Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Bad habit or power struggle: Smoker should quit either way
Smoker's dilemma: I smoke, and my significant other doesn't. I never light up in front of my S.O. S.O. still says it's a deal-breaker and wants me to quit. S.O. knew I smoked when we started dating, but I guess neither of us was thinking of getting serious, and now we are. Neither of us wants to budge, on "principle."
Honestly, I'd quit if S.O. were willing to curtail the habits I despise, but there's been no success on that front, so it just seems controlling. Any way around this?
Carolyn: If the habits you despise in your significant other are addiction-related, then you might have a point, though the point would be that you're both equally wrong.
I get your concerns about feeling controlled. However, you have a habit that's both nearly impossible to defend, and also a legitimate potential burden for a mate in several ways.
The obvious burden is that you're choosing a path that routinely leads to a premature death often after long, drawn-out, expensive and horrible illnesses.
On top of that, though, you're also acquiring bad smells, wrecking your skin, yellowing your teeth and nails, chipping away at your ability to be active now and whacking it later in life, and lighting an astonishing amount of money on fire. These range from bummers to tragedies, and they cover both the near and distant future — so there's no time that it's all okay.
And, any one of these bummers-to-tragedies is a reasonable place for a mate to draw a line, even if it's after knowing you for a while and initially believing, mistakenly, that it was something s/he could accept about you.
If there's any talk of your having children, that adds a whole new raft of problems that smoking is proven to cause.
Smoking is still legal, sure. But let's say your friend confided in you that her engagement was off unless her betrothed kicked an addiction to illegal or prescription drugs, or to the also-legal alcohol. Wouldn't you be advising this friend to make sure the problem was clearly and demonstrably under control before taking any vows?
Meanwhile, these problems are all smoking-related specifics that are window dressing on a fundamental, underlying problem:
You're not unwilling to quit, you're just digging in as a statement of power. That's exceedingly immature of you.
Either you love your S.O. and appreciate that there are dozens of reasons to quit smoking that have nothing to do with your S.O. — in which case you quit smoking — or you don't trust yourself or your S.O. enough to undertake a shared life.
If it's the latter, then you need to articulate what you think is wrong with the relationship, and ways that you think each of you can adjust to make it better.
Defining a battle issue and then digging in is a foolproof recipe for antagonism — which is the perfect opposite of what makes a couple happy.
Either you look out for each other as extensions of yourselves, or you're better off apart. And kicking the butts just the same.