Auntie SparkNotes: Can I Ask My Boyfriend To Quit Smoking?
I have been dating this guy for about a month and a half. He is wonderful, the best guy I have dated so far. Every part of him is awesome, except this one little thing: I always told myself I would never, ever date a smoker. I don't like the idea of someone being addicted to something that is so unhealthy, and I don't like the idea of getting involved with someone with the habit.
My boyfriend is not addicted to smoking. However, he does smoke cigars or pipes several times a week. He always smells or (yuck) tastes smoky afterwards. I tried not to say anything to him about this issue, because it is not my business whether he smokes or not - he is of legal age and I know that cigars are not as bad for you as cigarettes. However, I recently found myself so bothered by the smell/taste that I just had to bring it up. It truly might be a dealbreaker for me (as in, I would probably break up with him in order not to have to deal with the smoking).
He surprised me by saying that he would be willing to smoke less or not at all if it would cause a problem in our relationship (which, to be honest with myself, it probably will over time). Apparently he has only started smoking cigars recently, and says that it would be no problem to stop if it was going to be a problem for me. Sounds awesome, right?
But I'm freaking out a little. Is it too much to ask that he stop smoking just for me? Is it a sign that he's overly dedicated to me because he is willing to cut out this activity just so he can stay with me? I'm worried that after a while, even though he has agreed to this so willingly, he might eventually feel tied down by my unnecessarily strict (?) mantra against smoking. How much is too much to ask of a significant other?
Ooooh, this is a tough one, Sparkler. Because strictly speaking, there's no universal standard for this stuff. Everyone has different ideas about what they need to be happy in a relationship, and everyone has different ideas about what they're willing or able to do to accommodate the wishes of an SO*. You're entitled to ask your boyfriend to quit smoking; he's just as entitled to say, "No, I won't." And that being the case, all you can really do is be aware of your needs, communicate them openly and honestly, reevaluate them as necessary, and hope that your "what I need" won't end up being his "too much to ask."
*Although for the record, if ever you find yourself attempting to change a person's entire character (as opposed to making minor requests of the "I'd prefer you didn't smoke cigarettes/wear socks with sandals/fart under the covers and then pull them over my head" variety), then it's much healthier (not to mention easier) to simply accept that you're a bad fit, call it quits, and go find a guy who doesn't need a full-on personality and lifestyle overhaul to meet your needs. (Or in other words, if your love life starts to even remotely resemble Neil LaBute's The Shape of Things, you're doing it wrong.)
But in your case, this isn't a question of character; it's a question of stinky breath and smelly clothes. And so far, you've handled it all exactly right—beginning with the part where you recognized that having always thought smokers were gross in theory doesn't necessarily mean you can't be attracted to one in reality, and ending with the part where you made a good-faith effort to evaluate your needs before bringing it up as an issue.
At which point, yes, the correct approach is to communicate your feelings vis-a-vis the cigars, give your boyfriend an opportunity to respond, and see if you can't reach a compromise that allows you to stay together without anyone feeling overly imposed-upon.
But here's what you don't get to do: communicate your needs vis-a-vis the cigars, have those needs respectfully acknowledged and met by your boyfriend, and then have a multi-faceted freakout over his having done so—while also freaking out about the possibility that he doesn't really mean it.
Or in other words, please don't ruin your flawless record for relationshipping by suddenly going all overanalytic and control-freaky over your guy's decision-making process and motives. You were doing so well! Sure, this could be a sign that he's pretty dedicated to your relationship; on the other hand, it could also just be a sign that he's not particularly dedicated to cigars. (If you're truly concerned about this, you could always ask him.) But if he decides at some point that smoking is, in fact, pretty important to him, then it'll be his responsibility to revisit the issue—and you'll owe him the same consideration, honesty, and openness to discussion that he gave you this time around.
You know, if that happens. But until then, what's important is this: you guys have the trust and communication to deal with these things as they happen, which means that you don't have to worry about them before they happen. So calm your freakout, enjoy your un-smoky boyfriend, and give yourself a pat on the back for relationshipping like a motherfranking adult.
Have you ever asked an SO to stop doing something you disliked? Share your story in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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