Question for Eric: I have stopped drinking, but my wife still drinks a lot
Question for Eric: I have stopped drinking, but my wife still drinks a lot

Dear Eric: We are a retired couple in our late 60s. In our youth we enjoyed an active social life that often involved drinking, sometimes to excess. As we got older we slowed down, improved our diet and started a nearly daily fitness regime that keeps us both in pretty good shape.

My wife still drinks more than she should, at least in my opinion and according to numerous online articles I’ve read. We’ve talked about it a few times and her behavior has improved in the short term, but soon she falls back into her habit of drinking four, five, sometimes six glasses of wine a night. At the same time, I’ve eliminated alcohol completely.

I don’t nag her. I’m all for everyone making their own choices in life, but I know that this amount of regular drinking is not healthy. I used to buy the alcohol for both of us (I stopped doing that relatively recently), and since then she’s been buying the wine herself.

Yesterday, when she knew I was going to do the weekly shop soon, she put wine on the list. I’m torn between telling her I won’t allow her to drink (while expressing my hope that she can cut back to a more reasonable level) or just keeping quiet about it.

Winding: When one partner changes, the whole system changes. But this change is often much slower and more complicated than we would like.

LetLet’s leave aside the facts and figures on alcohol consumption for a moment. In your marriage, you and your wife currently do not have a shared vision of how you want to live your lives together and individually.

Your wife has not made the same decision as you regarding drinking alcohol, and this bothers you because you care about her, but also because it is different from your decision. It may even make you question your decision. In a marriage, hundreds of similar decisions must be made, many of them concerning health and well-being. Conflict can arise because no one can force their spouse to do what they think they should do.

You don’t do itYou don’t have to keep buying the wine, and you shouldn’t if it’s bothering you. You should tell her that you made this decision and your reasons for it. Don’t expect your reasons to make her change. When we comment on a loved one’s drinking (or any other behavior) it can change the loved one’s mindset or highlight things they don’t see. However, the decision to change their behavior has to come from the people themselves.

Your wife is nott there. If you feel her drinking is negatively affecting your relationship, say so. I’m sure you’ve already presented her with the data – the U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend one 5-ounce glass of wine per night or less, and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism classifies four or more drinks per day, or eight per week, as “heavy drinking.” Show your concern and love, but also acknowledge that this journey is new for both of you, and it will take you different amounts of time to get to your goal.

Dear Eric: At 73, I may be hopelessly old-fashioned, but when my children were little and received a present, I gave them index cards, stamps, addresses, and explained to them how to write a “thank you.”

I encouraged them to provide information about their lives, school, etc. It seems that parents now no longerThey don’t care enough to teach their children to appreciate gifts. I’ve been reprimanded for not sending cards/gifts/money to young people over 15 because they never thank me or appreciate gifts at all.

I’m frustrated because I’m forced to contact the recipient only to hear the excuse, “Oh yes, I got it. Thanks.” Is it wrong to expect a “thank you” and set the consequences?

— Angry gift giver

Giver: Social mores may change, but the words “thank you” still mean the same thing. You’re not asking for much, and if your relatives can’t teach their children to respect your boundaries and acknowledge your gift, then you don’t owe it to them.

Fifteen is old enough to learn the value of healthy communication and gratitude. It’s also important to remember that relationships, especially with older relatives, are not cash machines. Hang in there!

Dear Eric: When the letter writer asks what she does all day in retirement, I always answer: “I wake up in the morning and have nothing to do, and it takes me all day to do it.”

Booked: I love it! Enjoy your full, carefree days in good health and good spirits!

(Send questions to R. Eric Thomas at [email protected] or PO Box 22474, Philadelphia, PA 19110. Follow him on Instagram and sign up for his weekly newsletter at

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