Any time I mention my concerns my partner laughs it off and says I’m exaggerating
PROBLEM: In my 20s and early 30s I had several failed relationships and I know that my parents and family were very disappointed that I had not settled into a long-term relationship. Four years ago, I met a really nice guy who told me very early on in the relationship that he was due to move to the UK for work. We made the most of our time together and spent almost every night out on the town having a fantastic time. When he left, we saw each other at least once per month with both of us sharing the burden of travelling to see each other.
We spent magical weekends together: we would go to the best restaurants, parties and pubs and when apart, would miss each other. Last year I told him that I wanted to move in with him and start to plan a family. I was prepared to move to the UK to be with him, but he said that he would love to come home and start planning our life together. My parents were delighted and gave us a very generous deposit and we have just bought a beautiful house together. When my partner moved back to the neighbourhood he quickly started to meet up with old friends for reunions in the local pubs and nightclubs. He also works with a younger group of people and goes drinking with them two to three nights per week, in fact I never really get to see him much.
I realise now that during our long-distance relationship, there would always be alcohol. Any time I have mentioned my concerns to him he laughs it off and tells me that I am exaggerating but there is never a night that he doesn’t drink to excess. I do not want to spend my life with someone who overvalues alcohol and may well have a problem.
However, I don’t know how I could cope with being single again and I know how disappointed my family would be.
ADVICE: You are at the start of sharing your life and your future with someone and now is the time to challenge any issues that might arise as it is likely that these problems will get worse when you have children and responsibilities. When we get into long-term relationships we often meet our own issues and this is the point that many people exit the relationship.
However, the possibility here is that the relationship can support someone to address things that they might otherwise never overcome. In this situation you are facing your issues of not wanting to disappoint your family – and it seems that this was also an issue for you earlier in your life when you felt your lack of relationship was hurting your family.
Is this really the measure you use for success or choice in your life?
What makes you happy and functioning may not align with your family’s aspirations and being an adult often requires that we depart from our families in a number of ways. Your family believes that you will benefit from a long-term relationship and the evidence of this is their willingness to offer money to support your relationship. However, if they see you are in a relationship where your partner puts alcohol or personal social life first, they may change their approach.
It is up to you to set the aims and goals of your own life. Ignoring what is happening so that your family does not get upset does not seem like a smart move on your part. What we need from all the important relationships in our lives is a feeling that our wellbeing is at the centre of concern and you will need to trust that your family has that for you.
You are worried that your partner has an alcohol problem and at the very least you know that he downplays his drinking so that he can continue with his lifestyle. You have already bought a house together and so we know that he is committed in some way to you but to consider having a family requires much more solidarity between you two and currently you do not have this. If you do not bring the question of his alcohol to a head, then in some way you are accepting the situation. You may need to create a crisis in order to get his attention and the first part of this is to decide if you think he is worth this effort and if you can believe in a future together. If you can answer yes to this, then you can challenge and push, knowing that both he and you will benefit from this. Tell him that if he wants to share your life, he needs to go for an alcohol assessment and that you will support him in every way you can. If the assessment suggests that he needs to moderate his drinking, then you will also be there to help with this.
If your partner refuses this, then you may need to reconsider starting a family with someone who cannot take your concerns seriously.
You have all the signs that this relationship needs attention now and if you do not act – for fear of upsetting your family – you will have let fear guide your decisions and this is unlikely to work out well for you.