How to moderate drinking when your partner doesn't want to
If you’ve decided you want to try and cut down on alcohol, you’ve already made a great first step. But what happens if your partner isn’t so keen?
Cutting back on alcohol can be much easier if you do it with someone else. It might be that it makes you feel more committed to making a change or that you’re motivated by each other’s success. Whatever the reason, if you’re in a relationship, you’re often more likely to make a positive change for your health if you do it together.1
It’s easy to see how having a partner who drinks can make things more difficult when you’re trying to cut down on alcohol. Sometimes, just seeing a partner pour a glass of wine or head off to the pub for a drink can make it harder to stick to a drink-free day even with the best of intentions. In fact, Drinkaware research reveals that around a quarter of drinkers reported finding it difficult to resist a drink if their spouse or partner was drinking.2
Have a chat
So, how do you convince your partner that they need to cut down on drinking? The short answer is, you can’t. Reducing drinking needs to be somebody’s own decision. But what you can do is have a chat with your partner about your drinking habits as a couple.
Try to pick a time when you’re both calm, relaxed, and open to talking. Try not to discuss it when you’ve already had a drink, as it might come across as negative or nagging.
A good first step can be to take the Drinking Check, as a quick self-assessment to understand how much you are drinking and how it can affect you – then encourage your partner to do the same. You might find it helpful to explain your own reasons for wanting to moderate your drinking, and explore what your partner could get out of any changes too. Try to make it a positive conversation, and explore some of the benefits of cutting down on alcohol.
Remember, different things motivate different people, so it’s worth exploring the health benefits but also the wider benefits too. This might be how cutting down could save you money, or impact your sex life as a couple to the many mental health benefits.
Change up your routine
It can help to make some changes to your normal routine if you want to reduce your drinking. This is something you can do even if you’re partner isn’t on board. But you might find it starts to have a knock-on effect on their drinking habits too. If you usually drink when you go out, plan some days or nights where you do an alcohol-free activity together instead. It might be a community event, going for a late-night nature walk or city walk or catching a show.
If you tend to mostly drink at home together, try and keep a stock of low alcohol and alcohol-free drinks so you can make an easy swap from regular strength. It can also help to have some distraction techniques at the ready, whether that’s going to the gym or a chore you’ve been meaning to do.
Support each other
Being in it together can be a great motivator. If you feel you or your partner need some inspiration to stay on track, here are some quick tips to keep you motivated.
- Download the free MyDrinkaware app to set realistic goals, assign yourself some drink-free days and keep track of your achievements each week. If you both download the app, you can compare your progress.
- Keep it interesting. Plan some activities to keep you motivated, whether that’s a mocktail and movie night or doing something active together.
- Everyone has off days. If your partner is struggling, remind them of why you started and what you’ve achieved so far. Maybe you’ve saved money, lost weight or feel healthier.
- Celebrate your achievements. Whether it’s a takeaway at the end of the week, or a weekend away after the first month, don’t forget to reward yourselves when you smash a goal.
When your partner won’t stop drinking
If your partner really doesn’t want to reduce their drinking, then it’s best not to push it. You can still ask your partner to support you. For instance, by not offering you drinks on your drink-free day, storing alcohol out of sight, or only purchasing enough alcohol for themselves.
It can still be rewarding to make a change on your own. Your partner may even be inspired to give it a go once they see what you’re able to achieve.
Find out more
1. Jackson SE, Steptoe A, Wardle J. The Influence of Partner’s Behavior on Health Behavior Change: The English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. JAMA Intern Med. 2015;175(3):385–392. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.7554 https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/2091401
2. Pearson A., & Slater, E. (2021, October). Drinking through the pandemic. Drinkaware Monitor 2021. PS Research and Drinkaware.