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Try to fix the stress to eliminate the reason for renewed smoking

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Try to fix the stress to eliminate the reason for renewed smoking

North Carolina: My husband quit smoking before I met him. The whole time we dated, he never mentioned a smoking habit, even though I mentioned several times that I did not enjoy being around smokers. We have now been married six years, and he recently told me about his former smoking habit (which he downplayed as a "lifestyle") and also announced that he has taken it back up to manage his stress.

I hate it. He does not smoke in the house, but he constantly smells like an ashtray, and we have two small kids with asthma. I feel very deceived but do not know what to do about it.

Carolyn: While you arguably were deceived, focusing on that will push aside a very important element of this problem: that your husband feels significant stress. You're a parent, so your kids' health has to be paramount, but you're also this man's partner, and so his well-being can't be relegated to a distant second place. It's a close second, tied with yours.

Accordingly, it's fair to say you want to help alleviate his stress, both for his sake and because his outlet of choice is creating stress for his family. Approaching it as an issue both of you need to work on together will be more conducive to your husband's cooperation than opening with "You lied to me, and you stink."

Anonymous: Re: "Arguably deceived": I'm having trouble figuring out when the omission of information becomes deception and outright lying. North Carolina says she (spontaneously? cruelly? good-naturedly?) complained that she hated being around smokers. If I were that guy, I'm not sure I would have mentioned anything, either. I've done plenty of things in the past that I'm not proud of (and that I don't continue to engage in), but I'm not particularly fond of the notion that my potential life partner needs to know about all of it.

Carolyn: I don't think every skeleton has to be trotted out for a date's inspection; it's a judgment call. However, if we replaced "I used to smoke" with "I had and kicked an addiction," you'd probably see more value in sharing.

It's not just about the odds of recurrence. Acting like a goofball in college, for example, might not be something you want to trot out for potential life partners. Yet I could also argue that the mark of a promising candidate is that you find yourself sharing your stories of goofball college behavior — not because you feel obligated, but because you suddenly find that the stuff you aren't proud of is stuff you feel safe sharing.

But I digress. Recurrence is big here. Smoking is a habit, which points to disclosure. Maybe it wasn't that big a habit and he legitimately couldn't foresee its coming back to bite him. But his "lifestyle" laugher says there's denial involved.

There's also this: He apparently said nothing about quitting. If he had expressed a desire to stop, then I don't think she'd be as angry about when he chose to disclose.

Try to fix the stress to eliminate the reason for renewed smoking 07/16/10 [Last modified: Friday, July 16, 2010 12:51am]

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