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I (man, 30) have been smoking daily since 2012 (2 to 4 cigarettes/day). I do it only when there is no one I know around.

I started dating a non-smoker (woman, 5 years younger than me) 6 years ago. We have built a very happy and healthy relationship. I never told her I smoke and, for most of the time, I was able to conceal this fact from everyone, including from her. I choose specific days of the week, places and moments to smoke and make and effort to get rid of the smell by washing my hands well, taking a shower right after etc.

After ~2 years, she eventually noticed and asked me about it. I said to her that it was a rare behavior, triggered by anxiety (this part is true) and I promised I was going to stop. I tried to but eventually found myself in the old daily routine. She confronted me a couple more times and I lied again, saying it wasn't frequent.

Now we are living together and recently she told me she knew I was smoking again and that it was a habit for me. I decided I would admit it is a habit and I would not lie anymore because it is wrong and makes me feel ashamed, but I won't tell her I lied about it in the past.

Things I am aware of:

  • I do not want to quit smoking right now; if I tell her that I will try to stop again, I will fail
  • I know she cares about me: even if she wasn't affected in any way, the addiction would still be harmful to me
  • I do not want to end the relationship
  • I do not want to lie anymore
  • Smoking is a bad habit that can cause serious illnesses
  • Most people don't like the habit of smoking and smokers and there is an emotional dimension about this (disgust)
  • It is better to keep my addiction as a private question, because I have the impression I would smoke more if everyone knew about it

My question:

What is the most effective and sensitive way to communicate my decision to my partner without coming across as uncompromising?

  • 2
    How important is the "without coming across as uncompromising" piece to you? And what compromises, if any, are you prepared to make? – Upper_Case Mar 29 at 18:38
  • @Upper_Case I do not want her to feel like I don't care about her opinions. What I can do is keep smoking only while I am alone so that the smell would not annoy her. I am able to go through periods of 2 days (weekends) or 30 days (vacations) with her without feeling the need to smoke. It is something heavily linked to the routine. – Cphrreiuslo Mar 29 at 18:53
  • Also, how much does she want you to quit smoking? It's not clear from the question how big of a problem it is for her, or why. – Upper_Case Mar 29 at 19:31
  • She would definitely want me to quit for real, like "don't smoke at all". As for the reasons, there sure is an objective point: smoking is bad for my health and she doesn't want me to fall ill, but I am fairly certain that when she thinks that her SO smokes it is disgusting, not attractive and does not fit my image. Most, if not all, people of our circle of friends don't smoke and it is quite uncommon for our generation. – Cphrreiuslo Mar 29 at 20:10
  • You only fail when you give up, not when you slip. It's a given you'll slip, but if you keep at it it'll get easier with time. Eventually you can change any habit if you just keep at it, and don't treat those times you give in as failure and just give up. – Tanath Apr 6 at 13:07
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I would try to firmly establish boundaries that you both can live with. This would involve compromising on both your side and hers.

Judging from your comment, you can go without smoking for quite some time and even do so for weekends and vacations. That might be a good place to start!

You'll have to open with the decision to keep smoking. Maybe even an apology for hiding the habit (although you don't have to go into the full detail). But if you then transition into a cooperative discussion over how you can set boundaries, you can show that you are in fact compromising.

After opening on your decision to not stop, bring up how you would like to establish when and how you can smoke without interfering with her. Yes, you didn't give in to the ask to stop, but by asking for input and offering ideas, you are demonstrating the ability to compromise and a wish to work with her rather than against her.

I'll admit I am a complete non-smoker and have quite a few problems with it since even second-hand smoke is quite harsh for me. I've had breathing problems. Anyways, I had a roommate for 4 years that was an avid smoker (pack a day at one point) and we were able to make it work. This was done through boundaries.

My roommate would only smoke outside for instance. Now you don't have to hold to that strict a standard, but I would recommend you pick a particular place or two around your home that you smoke and no more. You said its part of your routine, but I'm not sure where/when this applies. If you only smoke at work, this is a lot easier, but I'm guessing you're trying to smoke at home to. Non-smokers (depending on sensitvitiy) can smell smoke for quite some time, and it usually embeds itself in furniture over time. If you pick a 'designated' area then yes, the problem is still there, but it can be either in a location she doesn't use often (a personal den of yours) or in an area that has good airflow and she doesn't have to remain in 'contact' with the air for long.

Best way to sound uncompromising? Actually compromise and work out the best solution both can live with. That does mean neither side gets everything they want (She didn't get you to stop smoking and you'll have to match your routine to these boundaries) but it sounds like you both care about each other. Thats more important and I wish you luck in working this out.

  • When I say smoking is part of my routine, I mean there are specific moments I feel the need to do it (just before my job, right after I arrive at home etc.). When I'm on vacation, these opportunities never come and do I don't feel the need to light a cigarette. Thank you so much! Your response really helped me to define the best way to converse about this. – Cphrreiuslo Mar 29 at 20:49
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Firstly you have to ask yourself what's more important to you: your girlfriend's wishes, or your desire to smoke?

If you care more about your girlfriend than smoking, then you need to focus on how best to quit. You will probably find that your girlfriend will be very supportive in your efforts.

If, on the other hand, you simply do not want to quit smoking - regardless of your girlfriend's wishes - then this is entirely your choice. But you need to be honest with her about it. You need to tell her directly that you simply don't want to quit. This then becomes a question for her: does she love you enough to accept it and live with it?

Of course, you can approach this as gently as you like, and with as much sensitivity in the way you choose your words and the way you speak. But ultimately if your decision is that you don't want to stop smoking, you can not avoid telling her that.

If her answer is no, then there will be some heartache, but at least you will both have your answer.

What you must not do is lie, by pretending that you quit (or are trying to quit), while actually having no intention to do so. That is utterly unfair on her, because if she doesn't see a long-term future with a partner who smokes, you're effectively stringing her along, allowing her to believe that you have a future when actually you don't.

Ultimately it's your decision: nobody can force you to quit smoking. You may do as you please, with your own life. But you need to be honest, and acknowledge that your decisions affect others.


From my own experience:

I detest everything about smoking. When I met my first girlfriend (over the internet!) I began to feel for her before I discovered that she smoked. I was upfront with her, telling her that I hated smoking. However she avoided the issue, giving the impression that she would eventually quit when the time was right. Over 3 years later, she was still smoking - and I only then realised that she didn't actually want to quit, and she never intended to.

If I had known her position at the beginning, then at least I would have been clear that she was not right for me. It was only the hope that she intended to quit, that made me put up with it at the beginning. However, smoking has no place in my future.

I was not upset because she chooses to keep smoking. I was upset that she effectively lied to me, meaning that I wasted 3 years of my life with her. (Smoking was not the only reason we broke up - but it's one of the indicative factors showing that she never really cared about my feelings.)

You need to be honest with your partner. Always.

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