Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché;
My boyfriend finally asked me to marry him after 5 years of dating. I should be thrilled, because I really love him and I want to have kids. But I have a lot of trepidation because of one of his habits.
Jeff is a smoker. Both his parents smoked so I guess he learned it at home because it seems so natural to him that to suggest he quit is like suggesting he cut his ears off. But I know too much about the serious long term effects of tobacco to take it lightly. Even if he doesn’t smoke in the house and expose me and our future kids to second hand smoke, he is setting himself up to abandon me in our old age- his own father died at 62 of cancer. For some reason, Jeff doesn’t connect it with smoking. I think you’d call this denial. I also happen to know that he can pass carcinogens on to me through his sperm! Wonderful thought.
I love Jeff but I don’t want to marry a smoker. Everything else about him is so perfect for me- we can deal with problems together, we enjoy each other’s company and we are economically responsible adults. But I can see the future and it is not a healthy one.
Should I throw away the best relationship I’ve ever had if I can’t get him to listen to reason? This is a very difficult decision. I don’t want to live without this guy. But I can’t live with this habit.
Smokeless in Seattle
You’re boyfriend’s smoking is a chink in the armor of a “perfect” picture. I have seen cigarettes, drugs or even, for that matter, cats ruin an otherwise good relationship. If one partner in a couple has pet allergies, and the other partner can’t live without the pet, this can cause problems. You are totally within your rights to expect a household free from second hand smoke. The stink gets into everything and there are health consequences. But smoking isn’t just a habit, it is an addiction.
You two need to talk about it and discuss your priorities. If he can’t put the health and future of his family before his addiction then it might also bode poorly in other ways down the line.
There may be compromises like electronic cigarettes or possible ameliorators like the nicotine patch, but be aware- according to NHIS statistical data on smokers, 70% want to quit, 41% try but only 4.7% are successful.
Dr. Brilliant Cliché
Granny says: I worked at a smoking cessation clinic for a while and discovered another disturbing statistic- people who are in a state of denial about the risks of smoking are far more likely to develop cancer than those who aren’t. Whether this is because those in denial smoke more or because their personality type accelerates the disease is unknown. But the correlation is definitely there.
If your boyfriend is in denial about the dangers of smoking, he needs to accept the reality or nothing can be done. Smoking is a stimulant and a sensory screen and for those who have developed an addiction the withdrawal of these perks is tortuous. No one who does not understand the reality of the consequences will EVER quit smoking, guaranteed. It’s tough enough for those who do.
Electronic cigarettes are not safe. Nicotine on it’s own is a very toxic poison, similar to pesticides. When taken into the body in any form, it releases adrenaline, increasing your heartbeat, blood pressure and breathing, and releasing excess sugars into the blood. It lowers blood oxygen levels within 10 minutes of inhalation. The risk of heart attack, stroke and heart disease are just as great as with regular cigarettes.
Bottom line- your boyfriend’s habit is not a small flaw in an otherwise perfect picture. It is a crack in the wall that is going to grow larger and extend further over time; and not just on a physical level.
My mother smoked, my father was a non-smoker. He begged her repeatedly to quit; she wouldn’t. The bitterness and anger and that my father felt grew over the years until he spent most of his time away from home. When my mother had her first stroke at 49, he didn’t even visit her in the hospital.
If you really love this guy, save his life- tell him it’s you or the cigarettes. If he chooses you, understand that he has a tough battle ahead of him and be supportive. Hypnosis is very helpful in quitting, as are acupuncture treatments. Those nicotine patches are a stop-gap, but they are still releasing nicotine into the body. Taking up an exercise program helps because it’s a new habit, and humans are creatures of habit. I do NOT recommend the pharmaceuticals available for smoking cessation. Just read the possible side effects and you’ll understand why. Suicide is on the list.
I have known people who kicked heroin but couldn’t kick cigarettes. I believe it may be the most addictive substance on earth, second only to crack cocaine. I wish you luck.