Our troubles with alcohol

I have compiled a massive rundown of Love Letters history for Saturday's paper – as in, the age range of letter writers, geography, topics of problems, number of times "grilled cheese" references were used (or food euphemisms, in general), and which commenter got the most number of recommends during our second year.

I'll try to have Boston.com post it online on Friday. It's cool.

Also, we chat today at 1.

Meredith and Gang,

I will start with some back story:

I grew up with alcoholics all around me, my mother and grandfather being the most notable. My mother sobered up when I was a teenager and hasn't looked at it since.

I am 28 and engaged to a wonderful man. He is smart, funny, treats me well, and is very good with my 4 year old son. We love each other very much.

He drinks. Less now than before we met and got serious. We have been together 2 years, lived together for 1 and set to get married in April 2012. We have had both serious, sit-down conversations and big blow out fights over his drinking. He knows it borders on a problem. He drinks every night. If my son is there, he doesn't drink until after he goes to sleep and he will not drink if he's there alone with him. But it's still every night otherwise. Every once in a while he likes to spend his weekday off playing video games and drinking beer. He is home alone when he does this. Most of his friends are the go out and drink type. They rarely do anything else when they hang out. I admit that I like to have a drink every now and then but definitely not every day and not in too much excess.

My previous relationship (not my son's father) was with a severe alcoholic. I am talking first thing in the morning until he passed out at night, with little to no recollection of what went on in between (this man was NEVER around my child). So here's my problem: I know I have had bad experiences with alcohol and alcoholics. I am unable to tell if my fiancé’s drinking is "normal" or if it's a problem. I compare every little thing to this last relationship and can't tell if I am over-reacting. He has altered his drinking habits since he knows it’s a big deal to me. I tend to get snippy and defensive if I know he is drunk, but since this doesn’t happen EVERY time he is drunk I end up sending mixed signals to him. I also feel guilty when we go out together. I told him if he committed to stop drinking altogether I would never touch the stuff again. He is not interested in AA.

There is so much good here. He is respectful, loving, a good father-figure, and he literally makes my heart melt and knees weak when we are together. But I live in fear of putting my son in the same situation I grew up in. So where do I go from here?

– Drunk with Love and Resentment, CT

My advice, which might seem lame, is to take the fiancé to therapy. I say that because you can't decide what kind of drinking feels "normal" because of your family and your ex. I certainly can't tell you what's normal. We all have different boundaries when it comes to alcohol. We just have to figure out what they are.

You need to sit down with him -- and a counselor -- and talk about when you're OK with the drinking and when it feels scary. Then allow your fiancé to give his impressions of his own substance use. There's no need to shame him right now; from what you've told us, you can be confident that you're both on the same page when it comes to prioritizing safety. What's unclear is whether his drinking is a habit or an addiction. What's also unclear is whether you're allowed to enjoy some social drinking with him without feeling like a hypocrite. It's time to throw your hands up, admit to your fiance that you're thoroughly confused, and go work it out as a team in a safe place. Because again, boundaries can only be respected if you know what they are. It's best if you figure out your rules together -- and before the wedding.

Readers? Do they need a third party to help? Is she projecting her own family's past onto her fiance? Care to share any stories about partners, alcohol, and boundaries? Discuss.

– Meredith