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Dear Fiona: My Husband Has A Drinking Problem – And His Mother Isn’t Helping The Issue

couple hold hands to head in despair scaled

The problem…

“My husband has an alcohol issue, he can’t control his intake and sometimes he doesn’t come home or answer calls or messages when he’s out. We’ve fought about this many times, and I’ve been sick to my stomach with anxiety and pain.

“I’ve tried calling his mother to tell her, so she can talk to him. But she downplays the issue, saying he’s not an alcoholic – even though his dad was, which was why his parents split. Somehow, she’s ended up fighting with me and turning the situation on me, saying I must’ve done something to cause him to drink or us to fight. She tries to find anything and everything to go against me and deny her son’s behaviour.

“During lockdown, we were on the verge of breaking up, and she told me that if a wife doesn’t do her husband’s laundry and cook him dinner every day then she doesn’t love him. I was the one working as a teacher (doing online schooling), and working with our daughter, but even so, I did do his laundry!

“She only lives five minutes away from us and he’s always round there – she literally doesn’t care that he’s leaving me and our children alone. She always blames me or turns on me, although my husband claims she loves me! She gives him money and then holds it over his head so he can’t say no to her. He respects her more than he does me, and he doesn’t understand what I am talking about, but they text and call every single day.

“I’ve had enough; I feel she is manipulating and narcissistic and won’t face up to the issues with her son’s drinking. Am I crazy, or are they in a very disturbing and creepy relationship?”

Fiona says…

“The relationship between a mother and son can be very close. And if, for her, her son is ‘perfect’, then anyone or anything that tries to deny that perfection can be hard to even consider. Your mother-in-law has lived with an alcoholic, so you’d expect her to be understanding, but she’s obviously finding it impossible to believe that her son could go the same way as her ex-husband.

“Perhaps she does care for you – after all, you are still trying to help him and care for him, in spite of the way he treats you. Living with an alcoholic is hard enough, but living with one where others around him are colluding with him makes it even harder.

“I’d encourage you to join Al-Anon, the group for families and friends of alcoholics. Al-Anon has over 700 groups throughout the UK and Eire, where you will find support and acceptance from others who truly understand your experiences. As they say in their information, they ‘can help you find a different way of coping with your relationship with an alcoholic’.

“Whether you want to continue that relationship and continue to support him though, is very much up to you. Your mother-in-law is a different issue though. She uses her position against you in order to manipulate your husband, and that relationship certainly sounds unhealthy.

Whether it’s disturbing and creepy though, I really don’t know; I think I would have to see their interaction together to get a better idea about that.

“It is certainly not helping your husband that she won’t face he has a problem with alcohol – have you explained to her that downplaying the problem isn’t going to help him? If you tried the angle of being worried about his health and the state of his liver, rather than being upset about his behaviour, you might appeal to her better nature.”

If you have a problem you need help with, email Fiona by writing to for advice. All letters are treated in complete confidence and, to protect this privacy, Fiona is unable to pass on your messages to other readers. Fiona regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence.