to him I am sure I haven’t really been gone. I don’t want a divorce and he knows that so I think he is pretty comfortable with the situation, free house, he draws unemployment so he can go get his food and he one bill his electric well two now that I am not there. so he isn’t hurting so it may not work for me. But I still needed to leave, I could not under any circumstances handle anymore of the verbal abuse and chaos. It is insane and I felt myself getting emotionally sick from the environment. So I may not have outcome that I want but I don’t think I would have for sure if I would have stayed.

    • FreeMyAddict Team

      You did what you felt was best for you. There’s no need to second guess the decision. There’s never a guarantee of recovery for any alcoholic. The decision to stay or to leave is very difficult and I think very personal. Either way, FreeMyAddict supports you in your decision.

  4. Jen C.

    I’ve been separated from my alcoholic husband less than 48 hours. Something just clicked in me and I decided that I would not live with an active alcoholic anymore and I would not allow the kids to either. He refused to leave at first, so the kids and I packed up and moved to a friend’s house for one night. He agreed to leave rather than displace the kids. I don’t really have any plan in mind, I just had a moment of clarity that I had to set this boundary. I love him so much and divorce is absolutely the last thing I want, but I know that I have to get on with my life and can’t be sitting around waiting for him to get “better”. He may never recover, but I pray that he does.

    • FreeMyAddict Team

      Separation may jar your alcoholic into an awareness of the cost of his alcoholism. Just remember even if he decides to quit drinking, alcoholism is an illness and it has to be managed to maintain recovery. Here are a few keys you need to see for things to be on track: 1. He needs to willingly participate in counseling; 2. He needs to have a support system like AA that he attends often; 3.Drinking a little is relapse; and 4. You aren’t the problem…Alcohol is.

  5. Kel

    I havee been separated from my husband for almst ten months. I thought making him leave would jar him into action and make him see he would loose his family if he didn’t get help. Problem is I thought his family was his most prized possession and for him his sickness has made his drinking his first priority. I have been marreied 23years and love my husband just as much as I did the day I said my vows. I don’t know how to move past this phase. We are making no headway on our relationship at all. I barely see him or talk to him. He has joined a local American Legion for “a good cause” not because its a bar…right. It feels so hopeless and just not where I saw us at this point in our lives. He is my best friend and I miss him tremendously.

    • FreeMyAddict Team

      Separation doesn’t make an addict get it together. Your addict has a relationship with alcohol. It’s like a mistress. In order for your relationship to really work he’s going to have to deal with his addiction. When you do talk to him, speak truth to him and let him know how you feel and what you want. Don’t play a game pretending there isn’t a problem with alcohol. You both need to deal with the truth of it.
      Thanks for your comment.

      • Linda

        My situation is nearly identical to this woman’s. Separated after 22 yrs of marriage, he was my best friend, and I thought me asking home to leave to “get help” would jar him into realizing his need. Likewise, no help was sought and he invested his energy and time in starting a business, isolating himself and drinking when not at work, and acting like our family didn’t exist. So today he called and said, “What about us? Do you still want me?” I was floored! My answer was “That’s not simple to answer. Your behavior was hurting you and your family and unless you want to change it, I can’t consider reconciling.” We talked further and he said he needed to process what we discussed. I’m expecting another call in a few days. My past behavior was very codependent and I don’t want to fall back into making demands. On the other hand, I know I need to set expectations. How does that look? Can you provide a sample conversation? I’m just beginning to communicate in a healthier way and sometimes I just don’t know how to do it.

      • FreeMyAddict Team

        No one can tell you to go back to him or not. This is a very personal decision. What I can tell you for sure is if there has been no change while he has been away there will be no change if he returns. It’s a good thing you recognize your codependent behavior. Guard against returning to that behavior. A commitment to seek help for the alcohol problem to include ongoing support from a recovery group are two essential elements for any reconciliation. I suggest these two things occur before he comes home.

    • Barbara

      I am so sorry to hear of your pain. The terrible thing about alcohol is that it takes the person you love away from you. I am 7 weeks alone after 24 years of marriage and three children. I am brokenhearted. He is attending daily meetings in an attempt to get well but I had no energy left for the behaviors that went along with his drinking. Everybody keeps telling me, give it two years and you will be a new person – I am not so sure. Added to all of this is the financial burden of adding more expense to our lives. Husband now has to get an apartment. All around you, families and partners are celebrating birthdays, Christmas and I feel so alone.

      • FreeMyAddict Team

        Barbara. the price of alcoholism is multifaceted and always more expensive that we thought. I hope your loneliness will be replaced with peace and comfort as your broken heart heals.

  6. Kandy

    After months of trying to get my husband to stop drinking and LYING, I finally told him he should leave. He stayed with his cousin last night and this morning he said he is sorry and I said too late. I desperately miss him and am praying intensely for him to change. I hate seeing him this way and he puts on this puppy dog face that makes me feel sorry for him. But even his cousin agreed that he needs a little suffering. He lives in my house for free and does not even provide food for me. He did not even give me money to buy groceries in two weeks because he keeps lying and saying he did not get paid when in fact he keeps drinking out his salary. I am miserable and suffering and I cannot take the gross lack of concern for me anymore. He is drinking, smoking, gambling and constantly lying and I am so fed up. I am a sickly person and now I have to look for a job to take care of myself because he is not doing what he promised to do. And I am not materialistic or unreasonable in my needs. I just hope that he is willing to change because I love him and want him to get well so desperately. Strangely though, I feel a lot sadder and more depressed than I thought I would without him. I am shocked at how badly I miss him, despite his abusiveness. {this post is just a tip of the iceberg of the abuse I have been putting up with :-[ }

    • FreeMyAddict Team

      Kandy your situation is all to common with alcoholics. They usually have great intentions but real poor follow through. At times they intentionally lie about what’s going on. Unfortunately things won’t change until your alcoholic recognizes it’s not worth it to continue to use. I don’t know where that line is for him.
      Of course you love him. I hope you’ve come to realize it’s just as important to love yourself. You’ve made some steps to look out for your best interest. It’s a good start.
      Thanks for your comments.

  7. Tiffany

    I have been married for 2 years. I have a beautiful 3month old baby girl. I just took my daughter and left my husband. He’s a functioning alcoholic. He has a decent job and rarely misses work from his drinking.He’s not physically abusive, but can be verbally. He’s very good at making me feel like i’m the one with the issue and that I’m a weirdo because I don’t drink the way his family and friends do. I told him that we needed to take time to figure out if our relationship is what we really want. He’s told me in the past that he’d quit if our relationship depended on it, but he’s also said he’d be miserable if he couldn’t drink. Right now he says he has quit and is miserable without us and will do anything for us to come home. I don’t want to split our family up but I also don’t want our daughter to grow up on a rollercoaster ride and I’m sick of it as well. I’m only 29, and I’m trying to figure out what he needs to do to show he’s really going to change. I’ve been mostly focusing on myself and taking care of my daughter, but sometimes I stop and try to figure out what will show us he’s going to stop and I don’t even know if I can ever trust him again.

    • FreeMyAddict Team

      You’ve taken some courageous steps with your husband. The only way for things to get better for the two of you is for him to get help for the ‘miserable without alcohol’ issue. That’s a clear indication that he has problems with alcohol and has every desire to use again. If alcoholism is in his family he’s very likely to have ongoing issues. Professional help and support makes a huge difference. Thanks for your comment. I wish you well.

  8. Mary

    I have been married to my alcoholic husband for 6 years. Last year he completed a 3 month rehab programme, but drank again as soon as he returned home. I took our 5 kids and moved out for the night, and putting it down to a ‘blip’ returned home the following day. Two months later the same thing happened again, and I moved out for a week, this time seeking legal advice how to get him out of the family home, which he was aware of. I returned home again. Now 3 months on again he has lapsed again. I moved out for several days, until he agreed that the children should be in the family home, and he has moved out and in with a neighbour. He undoubtedly loves us all, and I love him and want him back with us, but I don’t want my children growing up in this environment and damaged by the consequences. He is attending AA, and putting effort into following the steps properly, but so far it has only been a week. I know he can stay sober for a couple of months at a time, but I need to know that he can follow his recovery program and deal with his addiction when he feels the need to drink again. He is spending a good deal of time with the family despite our ‘separation’, since he is a good dad and husband when sober, but I don’t know if this is wise considering the exercise?! I would love to let him home again asap but feel I have to stay strong and make him prove his commitment to showing our kids the best example. How long should I keep him out? Are we talking weeks? Months?

    • FreeMyAddict Team

      Rehab doesn’t always take the first time through. There needs to be a solid continuing care plan that includes accountability and total abstinence. There may be many more of these episodes to come. If you set a boundary regarding moving back home make sure it’s one you can keep otherwise it becomes easy for him not to believe what you say you expect is true. Thanks for your comments.

  9. Laura

    I’m struggling with my own depression because I married an alcoholic. I am exhausted of the excuses and denial.
    WE have one child together and I had two when we got married. I have asked him to leave and I am not turning back. I am tired of feeling humiliated and berated. I’ve been called so many names. I even moved my 11 year old daughter to my Mothers, a few years ago, because I thought he wasn’t a good example for her. I thought he would be committed to change and seeking help. He tells me he will over and over. But this time, I am for real. No joke. I am committed to living my life without him and dealing with his drinking. If he’s not drinking, he’s sneaking drinks around the house. I find beer cans all over the house. The bathroom, above the kitchen sinks, and all over in the garage. Once, a beer can popped up from the washing machine.

    Yeah. He’s sick and needs help. I am not a licensed therapist, I am a wife, mother, and lover.

    • FreeMyAddict Team

      No one can decide for you about staying or leaving. When you make a decision know that it’s your decision and not based on others. After all you live with the result of the decision. There is no doubt your children are effected by his drinking behaviors. Your depression may be a totally separate issue. You could consult with your family physician and ask for something for depression. There are many very helpful medications that could assist you through this time.

  10. Rachael

    I moved out about 3 weeks ago. My husband has been through more rehabs than I can count. We have already gone bankrupt over them once. The constant crises and drama and ruined plans from his drinking has left me exhausted and depressed. My initial thought was that if I moved out, he would at least have to be responsible for his own rent (I have been paying all the bills until now). Once he can get to a place where he can invite me to move in with him rather than begging me for a place to stay and once he can demonstrate commitment to sobriety, we can reconcile…that was the plan. However, three weeks into it, I am so frustrated that somehow my world STILL is revolving around him. Week 1 I had to call an ambulance because he had resorted to drinking rubbing alcohol. Week 2 we were working out how and when I’d get the rest of my stuff but on the planned date, he was drunk and stayed that way. A friend of ours kept expressing concern to me that my husband shouldn’t be left alone. Now we are at Week 3 where he again flaked on moving day, and I had neighbors calling me begging me to come help my husband he looks really bad, etc. I do check on him twice a week. The neighbors don’t realize that his binge drinking always gets him to the place of needing an ambulance whether I’m there or not. Yesterday, he called an ambulance for himself. I had to call and pay for the cab that took him home from the hospital. He has been calling me since 5:30 this morning asking for cigarettes, food, money, whatever and doesn’t seem to realize what day it is or even that it is daytime. I love him. I feel cruel but my involvement has not helped him in the past. Yet now I have neighbors asking me to jump in and rescue him some more. I don’t want him to die. I love him. Yet when people ask me how I am or ask me to tell them about myself, I’m lost…reality is work and dealing with another of his drinking crises, more work more crisis. I am so tired yet I want to be reasonable. I get that’s it a disease. Am I just being selfish?

    • FreeMyAddict Team

      Rachel, you are not being selfish you’re being real. Alcoholism is devastating and painful for the addict and those who care about them. The tree things your alcoholic needs to get in place is 1. Break denial in treatment and accept the disease, 2. Establish a support network and set up a schedule for attendance, and 3. Get an accountability partner (not related to him) and meet regularly. The accountability partner must be brutally honest about how they see the recovery going forward.
      One good thing I hear is that he hasn’t given up trying to get help. There is no magic cure and no magic number of times in rehab it takes honesty, support and accountability.

  11. Lindy

    Hi thank you for all of the above stories. Helps that I am not alone. I am married to an alcoholic who has liver damage and kidney damage he was doing well off the drink but found out that he hit the bottle again. I had promised that if he did this I would walk so when I caught him I said that is it we are over,although he asked for forgiveness I just can’t this has been a huge road of stress upset etc and I just can’t do it. Due to his illness he is on disability money as he is not fit to work and we had discussed selling our house to downsize as the mortgage is really high, now he is in the basement refusing to sell but we can’t keep the mortgage going and when I talk to him he agrees to sell and then he changes his mind I don’t know what to do?

    • FreeMyAddict Team

      Lindy, I’m not an attorney but the question about the house suggest an initial consultation with an attorney might be warranted. On the alcohol issue. It sounds like your husband has returned to alcohol (which is part of the disease). I would suggest he either did not establish a support network for recovery or was simply trying to do it on his own. Regardless, he needs to get help to stop drinking and support to keep from returning to alcohol.

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