SHE'S GOT A PROBLEM WITH ALCOHOL
She wants to marry him but she's got a drinking problem.
How should he handle this tough situation?
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For more than a year, I have been troubled by my fiancée's drinking. Last week Marissa admitted to me that she is addicted to alcohol. It was one of those situations where I didn’t become aware of the extent of the problem until we were already heavily involved with each other. Another fact that you should know: this would be the second marriage for both of us. I am 53 and Marissa is 48. We both have grown children.
Despite her problem, Marissa continues to push me to set a wedding date. It has become a major issue for her because most of her friends are married, and she feels humiliated about being single. We have set tentative wedding dates in the past, then scrubbed them.
Doc, I am less worried about the date of a possible wedding than I am with Marissa’s drinking problem. I love this woman dearly, and with my encouragement she has gone to counseling, but I believe she has a long way to go.
Tonight she phoned me and pressured me again for a wedding date. When I told her I wanted to discuss it with her in person rather than over the phone, she hung up on me. I’m sure that she had been drinking because I know all of the little signs. Marissa gets a “buzz” on two or three nights a week and is a different person under those circumstances. It’s case of Doctor Jekyll and Ms. Hyde, frankly and that can be quite scary as her behavior becomes unpredictable.
Doc, I don’t think I’ve handled this entire situation very well, and I’m not sure what to do. What I do know is that I don’t want to spend the rest of my life with a partner who abuses alcohol. But when you love someone, aren’t you supposed to stick with them through the bad times? If it weren’t for the part of my character that is steadfast and loyal, I would probably have walked away by now and saved myself the anguish. Unfortunately, hanging in there is part of my character.
What would you do if you were in my position?
Hubert - who feels very conflicted
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DOC LOVE'S ANSWER
First of all, this woman wants to get married because of her friends. That’s the wrong reason to go into marriage. The reason to get married is because you’re in love with someone. I’m sure that Marissa loves you, but feeling humiliated about being single is not a sufficient reason to get hitched. What’s the big deal about being single, after all? Lots of people are single. There’s no humiliation in that. That said, you have another, massive, massive problem here.
Marissa should go to AA, which is a fantastic institution, for help. She deserves sympathy for her affliction. But remember this above all: AFTER you’re married, you have to stay with her. But BEFORE you’re married, you don’t have to stay with her. And that’s the idea of dating – to find out if the woman falls properly within the 90/10 Rule. The 90/10 Rule says that if she is 90% great and 10% a problem, you can overlook the 10% that’s the problem. But alcoholism is a much, much bigger problem than just 10%. Think about it. Marissa could end up killing someone if she’s drunk behind the wheel of a car, for instance. The possibilities are frightening. So like my cousin Rabbi Love says, “There can be no wedding until she’s off Jack Daniels.”
When Marissa pressured you for a wedding date and you wouldn’t comply, she hung up on you, which shows that she can’t talk to you. Do you really want to marry someone you can’t talk to, someone who slams the phone down in the middle of a discussion? Like the Old Chinese proverb goes, “Everyone is in love until they have their first big disagreement.” And this is your first big disagreement with Marissa. She should sit down with you and work this out calmly rather than losing her temper and slamming the phone down.
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You say that Marissa is Doctor Jekyll and Ms. Hyde. To you Psych majors, that’s the nature of alcohol. When under the influence, you say and do things you wouldn’t normally say or do. If you marry an alcoholic – knowing going into it what’s going to happen – she’s going to lower your Interest Level over time. When your interest hits 49%, you’re going to want a divorce. And you’ve already been through a divorce, so you know how painful that is.
Dude, you cannot marry Marissa while she’s an alcoholic. If she doesn’t have the patience get treatment -- and the patience to wait for you -- then she’s not worth marrying.
Yes, you’re supposed to stick with the person you love through the bad times – when you’re married. NOT when you’re dating. What’s great about “The System” is that it provides you with a CLEAR line of demarcation. When you’re just dating, you don’t owe the woman anything. When she’s your legal partner, you owe her everything. Being steadfast and loyal is great, Hubert – but Marissa’s not your wife. You don’t owe her loyalty in terms of putting up with an addiction. This woman has a horrible problem with alcohol – lots of people do in America – but you can’t live with an alcoholic and be happy. And let me point out, my friend, that you’re already unhappy with her. And your unhappiness is only going to get worse. Do you want to compound it by getting married and being with Marissa 24/7 when she’s drunk? Like my cousin Fast Eddie Love from East L.A. says, “You’ll spend all your time running around the house hunting for all the half-pints of Smirnoff’s and pouring them down the drain.”
In your position you must sit down and have a talk with Marissa. Tell her that there can be no marriage until she’s off the booze. And she has to be off it for at least a year. If she can’t agree to those terms, you’re splitting. It’s up to her – does she want to get off Johnny Walker or does she want to stay with him and get rid of you?
Remember, guys: never go out with someone who has more problems than you do.
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