Being There For A Partner Who Is Quitting Smoking
Ideally, you’ll meet someone who isn’t a smoker. You don’t want to deal with the little ashtrays that begin to litter your balcony, or having to roll down all of the windows just to sit in his car without gagging, or requiring him to brush his teeth, rinse his mouth, and have a breath mint before he kisses you. Cigarette smoking is tough on a person’s health and tough on his relationships. It’s hard to love a man who isn’t looking after his health. But, look, someone’s cigarette habit doesn’t say anything about his character, so you may fall for a smoker. And you may be the one who helps him finally quit. But if I can be totally honest, in order from best to worst, these are the times you want to know a smoker: when he’s no longer a smoker, when he is a smoker, and—very, very least—when he’s in the middle of quitting. That part is a doozie. Here’s what to know about helping your partner quit cigarettes.
He’ll always have a reason not to
He’ll always have a reason why now is not a good time to quit. He just got a new job, and that’s stressful. He just lost his job, and that’s stressful. He’s in a fight with his dad, and that’s stressful. The beginning will be him searching for a peaceful time to quit smoking.
So tell him, that’s just life
You’ll have to tell him that life is stressful. That long stretch of peace that he’s looking for isn’t coming. In fact, a true test of being free of cigarettes is being able to stay away when life gets stressful—not just when it’s all daisies.
Don’t put too much pressure on him
Don’t act like a drill sergeant here. This isn’t your journey: it’s his. You’re there to help him—not boss him around. He’ll tell you what he needs you to do to help him. Don’t decide, on your own, and push him into your agenda.
The stress will make him smoke
If you try to take over this goal for him and boss him around, that stress will drive him back to smoking. He can’t feel that when he fails, he also fails you. That’s too much pressure. Be supportive, but don’t take control.
You want him to be honest with you
Also keep in mind that if you become bossy in the process, and you make him feel bad when he fails, he’ll just stop telling you the truth. He won’t tell you when he slips up and smokes. He’ll start keeping secrets from you.
In fact, secrecy can make it more appealing
What’s worse is that, the secrecy of smoking can be what’s most appealing to smokers. They feel that it’s their alone time—that it’s all theirs, because nobody even knows they’re doing it. You don’t want him falling into that headspace. So be supportive, and he’ll remain honest with you about his slip-ups.
Praise him for every small win
When he doesn’t smoke for a day, be excited for him. Congratulate him. When that extends to a week, make him his favorite dinner. Be his cheerleader. The praise he gets can encourage him to keep going because it feels so good.
Quit something with him
In solidarity, you could quit something with him. Maybe that’s sugar, alcohol, online shopping—whatever your addiction is. It can feel rough on him if he’s the only one in the house working on himself while you’re just coasting.
He feels bad enough when he fails
Just so you know, when he does slip up, he feels awful, all on his own, without you getting upset with him. So just hug him and tell him that those things happen and he’s still making progress.
A truly bad event will set him back
While he will have to learn to quit smoking in the face of regular, every day stress like fighting with a family member or having a bad day at work, keep in mind that some really bad events will set him back. If someone passes away or something really tragic and rare happens, he will likely start smoking again.
He’ll supplement with something else
He will likely need to direct that nervous energy elsewhere, now that he doesn’t have his cigarettes. Maybe he’ll start eating more, or jogging, or wanting to have tons of sex, or using a fidget spinner obsessively.
Let that supplement be for now
Try not to comment on his supplemental addiction right now. Remember that he only has it so he can stay on his priority goal of quitting smoking. So if he wants to have sex all of the time right now to stay away from cigarettes, just prepare your libido.
Don’t give an ultimatum
Do not ever put your relationship on the line as a way of pressuring him to quit. Don’t tell him you’ll leave him if he hasn’t quit by a certain date. That isn’t fair. That’s an enormous amount of pressure. And, you did know he was a smoker when you got with him.
He has to do this for him
It’s important that he’s quitting for himself and nobody else. When you talk about motives, talk about his health, his longevity, being there for his children, being there to enjoy retirement…and things like that.
Be ready for this to take a while
This can take years. There will likely be plenty of setbacks. It’s part of the process. So long as he continues to have the goal of quitting in mind, you’re getting somewhere.