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I have been dating my girlfriend for a year now. She is very successful and very beautiful. Our relationship is great – except for one thing. My girlfriend is a smoker and has had trouble quitting. I knew she was a smoker when we began to date, but tried to look past it since she is so wonderful. It is very frustrating because she is only 25 years old and I feel like she is putting herself in danger of health problems later on in life.
I have never smoked, and I try and support her quitting, but she can't stop. She is the sweetest girl I have ever dated and I love her very much. I just do not know what to do. She needs to quit but when I approach her about it, she does get defensive and says that sometimes due to stress she needs to smoke. She has tried to stop several times but always goes back to it. I am just confused because she works out, eats healthy, but can't give up this really bad habit.
Any suggestions on how to approach her and help her quit for good?
– Bad Habit
She has to want to quit – and she probably has to be open to reaching out for some real help.
You are not a addiction specialist (right?). You have no idea how smoking does relieve her stress – why she feels bound, chemically and behaviorally, to the habit. Ask her if she'd be open to getting some real assistance with the problem. There are programs for this, many of which are probably virtual right now.
It might help to acknowledge what she gets from the activity. You're not trying to deny whatever stress she's trying to ease, only hoping she can find a healthier way to deal with it. Also, you can be very clear that this habit that affects you. You feel worried. You might not like the smell. Maybe you feel sick. This is a good time for "I" statements and positive reinforcement. The only reason you care so much about this is because you want a future with her. You like her that much.
This isn't about listing all of the possible side effects; you're not teaching a health class, and I'm sure she knows at least some of the risks. The tone of this talk should be different; it's one partner telling another that they feel uncomfortable in the relationship – a relationship they otherwise adore.
She might get defensive all over again, and please know, if it's easier for both of you, you can move the conversation to writing. At the very least, you can tell you think it's a good idea for her to think about what you've said – to give herself some space – before responding.
Readers? Will this letter writer's girlfriend stop smoking? If so, will the letter writer have anything to do with that choice? How has this played out in your relationships?