A friend of mine – also married to an alcoholic – and I have a sporadic but continuing discussion as to which alcoholic marriage is “worse;” hers or mine. (Believe me, it’s not a “competition” either of us want to win – or even wants the other person to win.)

The “competition” grew from our observations that we were dealing with grossly different behaviors in our alcoholic husbands though the end results for both of us are very much the same.

Her husband is very “present” in that he wants affection, attention…sex. He wants everyone to live and act like they are a happy family living “the life.” He wants to do what he wants to do (i.e. drink) but he also wants his wife and kids there whenever he demands – and in just the way he demands. He wants them to act and be the way he decides. And of course he wants it all on his terms.

My husband, on the other hand, wants to do what he wants to do (i.e. drink) and that’s about it. He makes no demands on me for anything. No attention, not affection, not even sex. He doesn’t care really what I do or what the kids do for the matter. He checks in, participates when he feels like it and when he doesn’t – which is 85% of the time – he lives like a boarder in our house.

For awhile I thought my friend’s marriage was “worse.” I couldn’t imagine how she managed to kiss and love (and yes, “do it”) with a man who left her feeling emotionally abused and abandoned. I didn’t know how she stomached to go to church or the kids’ events and smile and chat and interact with her husband when she carried in her the knowledge that just hours earlier – or in a few hours – he was/would be a raging, verbally abusive drunk. In some twisted way of human survival, I welcomed my empty marriage where I didn’t have to pretend. I didn’t have to smile and act like it was all normal. I didn’t have to…”do it.”

But the last few weeks have been particularly difficult for me for no other reason I suspect than the fact that eventually it all becomes too much. I’ve been irritable and short with my kids, crying (alone of course) a lot and just feeling completely defeated. My friend on the other hand seems to be fairing a bit better than me. She seems to hold it together more for her children and she seems better able to compartmentalize the effects of her alcoholic marriage versus the rest of her life. I was pondering why and I came to the conclusion it’s kind of like being fed garbage compared to being fed nothing at all.

No one wants to eat garbage and it’s hardly the ideal substance for sustaining life but…at least the body can extract SOME nutrients here and there. But if you have NOTHING to eat, there is nothing to eat. Nothing for your body to even attempt to survive on.

I do not think any marriage to an alcoholic is easy or even easier!

It’s the death – our emotional, spiritual and mental deaths – that may be “easier.”