ASK DENISE: DWI is ruining otherwise solid marriage

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Editor’s note: Writer’s answers do not reflect those of the Mitchell News-Journal and are not meant to replace medical or mental health care.


Dear Denise: I have a problem that is ruining my marriage. I have been married for 17 years to the love of my life. We have had our ups-and-downs, but our marriage is solid. I have a grown child from my first marriage, as does she. But, I recently made a mistake that is destroying our relationship.  

One evening when my wife was out of town visiting her family, I stopped at a friend’s house after work. He was watching a game and offered me a beer. I accepted, and we sat and watched the game. I drank three beers, and I felt fine. I left after the game and ran into a license checkpoint. I felt fine, so I wasn’t worried. The officer smelled the beer, breathalyzed me and I was over the legal limit. I was charged with a DWI.

This was so humiliating for me, everyone knows me in town, and my reputation is everything to me. But the worst part of all of this is my wife’s reaction. You would have thought I had an affair or killed someone. She brings it up daily to me, says hurtful things, degrades me and insults me.  She doesn’t talk to me unless it is to beat me to death over this. She is obsessed with what people are thinking or saying. Does she think I don’t worry about this as well? How can I get her to stop? This is ruining our marriage.

Dear Reader: As a therapist who, as part of my practice, works with DWI offenders, let me tell you a large number of the people who see me for this received their charge in a similar manner. 

Many people who get a DWI do not necessarily have a diagnosable substance disorder, but instead had a lapse of judgment. The cost of a DWI is great, however, when factoring in the court costs, loss of license, legal consequences and adjustments, as well as the humiliation. Many people are blindsided when they receive one, because, like you, they did not feel impaired.

The sad reality is we are often impaired way before we feel we are. So, for those who feel they need to have a “buzz” before they are impaired, often are in for a surprise. But I am sure you have learned all this by now. 

As far as your wife’s reaction, I can understand how this is troubling. At this point you need family support, I am sure you have been beating yourself up just fine without any help. It appears her focus right now is on her perception of the social implications of your actions. The truth is, however, while people do tend to be gossipy in small towns, and I am sure the focus was on you for a day or two, you quickly became “old news,” and they moved on to someone else.   

Talk to your wife. Let her know how her behavior toward you is impacting you. Ask her to stop.  If she can’t, suggest she gets counseling to deal with her feelings.

Best of luck.

Denise Harrison is a Licensed Counselor. Send questions to or call and leave a message at 828-467-0037. Submissions are anonymous.

The MItchell News

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