Are you concerned about how much and how often your partner drinks to excess? Do you want to talk to them about it but just don’t know where to start?

It’s a difficult conversation to have, so we’ve asked BACP accredited counsellor Andrew Harvey for advice about how to approach this topic with your partner, and what you can do to support them.

It’s ok to be worried

Andrew says: “Problematic drinking can cause significant harm to those affected by others' drinking; It is not uncommon for people to feel angry, frustrated and worried about another's drinking.  

“Talking to your partner about concerns regarding their drinking can be a sensitive and challenging conversation. While it is important to have your say and share your concerns it can be helpful to give them plenty of space to share their thoughts about their drinking and its impact and be prepared for resistance and possible defensiveness. Expressing your concerns might involve more than one conversation.”

Choose the right time and place

“Ideally, when your partner is sober and most receptive,” says Andrew, “Find a private and comfortable place where you can both focus on each other and the conversation.”  

Be prepared

Andrews suggests taking some time to reflect on your concerns and the specific behaviours that worry you.

“Think about how their drinking has affected you, your relationship, and other aspects of their life. If you see it's harming them, share your concerns. Make room for their thoughts and feelings about what you are saying.”  

Be calm and compassionate

“Use "I" statements to express how you feel without sounding accusatory. For example, "I feel worried when you drink a lot because I care about your health."  

“Often focusing on specific incidents helps illustrate your concerns.”  

Offer support, not ultimatums

“Let your partner know you are there to support them and want to help,” says Andrew,

“Suggest positive steps they can take, such as seeing a counsellor, attending support groups, or talking to a doctor. It's often helpful to have information at hand.”  

Set some boundaries  

“Explain what you need to feel safe and comfortable in the relationship. Be clear about any boundaries you need to set to protect your well-being and stick to them.  

Be patient

“Understand that change may not happen immediately. Your partner may need time to process the conversation and decide their next steps. They may need a number of attempts to change.  

“Encourage them and continue to offer your support as they work through their issues.” 

If you need more help

If the conversation doesn’t go well or if you need guidance Andrew recommends considering seeking help from a counsellor and support groups

“Remember, the goal is to open a dialogue, not to criticise or blame. Being compassionate and understanding can help your partner feel supported and more willing to consider making positive changes.

“Many people experience fear and resistance when thinking of making changes to their relationship with alcohol; having bounded support can be extremely helpful.”

How can counselling help? 

“Counselling helps people change their relationship with alcohol and, where needed, address any underlying issues that need addressing,” says Andrew,

“It might start with exploring the true nature of their relationship with alcohol and establishing if stopping is necessary or if a better relationship with alcohol can be maintained. Following this exploration, a counsellor can help you explore what difficulties might have been contributing to the alcohol issues and address these in therapy.”  

To find a registered BACP therapist to help you with alcohol problems, please visit