Boundaries With An Alcoholic Spouse (part 2)

This is Boundaries with an Alcoholic Spouse, part two. If you haven't watched part one, I suggest you go back and watch that first.

But if you've already watched it and you're here for the answers, you're in luck because we'll go over those boundary examples.

Under the drunk driving category, we had four boundaries to explore.

#1- I'm not going to allow you to drive our kids if I think you've been drinking.

 
This one is a pretty appropriate boundary. Here's a hint-A healthy boundary usually starts with "I." It's not telling the other person what they will and won't do, you're saying what you will and won't do. *A special note about this boundary...I think that's an appropriate, reasonable, healthy boundary, and it's communicated appropriately, but I want you to ask yourself, how will you hold that boundary? It's not just what boundary you'll set, but how to enforce it. Make sure you've thought about that before you set this type of boundary.

#2-  You're not going to leave this house and drive our car when you've been drinking.
 

This is not an appropriate boundary.
It may be good judgment and wise thinking, but as far as boundaries go, this is not an appropriate boundary because, in this example, you are telling someone else what they can and cannot do, which means you're on their side of the street. Remember, boundaries are for you.

#3- I will no longer provide insurance for your car under my name.

If you think they're likely to drive intoxicated, that is an okay boundary because that has to do with you and what you will and won't do so that one is a perfectly fine, and healthy boundary.

#4- Please do not drive home drunk. It makes me very nervous. I'm constantly worried you're going to hurt yourself or someone else. Please call me instead.

 
Not a boundary. This is just simply an ask, and there are a few inherent problems with this ask.
The person may not be very likely to call you because they don't want to admit they've been drinking. If a person drinks all the time and they start calling you late at night, you're likely to build resentment about it.

Moving on to our money boundaries (because those are always interesting).

#1. You're not going to waste any more of my money buying your alcohol.


That is not an appropriate boundary because you are telling someone else what they are and aren't going to do. It's not that you can't decide that you are no longer going to pay for someone's alcohol, but what you can't do is tell them what they are and are not going to do.
A better way to say that might be to say something like, "I will no longer be picking up alcohol when I go out and buy our groceries."

#2- I will continue to pay your car payment as long as you go to three Alcoholics Anonymous meetings a week.


Now that one sounds good on the surface because it's what you will and won't do, and it gives them some responsibility of going to three meetings a week. But to be honest, I don't think that's a healthy boundary because it has some inherent issues. First and foremost, figuring out if they're going to three meetings will be exhausting.
Secondly, even if they are going to three meetings a week, what you're trying to do there is force recovery, which isn't possible.
Sometimes you can force compliance with a rule like this, but you can't do this with recovery.

#3- I will no longer be covering your car payment.

 
That is a perfectly healthy, appropriate boundary, but be careful. Do not follow it up with anything like, "because you're a drunken loser, I pay for everything else around this house, and I'm sick of supporting you."
When you throw those digs on the back end, you take the healthy out of it.

#4- You must have a job if you want to keep living in this house.

 
I know, that seems reasonable, and it's not so much that it's completely unreasonable, but it's not a healthy way to set a boundary.
And the first clue to that is because it starts with YOU. Remember, if you start something with "I", you're probably not in the healthy boundary zone. If your spouse is the one you're trying to set the boundary around, it can get complicated because you may have to go through legal hoops to enforce not allowing them to live in the house.

Let's move on to household responsibilities.

#1- From now on, you're responsible for washing your clothes. I'm tired of messing with your stuff. It just smells like alcohol, and to be honest, it makes me sick to my stomach.


That one is probably not a healthy boundary to set because you're telling them what they are and aren't going to do. They aren't going to be responsible, and you can't enforce that, and you're throwing in a lot of digs in there, which will trigger a big argument or wall of defense.

#2- Smelling alcohol on your clothes is a trigger for me. When I get triggered, I take it out on everyone else.


This is an appropriate and healthy boundary. They may let their laundry sit there forever. They may run out of laundry, but you can't force them to be responsible. All you can do is decide what you will and won't be responsible for.

#3- I will no longer clean up your dishes from your late-night drinking and cooking episodes.

This is an appropriate boundary. It's about you and not about them. It's not telling them you can't get up and cook late at night because you make a big mess, and I'm sick of it.

#4- You need to be responsible for your messes.

That is not a healthy boundary because you're telling someone else what to do or not to do. That's a suggestion.

I know these boundaries can be complicated, and sometimes it's semantics and figuring out your side and their side of the street. If you want to know more about keeping healthy boundaries with an alcoholic or addicted spouse, click HERE to take a quiz about boundaries. You can see where you fall on the scale and what boundaries could be improved.

Amber Hollingsworth

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