Some people are just jerks when they get drunk. You reach an age when you accept the reality that some people are happy drunks, some people are sad drunks, and some people are angry aka jerk drunks. I know a few people who are levelheaded, patient, kind, and generous sweethearts when they’re sober, and the moment they get a few drinks in them, they turn into the demonic version of themselves. It’s a very Jekyll and Hyde situation. The day after drinking, they have a lot of apologies to make.
It can be hard to know what to say to these friends. The truth is that I mostly stay away from them on nights I know they’ll be drinking. But, if you’re romantically involved with someone who can be a jerk when he’s drunk, you don’t exactly have the luxury of just staying away. You’ll have to talk to him about it. Here’s what to say to a partner who is mean when he’s drunk.
Mention it when he’s sober
First thing’s first: don’t bring it up when he’s drunk. He won’t be of any mind to talk about it then. Talk to your partner about this when he’s sober and has his wits about him.
Ask if he’s okay in general
Remember that often, the way someone behaves when intoxicated is just a symptom of some repressed issues. Ask your partner if there are areas in his life with which he’s unhappy. Exorcizing those issues could handle the angry drunk problem.
Say you worry about his safety
Telling your partner that you worry about his safety when he drinks—because he tends to pick fights with men at bars or do other reckless behavior—could really grab his attention. If he drives drunk make sure he knows that behavior is completely unacceptable and you won’t tolerate it.
Say you worry about the bank accounts
Can he be a bit reckless in his spending when he drinks? Does he buy rounds for everyone or simply not calculate the cost of multiple drinks at a high-end establishment? Look over those bank accounts. Really crunch the numbers and show him what he’s doing to your savings in the long run.
You may need to make a videotape of your partner next time he’s being an angry drunk. Seeing is believing, and showing your partner this tape when he’s sober could be a huge wake-up call for him. Make sure you’re in a calm space when you do it so the evidence doesn’t lead to an argument. Remember you are seeking a behavior change and that takes time.
Say he hurts your feelings
The last thing your partner wants to do is hurt your feelings. But when he drinks, he makes petty and passive-aggressive comments. Tell him some of the things he says—sober him will probably feel terrible and reconsider drinking in the future.
And he’s hurt others’ feelings
Has he hurt other peoples’ feelings? His best friend? His family members? Tell him the things he says when he’s drunk. Show him how he is harming his relationships. Also encourage him to apologize to those people. He has to take responsibility for his actions.
Do other people agree that your partner is an a*&hole when he drinks? Maybe his friends see it, too? Get backup. Ask them to say something, too. You don’t need to say it all in the same place—that can feel like you’re teaming up—but you can separately mention it. What he sees as nagging or an intervention from you, might just feel like being checked up on when coming from friends.
Look, you’re not asking him to stop drinking entirely. Maybe he’s fine after one or two drinks. Maybe the issue only occurs when he drinks hard alcohol, but he’s fine with beer. Perhaps it only comes out around certain people. You can negotiate. But be firm.
Drink less in solidarity
You should probably drink less in solidarity, yourself. Your partner will really appreciate that. You handle your alcohol better than he does, sure, but it’s hard for him to stay sober when you’re enjoying a pitcher of margaritas to yourself. This is a case where you have to be the example.
You don’t look forward to events
Tell your partner that you don’t look forward to events where you know he’ll be drinking. He has stolen the joy of looking forward to things from you. That should make him pretty sad and want to make some changes. In fact, you can stop going altogether, letting him known you don’t want to spend time with him in public if he engages in certain behavior.
You worry the whole time
Explain to him that you can’t enjoy yourself at an event when your partner is drinking. You just spend the whole time dreading the moment his anger kicks in and keeping an eye on him.
Is there someone you both know who is, without question, a huge jerk when drunk? Telling your partner that he’s becoming that person could have a big impact. He won’t like it at first, but he will get the picture.
If he slips up, leave him be
Even if your partner is making an effort, he may still slip up, and get into angry drunk mode one night. When that happens, leave him alone to be with himself and his thoughts. Go stay with a friend. Don’t answer his calls. Show him that he doesn’t get to be with you when he acts like that.
Let him hit rock bottom
If nothing else works, you may need to let your partner hit rock bottom if he’s going to learn his lesson. You may just need to allow him to get banned from his favorite bar or even destroy one of his friendships. Nothing teaches hard lessons like hard consequences.