My partner has been a smoker for about 5 years into our dating phase (of the total of 7) and 27 years of our married life. That’s over 30 years of my living with a man who fluctuates between 12- 15 cigarettes a day. And, I’ll tell you right now – it hasn’t been easy!
In these years I have gone through a range of emotions and have probably used every trick in my sleeve to make him quit. “Quitting smoking is easy, I’ve done it several time,” someone said. True, over the course of these years, he has given up many times, sometimes for a year-and-a half at a stretch and then one stray puff in a weak moment and he would be back to his normal numbers within a week.
In recent times, that period of having quit smoking has not lasted beyond 5-6 weeks. A lot has been said already on how difficult it is to kick any addiction and more so when it’s something like smoking. After all, it a lot more acceptable than alcohol and drugs. The cultural zeitgeist also portrays it as a sign that you’re cool, rebellious and maybe even intellectual.
But I’m not even going there. I want to talk about what I have understood of being with a smoker when I detest the habit at my very core and how I have found peace enough to not let this habit ruin our relationship, both at a macro and a micro level.
How To Cope When Your Partner Smokes
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Before you read further, please remember that I have been trying to make him quit for close to 27 years now. When he started smoking, I did not think much of it or even realize the long-term damage. In fact, it almost seemed cool to me at the time, young as I was.
But the older we got, the more I hated it. Also, just a little factoid – cancer and asthma both run in his family. Yes, I can see your blood stirring up a little.
And, if you’re a smoker, you are probably empathizing with how non-smokers will never understand how a cigarette is almost like a living, thinking companion and a best friend. I tried hard to make this friend leave.
Took professional help too – we went to doctors, even psychologists, and tried a host of alternative therapies. But he continues to smoke 12-15 cigarettes a day! Moral of the story: A smoker may need professional help, but he will quit only when he is ready to. You can’t make that decision for him.
Believe me, I tried.
Every time I tried to make him quit by force, it would only end up with him lying to me. Once, our entire friend’s circle knew that he was still smoking, but I didn’t. That was a huge jolt to the trust I had in him but I eventually understood that it was very specific to smoking. In other aspects, big and small, he was indeed trustworthy.
Below are some observations which help me keep calm when every cell in my body wants to push him out of the 20th floor of a building.
5 Ways I Cope When My Partner Smokes
I won’t pretend that I’m ever okay with my partner smoking. I continue to be angry, upset and worried at frequent intervals. But we’ve been together a long time, and I’ve come up with my own coping mechanisms, just so I don’t blow a fuse every time he lights up.
1. It’s not about you
The most common emotional blackmail is, ‘If you loved me enough, you would be able to quit’. I’ve finally understood that a smoker will quit smoking only when he wants to! No amount of pressure, cajoling, threats, blackmail will work. It will only lead to them lying about it. Their love has nothing to do with their need/habit/dependency on smoking. Keep the two things separate.
Related Reading: 15 Tips For A Successful Marriage
2. Smoking is their stressbuster
Every time they feel stressed, they will light up, it is their go-to to de-stress. You wonder why they pick an inanimate cancer stick over you to de-stress. Remember, a cigarette is very much like a companion to them. However incomprehensible it is, we cannot make it an ego issue. If the other woman in our lives is in the form of fire at the end of a stick, so be it!
3. Cigarettes are for all seasons
A cigarette is an all-purpose product. Smokers will smoke when they’re having a good time, especially with alcohol around. They will smoke when they’re having a bad time, an unpalatable situation, a conflict, a tragedy, etc. And they will smoke when life is trudging along without much action.
4. Boundaries are important
I may be understanding, but I have boundaries I stick to. If you decide not to kiss your partner because of the smoker’s breath, or exit the room when they light up, that’s fine. But remember in the most serious conversations, at cliff hangers, they make take off for a smoke and you must know that it is your decision not to follow them out and stick to your side of the bargain. Your stand is more important to your own sense of self and helps in setting boundaries. Yes, love is about compromise, but you need to know when not to compromise in a relationship.
5. Smokers have their own parties
During parties, smokers will catch hold of a fellow smoker and disappear outdoors, sometime breaking the flow of the evening. If you are the host, then you will find yourself with the additional burden of keeping the evening going. It’s annoying, but you can give them a time warning for this and insist on it being followed. And as a trade-off, maybe they can clear off the leftovers.
These are ways I hold onto my sanity after all these years. I’m no saint – I still complain and I will never like that he smokes. But I’m learning to cope with it, and hold on to my relationship and peace of mind, too. So, when I hear the click of the lighter, I no longer go up in smoke.