Love Letters: Is the Drinking a Deal-Breaker?

We'll do some updates tomorrow. If you're a former letter writer and you have one you want to add to the pack, send me an update (with UPDATE in the subject line) from your original email address.

Hi Meredith,

I have been with my boyfriend for the past three years and we've lived together for the past two. We are both in our late 20s with stable jobs that we love. We are very invested in a future together, and have talked marriage, home buying, etc. He is a wonderful person -- loyal, kind, and attentive. But, of course, there is a catch.

Every once in a while he drinks so excessively that he becomes out of control. He gets in fights, gets sick, drives drunk, becomes incoherent, etc. Not only is this completely unattractive and a turn off for me, but it also puts me in positions where I'm worried, embarrassed, and have to clean up his messes.

I will say that the frequency and severity of these incidents is dwindling. But they still happen, and I still find myself on edge when we're out because I worry if he's going to cross that line. I feel like a nag, when in reality I would love for us to be to just kick back and have a great time. I should mention that when we first got together I was quite the party girl too, but with age and settling down that has changed. It's also worth noting that many of his friends have the same attitude toward drinking that he does.

I do not believe he is an alcoholic, although alcoholism does run in his family. He can go long stretches without drinking, and many nights when he does he's more than content to just have a few. But I do believe that he has a problem with alcohol and binge drinking.

After a long stretch of no issues, we've had two nights in the past two months where his level of intoxication has caused problems. After the first one, I got flowers and a letter apologizing and saying he was going to keep working on himself and nothing like that would happen again. The most recent situation wasn't as severe, but I was just as livid because I'm getting so tired of this. This time, he was completely unapologetic and resentful of me for "treating him like an alcoholic." I told him I wanted him to seek counseling and he refused, and said the fact that I would even say that really bummed him out.

I feel like I keep drawing lines and then letting him cross them. This is because in my heart of hearts I really don't know if this is actually a deal breaker or not. Our relationship is so wonderful otherwise, I'm wondering if I can just learn to live with the fact that every few months he might put himself in a situation where he gets way too drunk. But then I think about when and if we have a family, and the fact that these behaviors are linked to turning into full blown alcoholism.

Do you think the longer periods of time between problematic drinking are a sign that it's just him growing out of immaturity and the type of social drinking he's used to? Does him refusing to talk about counseling signal a problem, or am I really overreacting? And is there a way for me to decide for certain if this is something I can live with or not?

– Party Pooper

His resistance to counseling is an enormous problem. The fact that he told you that you "bummed him out" is ridiculous. If the drinking isn't a deal-breaker, his response to your concerns should be.

You can't make decisions about your boyfriend based on what you think he might become. It's all about who he is right now. Do you feel respected in the relationship? Are you at ease? It doesn't sound like you are. And really, even if he did the out-of-control drinking just once a year, would you want to sit around and wait for it to happen? Would the good stuff make up for that night of embarrassment and, in some cases, fear?

Your mind is on safety, family, and maturity. His is on not wanting to be bummed out -- and not wanting to address his problems. Can you live with that?

Readers? Is there hope here? What about him not wanting counseling? What should she do?

– Meredith