Objective: This study explored the perceptions, lived experiences, and coping approaches of women who live with spouses who have alcohol use disorder (AUD) in response to implicit and explicit messages from professionals and others in their environment. Background: Women who live with a spouse with AUD are affected by their spouses' behavior and experience high levels of mental stress. These women are viewed as problem-solvers and rescuers, on the one hand, or as enablers and “codependents” on the other. These attitudes may reflect society's ideas of women's gender-related caretaking role. Method: Semistructured interviews were conducted with 12 women whose spouses had a diagnosis of lifetime AUD. Results: Content analysis yielded three themes regarding the kinds of messages the women received: responsible and guilty, distanced and silenced, and reinforced and supported. The women indicated internalization of these messages and expressed they felt guilty, ashamed, and excluded, but in some cases, strengthened. Conclusion: Society and the people around these women bear responsibility for the negative images they internalize. Implications: Awareness of the implicit and explicit messages conveyed to these women is needed. Specific interventions should be designed to validate their difficulties and support them.
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© 2023 The Authors. Family Relations published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of National Council on Family Relations.
- alcohol use disorder
- social attitudes