What do you do if your husband smokes, and you hate it, and you want him to quit?
On Mondays I try to post reader questions and take a stab at answering them, and here’s one on a subject that a number of people have sent in. One woman writes:
My husband works long hours at a job where everyone smokes. He used to smoke as a teenager, but then he quit, but now, ten years later, he’s taken it up again because everyone at work does. He knows I don’t like it, but he says it relaxes him. How do I get him to quit?
My quick answer: you can’t. You can’t change anybody else.
But you can put boundaries around what you will accept, and you can also try some positive ways of helping him quit. I don’t have a definitive answer here, because I don’t think there is one, but I’m just going to post a whole bunch of quick thoughts, and then I’ll ask you all to chime in and tell me what you think!
Drawing boundaries when your husband smokes and won’t quit
1. Say no smoking in the house
It’s okay to say to him: “When you smoke in the house, I can’t get the smell out. I have to wash everything down, and the smell still lingers. I don’t like that. I won’t live in a house with smoking inside. So if you’re going to smoke, I’m going to ask you to do it outside.”
That actually shouldn’t be too difficult, because likely at work he has to smoke outside, too.
2. Say no smoking around the kids
I don’t know if you have children, but you can say to him,
Do you want our children to grow up healthy? Do you want them to grow up to become smokers?
I’m sure he’ll give the right answers. Who wants their kids to grow up smoking? Then just simply tell him that kids are three times as likely to smoke if they have a parent who smokes. You teach the kid that they should use cigarettes to calm nerves, and you tell them that all those health scare tactics to get people not to smoke isn’t that big a deal, because you ignore it.
Plus, second hand smoke is dangerous. So tell him that he can’t smoke around the children.
3. Refuse to kiss him if he has smoked or hug him if he hasn’t changed clothes or had a shower
My second-hand on the blog, Tammy, is a military chaplain’s wife, and she’s walked this route with so many wives in the past. And she always gives simple advice: Don’t kiss an ashtray. If he smokes, his breath will stink. And you can refuse to go near him if he’s smoked, or if he hasn’t changed clothes/showered. Make him brush his teeth if he wants to kiss, and make him shower and change if he wants a hug or anything else.
I’m not saying refuse to have sex. I am saying that it’s okay to not kiss someone when kissing them is highly unpleasant (on another note: we get questions all the time about husbands who refuse to brush their teeth. Nothing about smoking, but just guys with no hygiene. Why is that?)
Are you GOOD or are you NICE?
Look to the future without cigarettes
Those are the boundary things you can put in place for yourself and your family. Now let’s talk more about visioning!
4. Ask how he pictures his future
Talk about the future. Does he want to be smoking in ten years? Does he want to play with his grandkids? Does he want to enjoy hiking and outdoor activities without getting winded when he’s in his 50s? Then he has to stay in better shape now. If he doesn’t want to be smoking in ten years, or in five years, then you may as well quit now!
5. Calculate how much smoking is costing you, and decide something you can do instead for that amount of money
Here’s some info I found on how much cigarettes cost you:
In Canada, it’s much worse, because here a pack of cigarettes I think is close to $16. In fact, in Canada, giving up smoking a pack of cigarettes a day is basically your car payment.
However much cigarettes cost in your jurisdiction, figure out how much it costs him to smoke over the course of a year. Now think of something else that he’d really like. Make a promise that no matter what it is (even if you think it’s stupid), he’ll have your full endorsement to buy it in a year if he gives up smoking. Keep the jar in your kitchen, and add to it everyday. If he smokes, though, the jar gets emptied and you start again. It’s not like he can get away with just smoking one pack and keeping all that money. Nope. You’ve got to quit!
I know two different families where he spends so much on beer and cigarettes that the family has never been able to save for a downpayment. They’re always short of money, and much of it is because of all that gets wasted on these vices. If you figure out how you could be living without cigarettes, that makes a big difference.
6. Think about a new job
I don’t know how possible this is for him, but if the issue with smoking started at his work, can he work somewhere else? Can he get a different trade? I know smoking is really big in a lot of those jobs where there’s nothing to do for long periods of time, like guys who work on the oil rigs for months at a time, or the military, or security. Perhaps that lifestyle just doesn’t work with him. Is there something else he could be doing?
If you want a good way to vision together, you can download my visioning worksheets and work through them with him! This lets you have these conversations without sounding accusatory. You’re simply planning for the future, and then he’ll likely come to a lot of these same conclusions himself. Download them by filling in the form below!
Focus on making the here and now better
7. Quit something with him
Quitting is hard. Really hard. Show him you understand that by quitting some vice that you have, too, that you really hate. Maybe you resolve to lose some weight. Maybe you quit an addiction to diet pop, or to watching certain shows, or to TV in general. You know the one big thing that keeps you from living the life you want. Can you give that up to help him have someone to walk through this with?
8. Start something new
Is there a new hobby you guys can start in the evenings, so he isn’t bored and itching to go have a cigarette? Can you start a new routine right after dinner where there’s something to do, so he doesn’t have time to go grab a cigarette? Can you fill up your evenings more with volunteering or with activities? Can you get out and walk or start a sport together so you’re more active? If you can reduce the natural downtimes where he’d normally have a cigarette, he may not feel the pull quite as much.
Yes, this one requires you changing your life. But like I said–it’s hard to quit. If you want him to quit, and you want to help him, it’s going to be inconvenient for you, too. But it’s worth it!
Okay, those are the ideas that I’ve got. What about you? Any thoughts on how to help a husband quit smoking? Let’s talk in the comments!
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