My Partner's Drinking Didn't Bother Me Until We Merged Finances (2023)

Thanks for readingCan We Talk?, a sex and relationships column that aims to tackle theburning questions about sex, dating, relationships, and breakups that you’re too afraid to ask your partner — or maybe even your besties. Last time, we heard from Refinery29 readers about whether they believed in being friends with their ex-lovers. Today, relationship therapistMoraya Seeger DeGeare, LMFT, helps someone who recently combined finances with their partner, bringing up an unexpected issue.

Do you have a question for DeGeare about feeling ignored by a partner or potential lover that you'd you’d like to see answered as part of a future Can We Talk? Submit ithereor send us an email at


My partner and I recently combined finances, and it's brought up an unexpected issue. I don’t drink much, but they will have one to two drinks with dinner if we go out. This is something I knew prior to our fiscal merger, but I didn’t expect it to cause me this much frustration. Before I had the receipts, I did think it was a waste of money to pay for craft beer versus drinking at home — but I didn't realize how many big feelings I had tied to this opinion.

A past partner of mine went from being a social drinker to abusing substances while we were together, and I'm still holding on to some of the fears associated with that time (which I recognize has nothing to do with my current boo as they've shown no signs of alcohol use disorder — I'm currently working through this history in therapy). Additionally, I grew up in an extremely conservative, Christian home where drinking was not allowed, and we were very frugal. As an adult, I still work not to judge others for their drinking.

It's only been a few weeks of blended bank accounts and, after tracking our spending, I find myself growing resentful. I make about $105K annually and my partner makes $170K. We both are working together to save for retirement as well as a future home together. At first, I was insecure about him making more but he assured me it was "our" money. This makes me feel even more ashamed of my animosity toward his drinking habit.


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I would love to hear any advice for managing both shared expenses and any resentment that can accompany such a merger. What if we just don't have shared values when it comes to money? How can we avoid any pitfalls associated with this?

Joint-Bank Jitters

Dear JBJ,

Your dilemma is a great example of the many challenges that come up when we blend our worlds with anyone, even our friends. Let's be honest, JBJ, building a life with someone can be an uncomfortable process. Our views are often jostled around like ice in a cocktail shaker, and sometimes this means we must shift our perspectives, causing tension. But, hopefully, if we're mixing it up in a loving way with someone we care about, the final product is delicious and well worth any pain points.

The good news is, we are not alone in this merger – the other person is on the same ride, adjusting to us, even if we are total opposites in many ways. We can take comfort in that and even laugh about our little differences once we truly understand each other.

But, when it comes to money in particular, all the big emotions that can come with fusing our lives can be heightened. Even those who come from very similar cultures can have divergent values when it comes to cash. Your family's socio-economic status likely impacted your views and access to wealth. Moreover, how the role models in your life growing up talked about money also likely had an impact on your relationship with your finances. For instance, if you are a first-generation American and your parents immigrated here with little money, the need to feel secure for survival's sake might be intertwined with your identity.


All told, we typically enter into our intimate relationships later in life with set values around money, shaped in part by our childhoods. And, sometimes those values and habits don't have the healthiest roots. Unpacking those financial histories —first processing them on our own (perhaps through journaling, therapy, or an app like Thinkladder, which has been helpful to me in becoming more self-aware) and then sharing them with our partners when we're ready —can really help with the communication around any big spending clashes when we first blend up our bank accounts.

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But it sounds like you have already been doing a good job at identifying some childhood and past experiences. I challenge you to shift your perspective when thinking about your previous relationship with someone who struggled with addiction: What if you considered this a moment of resilience for you? You recognized toxic behavior that didn’t serve you and you ended that situationship — I'm sure that was not easy. Anxiety can often carry over into our future partnerships, but good communication and this different way of looking at things can help you feel safer and reassure you.

But beyond this history of your own, it sounds like there's something about your current situation that's still triggering some resentment and fear.

Deciding if this fear is a real red flag —or simply what you've been conditioned to be scared of —is going to guide this conversation about values for you and your partner. To puzzle that together, let’s first check in on the threat relating to addiction. I hear you saying that you're not actively concerned about alcohol abuse with this particular partner, but please do seek professional help if you think you need it (Al-Anon is a wonderful resource, and also supports loved ones of those navigating addiction). Additionally, I will note, even if you're partner isn't technically overdoing it with drinking, it's important to ask: do you find yourself feeling that they are choosing a mood-altering substance over you? Do you feel like they respect your emotions and boundaries, and listen to your needs? Does their behavior change when they drink? If so, how is it impacting you? Do you feel like they are less reachable? Try journaling about these questions if you're not sure.


If you find there's an emotional block between you two relating to alcohol —and this is about more than the money —it's worth more reflection having a deeper discussion. Again, I'm not suggesting in any way that I think your partner has a problem with alcohol, but it's worth talking through how the drinking is impacting your relationship, and noticing how they respond to your needs. As you have this talk, try to be curious, even in moments of discomfort, and do your best to use "I" statements so your partner doesn't feel blamed or shamed.

If upon all this reflection, you find the root of your issue really is just about differing financial values (not about how alcohol is affecting your relationship), I'll say this: There are times in a relationship when no one has done anything wrong, and yet one person is feeling hurt, resentful, or lonely. Those feelings are completely valid, even though we are not going to blame our partners for them. One of the trickiest parts of our continued personal responsibility in any relationship is taking the time to be introspective while questioning what showing up fully means to us. In these sorts of dilemmas when no one has technically done anything wrong, it can help to navigate your differences by asking: How do I want us both to show up in this relationship? And how can we bring our values together to make something beautiful?

One more practical way you can do just that is called the "splitting the check" method. I tapped the brilliant brain behind Refinery29's “Taking Stalk” column, Paco de Leon —the author and illustrator of Finance for the People — to explain this financial philosophy. "Splitting the check involves collectively splitting your paychecks into three broad categories of expenses," she explains. "There’s your "bills and life" category, for all the essential spending, like the rent or mortgage, food at home, insurance, and debt payments. Then there’s the "future and goals" category, which encompasses saving and investing money for your future selves; from emergency funds to retirement and everything in between. And the last category is the "fun and B.S." category, for all the non-essential things that make life feel like life."


To implement this method, create one specific checking account for your "bills and life" money. Then, make two "fun" checking accounts —one for each person to control themselves. (Your "future and goals" money is likely going into a 401k and other various savings and investment accounts automatically.) "There is a bit of upfront calculating to understand how you’ll be splitting up your check," de Leon says. "Of course, there are some general guidelines too, like the 50/30/20 rule, where 50% of income goes towards essentials (bills and life), 30% towards non-essentials (fun), and 20% towards saving for the future."

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"After you have your new accounts set up and you know your calculations, every time you’re paid, you simply split the check into your various checking accounts," de Loen adds. (You can do most of this through automated payments).

This system isn’t for every couple and it isn’t foolproof, but it does give people a sense of autonomy in their personal spending and may help decrease your anxiety in this case if just seeing the receipts is an issue. Also, if part of the resentment you mentioned is coming from the fact that you feel he’s being frivolous with shared fun money —thus forcing you to be even more frugal in areas you’d like to spend on — this nips that in the bud.

And with that, we're back to a major root within your question: Resentment.

Resentment often builds when we are not communicating —and any avoidance or "hoping things will get better on their own" pretty much always makes things worse. As you find ways to express what you're feeling, I recommend the following cycle: introspection (especially on issues mentioned above such as family history with money), talking as a couple, and then coming back to reflect on your own again. As you do the latter check to see if you are feeling more deeply understood and your body can feel more secure. Repeat as needed.


In fact, it can help to schedule regular check-ins to talk with your partner about any values-difference you may have that are causing strife — in this case, it could be talking about budgets, both of your past-driven emotions about spending, and how you can dissipate your resentment.

These conversations will likely involve setting boundaries. The thing about boundaries is, they are typically less focused on how others will behave and more sharing clearly on how we will. So a boundary here could be, if we continue to follow our "split the check" plan, I will commit to working on my anxiety as we adjust and keep talking to you about how I'm feeling about our finances and specifically your alcohol spending. It also could look like him starting a conversation with you before he enters a situation where he might naturally spend more on drinks, such as a wedding or vacation.

Starting these conversations with your partner could sound like “I have been thinking more about my discomfort about our spending. Can we keep talking about it, as we are adjusting to this new life together?” or “I noticed some feelings of resentment are distracting me when we are on dates, and all I want is to be present with you. Is now a good time to share more about what I realized is coming up for me?”

By initiating and having these talks continually, hopefully, you'll get to a place where you're feeling gradually less and less bothered by this values difference in your relationship because you are both being heard and understood.

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So, go forth, be honest, and mix it up!

If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse, please reach out to the SAMHSA National Helpline at 9-8-8- or 1-800-662-4357 for free and confidential information.

DeGeare is a licensed marriage and family therapist, who specializes in intimacy, LGBTQIA+ relationships, mixed-culture couples, and racial identity development. The advice in this column is to point you in a direction that encourages healing and creates safety for you in this world. It is not to replace the relationship with a licensed mental health professional who knows your personal history.


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Can a relationship work if one person drinks and the other doesn t? ›

Abstaining also works – again, as long as you're both doing it. But if there's a mismatch in your drinking habits – ie. one person drinks and the other doesn't – the researchers suggest it becomes more likely that there'll be a negative impact on relationship quality.

What do you do when you don't like your partner drinking? ›

What to do when you are worried about your partner's drinking
  • It's important to choose the right time to talk. Don't try discussing the issue if your loved one is drunk as they may get angry or even forget the conversation took place. ...
  • Be patient and stay calm. ...
  • Take the curious approach instead of the worried approach.
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Why do I get mad at my boyfriend when I drink? ›

Alcohol interferes with the brain, reducing our ability to think straight or act rationally, it can cause some people to become angry. Evidence shows that while alcohol may not always be the direct cause of a person's aggressive behaviour, it is often a contributing factor, and some people even become violent.

What is financial infidelity in a marriage? ›

What Is Financial Infidelity? Financial infidelity happens when you or your spouse intentionally lie about money. When you deliberately choose not to tell the truth about your spending habits (no matter how big or small), that is financial infidelity.

Is drinking a deal breaker in a relationship? ›

However, one of the biggest deal breakers in a relationship can be substance use disorder, whether alcohol or other substances. Having a drink on occasion may be fine, but if your partner needs a substance to have a good time or it drastically changes their personality, you should be on guard.

When should I be concerned about my partner's drinking? ›

The main signs to look out for which could mean your husband or wife has a drinking problem include: Alcohol negatively affects their personality after a period of heavy drinking. Spends a large amount of time in bars and clubs away from the home. Misses work or family events.

Is it fair to ask your partner to stop drinking? ›

Although it may not feel like your place, it's not unreasonable to ask your significant other to get help for their addiction. You are their life partner, and their addiction has a serious effect on your relationship. However, it's often a difficult subject to approach.

What to do when your partner doesn t want to stop drinking? ›

Identify and stop enabling behaviors that allow him to keep drinking, learn more about alcohol use disorder, have a calm but serious talk with your spouse, and if necessary, have a professionally-guided intervention and provide options for addiction treatment that he can start immediately.

How to be in a relationship with someone who drinks too much? ›

How To Help Someone You Know Who Drinks Too Much
  1. Step 1: Talk. Talk about your worries when the person is sober. ...
  2. Step 2: Offer your help. Suggest activities that don't include drinking alcohol. ...
  3. Step 3: Take care of yourself. Caring for someone with alcohol misuse or use disorder can be stressful.
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Do people's true feelings come out when drunk? ›

Do true feelings come out when you're drunk? True feelings may come out when you're drunk, but this isn't necessarily true all the time. Instead, alcohol can make people make fake stories and react with emotions they don't feel.

Why do I get jealous when my boyfriend drinks? ›

Research from Hanover College in Indiana suggests that an increase in jealousy and mistrust between partners while drinking can be linked to “alcohol myopia,” which is a lack of foresight/ discernment and a narrow view of an issue while drinking.

Do guys mean what they say when drunk? ›

Do people mean what they say when drunk? Yes, sometimes people mean what they say when they are drunk. But most of the time, people say whatever comes to mind when drinking without any concern if it's genuinely how they feel. Alcohol lowers inhibition and makes people feel talkative, extroverted, and emboldened.

What is Microcheating? ›

Micro cheating refers to acts of seemingly trivial, inappropriate behaviors that occur outside of one's devoted relationship, often done unintentionally.

What are red flags of financial infidelity? ›

Financial "infidelity"

Such habits amount to what money experts call "financial infidelity." "Things like being overly secretive with your money, lying about spending and refusing to share financial information with you are red flags," Victoria said. Financial abuse can also occur in relationships.

What financial infidelity can sink couples? ›

But it could also be something more serious: siphoning money from shared accounts, lying about your income or debts, lending large amounts without consent, making extravagant purchases without permission or keeping bank accounts or credit cards secret.

Is alcoholism a red flag in a relationship? ›

Substance abuse: Alcoholism and drug abuse are both relationship red flags. Keep in mind: It's possible someone can suffer from addiction and be a terrific person.

What are the top 5 deal breaker in a relationship? ›

Evidence-Based Deal-Breakers
  • Gross, poor hygiene, smelling bad, being unattractive, having health issues like STDS.
  • Addicted, having an alcohol or substance use problem, cigarette smoking, and having a criminal past.
  • Clingy, being controlling, clingy, or too jealous.
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What is the biggest deal breaker in a relationship? ›

For both men and women considering long-term relationships, Apathetic was the strongest red flag, followed by Gross, Clingy, Addicted, Unmotivated, and Promiscuous. For shorter-term relationships, women and men rated Gross as the biggest deal-breaker, followed by Clingy, Apathetic, and then Unmotivated.

What are 3 warning signs that a person has a drinking problem? ›

Some of the most common symptoms of alcohol abuse are:
  • Experiencing temporary blackouts or short-term memory loss.
  • Exhibiting signs of irritability and extreme mood swings.
  • Making excuses for drinking such as to relax, deal with stress or feel normal.
  • Choosing drinking over other responsibilities and obligations.
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What are two signs that a person has a problem with alcohol? ›

Signs and symptoms may include:
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  • Wanting to cut down on how much you drink or making unsuccessful attempts to do so.
  • Spending a lot of time drinking, getting alcohol or recovering from alcohol use.
  • Feeling a strong craving or urge to drink alcohol.
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When should you cut someone off drinking? ›

How do I know when to stop serving alcohol to a guest?
  • Anyone showing signs of intoxication should not be allowed to drive, be prepared to arrange other transportation.
  • Anyone who seems drunk to you should be cut off – you are the bartender and it is your decision to make.
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Why does my husband's drinking bother me? ›

There are two possible reasons your husband annoys you when he drinks. The first possibility is that he is drinking excessively, and the second is that you are too concerned because you have a family history of alcoholism.

How do I tell my boyfriend I don't like his drinking? ›

Here are some suggestions that can help to start the conversation:
  1. “I'm concerned about how you behave when you drink because [example].”
  2. “I've noticed that you seem to feel bad about yourself/life/your job/etc. ...
  3. “You seem to get sick a lot after you drink and I don't want you to feel bad.”
Jan 19, 2023

What not to say to someone not drinking? ›

You're really missing out.”

If someone doesn't drink, it could be their own choice, or it could be because they have to for health or other personal reasons. Don't make non-drinkers who wished their situation was different feel bad about what they're supposedly “missing out on.”

How do you tell someone you love they need to stop drinking? ›

  1. Open the lines of communication.
  2. Make it comfortable to talk about the underlying cause contributing to their drinking.
  3. Be ready with concrete examples of why you think there may be a problem.
  4. Don't offer an ultimatum.
  5. Don't pass judgment or shame.
  6. Utilize the people in your life.
  7. Offer resources to your loved one.
Jun 24, 2022

Can a marriage survive sobriety? ›

When asking whether marriage can survive sobriety, the answer can be yes—if a couple takes a healthy approach to managing their problems and discussing their feelings. It will take time to rebuild trust so it's important to not put pressure on each other and instead take it one day at a time.

Why is my partner more loving when drunk? ›

"With larger doses of alcohol, not only can a person lower their inhibitions, but their emotions can also be altered," Glasner explains. This combination of decreased inhibition and increased emotion can create a perfect storm for physical affection.

Can you be in a relationship with someone who drinks? ›

It's important to recognize your own needs and triggers, and to communicate honestly with your partner. Whether you, specifically, can have a healthy and happy romantic relationship with someone who drinks is very much up to you and your partner.

Do drunk people show their true personality? ›

Key points. While under the influence you'll probably act differently, but that doesn't mean drinking reveals who you really are. Alcohol lowers inhibitions, leading you to act more impulsively and care less about how others adversely regard your behavior.

Does drunk affection mean anything? ›

The Affectionate Drunk

Affectionate drunks are people who become very touchy-feely after they've had some drinks. This is another manifestation of lowered inhibitions.

Does a drunk mind speaks a sober heart? ›

Does a Drunk Mind Speak Truth? It's true that drunk words can occasionally represent sober thoughts, but it is not necessarily any kind of consistent truth. For example, a person may have something they truly believe but not be entirely sure why they believe it.

Can a sober person date someone who drinks? ›

For all this, it is not impossible for a drinker and a sober person to date; like any relationship, however, it requires work, patience, communication, and understanding. Ironically, the sober partner may have an advantage.

What do couples do if they don't drink? ›

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  • Go out for dessert. ...
  • Take a walk. ...
  • Check out a comedy show. ...
  • Meet for a coffee. ...
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  • Visit a museum. ...
  • Go for a dog walk. ...
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