Is a spouse responsible for their spouse’s behaviors?

Marussia asks: I’ve read recently that if I change my husband will change as well. We’ve got a 6-year old son, and for about a year my husband has been drinking beer and stronger alcohol. Is the problem in me? In my attitude towards him? Sometimes we quarrel and he can shout at me, then he calms down and says he loves me.

Hi Marussia –



This is SUCH a complex question!  It’s kind of like asking how much parents determine the personality of their kids.  The answer is always yes, but never 100%.


My friend Handsome works with a lot of couples.  And every time he begins to think someone’s issues are all because of their spouse, he’s proven wrong.  And every time he thinks they’re all for other reasons, he’s proven wrong too.


But that doesn’t help you any.  You’re wondering why your husband drinks.  And the answer could be just about anything!  Sure, because of things about you and your marriage, or because there’s a bad economy out there, or because of the stress of having a six-year-old kid, or because he’s just naturally prone to drinking…  And what I can’t tell from your letter is how much he’s drinking.  Is he having a couple of beers when he gets home from work, or is he downing a bottle of vodka throughout the day?


I don’t know where you live, or what’s available there.  But my inclination is that you might want to find a therapist who works with couples, and bring your husband in with you to talk with them.  In there, you can voice your concerns about the drinking, and about the fighting, and especially about your marriage, and whether you’re at all responsible for these behaviors.


And if that doesn’t work, such as if he refuses to go with you, then your best bet is to find a time when he’s feeling loving, and ask him if he’s upset, if your marriage is getting him down, etc.  But truly, it’d be way better to get into a room with a third person, who can listen to both of you and piece apart what’s wrong.


Because if nothing else, you’re unhappy.  You’re worried about this marriage.  And you’re concerned about where all this is headed.  And whatever is true in him, those parts of you are vital to improve.


Good Luck,




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