We met six years ago on a dating platform. I was in my mid-30s, single for a long time and ready for the long-awaited dream man. When he stood in front of me on our first date, it was immediately clear to me, this is him! It all felt so right and familiar. While still on the date, I texted my girlfriend during a bathroom break: "Everything perfect, it couldn’t be going better, only catch: he smokes."
Compromise in the relationship
It was a catch that I successfully suppressed in the pink absorbent cotton at the beginning. We enjoyed the time, celebrated our infatuation and planned our first vacation. I was just happy! Since we didn’t live together at the beginning, I didn’t really notice that he couldn’t get through the day without his one and a half packs of cigarettes. On the dating platform he had pretended to be an occasional smoker. I never liked smoking and from the beginning I thought it was uncool to have him by my side with a cigarette in his hand, but I tried to come to terms with it somehow. Don’t you always have to compromise?
The first time I really stumbled was during our first skiing vacation. I still remember the scene: we got out of the gondola and trudged a few meters in ski boots to the summit to catch the beautiful alpine panorama. The few meters of altitude took him completely out of breath and the first thing he did was: light a cigarette. I was completely irritated and did not understand how one could come up with the idea here in nature, while doing sports. But slowly it sank in that this was no longer casual smoking, but a real addiction.
After half a year I got pregnant. When I found out, I almost burst with happiness. It was an absolute wish child, both of us were incredibly excited and looked forward to what was to come now. I asked my boyfriend to please take this chance and stop until I gave birth. A little baby with a smoking father, I could not imagine that at all. For me it was absolutely natural that something would change now. He reacted quite passively. He did not deny my wish, but never really commented on it. I left it at that, because I didn’t question at all that it couldn’t be done. He probably already suspected that he would fail.
Anyway: I was "immobilized" for the time being. Nevertheless, the cigarette smoke bothered me more and more. The pregnancy made me more sensitive to smells and I didn’t want to let him get to me anymore. I punished him with the cold shoulder, if he had smoked. Physicality hardly took place, but I didn’t know how to help myself. The topic overshadowed our everyday life and took on a huge significance.
Nevertheless, all the time I was quite sure that he would fulfill my fervent wish when our child was born. When, if not then? When he visited me in the hospital the morning after the birth and smelled of nicotine, a world collapsed for me. The next weeks were terrible. I was so in my emotional cocoon with this wonderful baby – for me, the birth of my daughter was the greatest gift and this first time as a family seemed infinitely precious to me. I wanted to live this spell and was sad and angry that the man who loved me so much could not pull himself together. He now started to smoke secretly. He disappeared from the apartment in the evening and came up with countless excuses during the day to get out of the four walls. Suddenly the garbage was constantly taken down, every single letter was carried to the post office, the car was moved in the evening. I felt betrayed and cheated.
The worst thing for me was that right after smoking he took our little pure baby in his arms. I got totally involved in this issue, I didn’t want my baby to grow up with that smell. I really begged him to stop at last. At first he tried to reassure me and assured me that he really intended to do it, it would just have to come the right moment, no stress at work etc. Gradually, however, he became more and more irritated, shut down completely and could no longer be approached on the subject. Our communication went down to a minimum, constructive conversations were no longer possible. At the same time, I was quite prepared to make sacrifices, to change – I would have been prepared to do many things. I felt so infinitely powerless.
The addiction is damaging the relationship
At some point I realized: if I can’t change him, I have to start with myself. I did hypnosis sessions against my aversion to cigarettes. Unfortunately unsuccessfully. I resolved to be more loving towards him again, not to punish him with emotional coldness. But I found it damn hard. I was too disappointed by his passivity and felt he was weak, not manly enough. I wanted a doer, a fixer, not an addict who couldn’t go an hour without nicotine. I started to lose respect for him.
Still, I didn’t give up and kept fighting. I put money under his pillow for an anti-smoking hypnosis, packed the book by Alan Carr "Finally Non-Smoker" I got him an e-cigarette, I promised him a great trip if he could make it, I hid his pack of cigarettes or broke the glow sticks. I had no shortage of ideas. In the end it was a fight against windmills, because it was always MY wish, never HIS. My insistence evoked only defiance and reluctance in him. I was disappointed in him, he was disappointed in me: we were caught in this spiral. When he came home from work, I was now really afraid of the encounter, because I knew that if I smelled the tobacco, a flap would fall down inside. I hated myself for it, but I just found him repulsive anymore.
He didn’t smoke in front of the child and he didn’t smoke in front of me, but that’s why he wasn’t there all the time. I felt I was always alone when we were out together. He could only relax when he was "around the corner" Stepped, and I, when I was away from the whole smoke issue. We started doing things separately instead of together. Each annoyed by the other.
And yet I didn’t give up my dream of a family. I wanted my daughter not to be an only child. I wish so much that we still get the curve. When he came home just before Christmas after a long business trip, he promised me again that he would stop smoking. He seemed to really mean it this time. We actually got closer again over the next few weeks, became gentler with each other. And I got pregnant again.
Unfortunately, our second child has exacerbated the problem. Everything went on as before, no worse, because the smoking issue had destroyed our basis in such a way that we were no longer able to resolve other conflicts as well. We started couples therapy, but even that couldn’t save us. I thought more and more about separation.
It was a long process, especially because of the children. In addition, we are both freelancers, and it is not easy to find two affordable apartments. We lived more or less side by side for over a year and a half, each doing his thing, for the kids we functioned. But some time ago he moved out. This physical separation will show how things will go on with us. I don’t give up the tiny hope that one day he will be able to quit smoking on his own.
"How important I am to the other?"
Couples therapist Oskar Holzberg on the argument about cigarettes
Can you really ask a partner you met as a smoker to quit??
You can always. Things change, we change. And especially when a child comes into the picture, you can say: It bothers me, but it’s even more stupid for the child.
Isn’t it also a symptom of a deeper crisis when smoking becomes such an issue??
Yes. The real drama can be: There’s something more important to you than me. You are loyal and attached to cigarettes, but my needs are less important to you. This feeling often occurs when the security in the relationship was already cracked beforehand. Conflict adds another dynamic: You make it clear to the other person how much it bothers you, fall on deaf ears and have the feeling that you are not being taken seriously.
But smoking is an addiction. It is not so easy to stop.
That’s right. And if the partner, as in this case, smokes secretly, this is in a way worthy of recognition, because he thus responds to her a little bit. On the other hand, it also means that there is no openness in the relationship.
What could help both?
The question that both would have to talk about beyond the cigarettes would be: "What is emotionally difficult for me with you?"
Do you want to read more about the topic and exchange ideas with other women about it? Then have a look at the "Relationship in everyday life forum" the BRIGITTE Community passing!
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