Over my twenty-five years of experience as a psychologist I gradually came to realize that drinking may be one of the most common and least talked about cause of marital conflict. Unfortunately, in the couples I’ve worked with this issue is often swept under the carpet. And when it does come up it usually devolves quickly into a scenario something like the following:

“You’re an alcoholic.”

“No, I’m not.”

“Yes, you are!”

“No, I’m not!” 

Needless to say this leads to nothing other than perhaps some alienation between spouses. Sadly, this does not have to be dead end it so often is. The reason why this scene is so common—and futile—has to do in part with the way society (including health professionals) have traditionally viewed drinking problems, which is as a dichotomy represented by the diagram below.


Viewed from this perspective the “drinking world” is neatly divided into two mutually exclusive categories: alcoholics, and the rest of us. But is this reality? No, it is not. In fact, while drinking does contribute mightily to marital problems, the vast majority of men and women who have what might be termed a “drinking problem” are not alcoholics. Rather, they fall somewhere in the almost alcoholic zone that is depicted in the next diagram.


As you can see the almost alcoholic zone is fairly large, and even within that zone there are varying degrees. In other words, a person may have only recently made the move from what I call normal social drinking into the almost alcoholic zone; alternatively, they may have been living fairly deep in this zone for years, yet still not meet the criteria for a diagnosis of alcoholism.


The greatest risk of living in the almost alcoholic zone is that people may not “connect the dots” (or want to connect the dots) between their drinking behavior and its consequences, including its consequences on their relationships. Being an almost alcoholic can most definitely, however, have effects on our health, our emotions, and our ability to realize our potential as workers, parents, and spouses.

 Someone Is Interested in What You Have to Say

Read the follwoing, and then consider responding. Your participation, of course, is voluntary. It is also confidential. By participating, however, you may be able not only to gain some insight into your own relationship, but help others in the long run. I can promise that, after the results of this research are analyzed, I will be sharing its major findings.

 My name is CJ and I am a graduate student working towards my Ph.D. in clinical psychology. I am currently working on my dissertation research, which focuses on a partner's role in a person's decision to seek help for alcohol use issues. I am passionate about understanding the pathways to seeking help for alcohol use problems given that alcohol can be a major risk factor for suicide, domestic violence, and other serious issues with family and employment. I have always been interested in work with couples in both clinical settings and in my research, and so it is my natural inclination to try to understand this issue from a family perspective.

Broadly, I am interested in knowing if and how a person's partner plays a major role in his/her decision to seek help for alcohol problems. Is it often a person's spouse who convinces him/her to speak to someone about alcohol problems, or are other factors more important? Does a spouse's own drinking behavior or help-seeking behavior play a role in a drinker's decision about his/her own behavior? Considering the important role of the family in our overall mental and physical health, I expect that a person's partner plays a major role in many of his/her decisions, but I hope to understand this phenomena better, to find ways to bridge the gap between those who may need to make a change and the services available to them. I will report the results of the study here as well, so that readers and participants can also hopefully benefit from the findings.  

            To participate in my research project, please see the information below. The study is intended for married couples and is entirely anonymous. The study is completed entirely online, and should take each partner about 20 minutes. Please click on the link below to get started. To see if you qualify, check out the following:

  • Are you and your spouse legally married and at least 18 years of age?
  • Have you or your partner consumed alcoholic beverages in the last 6 months?
  • Is alcohol use an area of disagreement in your marriage

If you answered yes to the above questions, you and your spouse are eligible to participate in a research survey regarding the relationship between your marriage and your alcohol-related help seeking behaviors. The survey will take each participant approximately 20 minutes, and survey responses will be anonymous.

Please click here to get started:


Note: This study has been approved by the Clark Committee for the Rights of Human Participants in Research and Training Programs (IRB). Any questions about human rights issues should be directed to the IRB Chair, Dr. James P. Elliott, 508-793-7152, jelliott@clarku.edu. The study is being conducted by C.J. Fleming, M.A. and James Cordova, Ph.D. in the Psychology Department at Clark University. Please feel free to contact the researcher ( alcoholusesurveyemail@gmail.com ) or the research supervisor (jcordova@clarku.edu ) with any questions or concerns. 



You are reading

The Almost Effect

Loneliness: A Deadly Form of Poverty for Seniors

Should health insurance cover companion care?

Healing Horses: Equine Therapy for Grieving Children

Can working with horses help children process grief?

Equine Assisted Treatment, Part 2

Helping at-risk youths