Hax: Where there’s smoke, there’s ire

The Washington PostOctober 3, 2013 

Carolyn: My boyfriend of over three years is a former smoker who, until yesterday, would have the occasional cigarette but not smoke regularly. Then yesterday, he told me that he wants to smoke as much as he wants, which seems to be about once an hour.

I am highly averse to smoking (which he knows), both in finding the smell disgusting and for health reasons. I feel like he is being selfish and not only disregarding his own health, but also mine and that of the children we plan to have someday. He feels like smoking is a character trait and that if I cannot accept his constant smoking, then I don’t really love or accept who he is.

Am I being unreasonable? I certainly never would have started dating him if he was a smoker, but now we are in a relationship. How to move forward from this? Or not?

NONSMOKER

Maybe marriage would change the stakes of my answer, but it wouldn’t change the fact that if you don’t want to be around a smoker, then you need to leave the relationship. Sad and maddening and a real waste, but at least he is being honest instead of making a string of promises to quit that he doesn’t intend to keep.

I could argue, by the way, that the relationship ended not with his decision to smoke, but with his declaration that “if I cannot accept his constant smoking, then I don’t really love or accept who he is.” I mean, can’t you argue that if he can’t accept your preference for clean air, then he doesn’t really love or accept who you are? People who take the argument down that road, who make unilateral decisions and then blame others for the consequences, are betraying poor emotional health. I’m sorry.

Re: Smoker: The way in which he confessed — dukes up — suggests to me that maybe he’s not as comfortable with his relapse or with himself as a smoker as he wants you to think. Suddenly proclaiming that he’s going to smoke until the day he dies would seem like less an ultimatum to me than a cry for help.

EX-SMOKER

Fair enough, though that still leaves the unilateral-decision-plus-blame problem.

Email tellme@washpost.com. Chat online at 10 a.m. Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.

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