When Your Partner Gets Drunk and Violent

Many women and men are going through the same struggle. Research across different countries and cultures has demonstrated a strong relationship between binge drinking and violence towards intimate partners, whether they are married, cohabiting, dating, or casual encounters, and whether the partners are heterosexual, gay, lesbian, or bisexual.

Both men and women can be victims or perpetrators, but the vast majority of assaults and homicides are perpetrated by men to women.

As with all people with violent partners, you are not to blame for what's happening to you, but you're unlikely to get help unless you take action yourself to prevent further abuse. Only you can decide what to do in this situation, but you are strongly advised to seek professional help as soon as possible.

Drinking and Partner Violence

Binge drinking is associated with being both the perpetrator and the victim of violence between married couples. Think about how many drinks you have when you're with your partner—the more you drink, as well as the more your partner drinks, the greater the risk that they will become violent towards you.

Alcohol is typically involved in the most severe incidents of violence towards partners. The relationship between alcohol consumption and intimate partner violence is similar across diverse cultures and drinking patterns.

While you may have "only" suffered from bruises up to this point, many partners, especially women, are hospitalized and die each year as a result of violence from a drunk partner, so it's important that you deal with this now.

Research also shows that there is a consistent link between the number of drinks consumed per occasion and engaging in partner violence, suggesting that it's alcohol intoxication rather than merely alcohol use that creates situations where violence occurs.

One of the first things you can do is control your drinking by setting a limit on how much you and your partner will drink—if at all. Five drinks or more is particularly unsafe for escalating the risk of violence, so a limit of three to four drinks should be the maximum.

Even if you don't want to discuss your partner's drinking with them, you can control your own drinking right away.

Getting Help

You may love your partner and they may be kind the majority of the time. However, it's absolutely crossing the line to hit or assault anyone. If possible, try talking to your partner when neither of you is under the influence and see if you can come up with a plan together about how to get help.

Both you and your partner likely need outside help in this situation. While some people who are violent towards their partners can learn more effective ways to manage their feelings and behavior, if left unchecked, you can find yourself living in fear, eventually suffering from injuries or worse.

Ideally, if your partner is willing to come to counseling, you should get couples counseling to address the underlying problems in your relationship. You should also both get counseling about your drinking (unless you are both willing and able to quit, and don't drink most of the time), and your partner should get additional help to deal with their violent behavior.

If your partner becomes violent again, you can call 911 and ask for the police and an ambulance if you need medical attention. The police can help to link you with services in your area for abused partners. You can also find this help through your local community center or hospital.

If you or a loved one are a victim of domestic violence, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 for confidential assistance from trained advocates.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

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  2. Testa M, Kubiak A, Quigley BM, et al. Husband and wife alcohol use as independent or interactive predictors of intimate partner violence. J Stud Alcohol Drugs. 2012;73(2):268-76. doi:10.15288/jsad.2012.73.268