Living with another smoker is one of the toughest challenges the newly quit can face. And if that 'other smoker' happens to be your significant other, you might agree the situation warrants a closer look! Let's say you are at the point where you've decided it's time to quit for You - your health, your life, your success and your future. You are finally ready to own your quit and own your daily choices. You're committed to keeping your precious quit no matter who you work with, who you live with and no matter what they say or do. Congrats ~ you have the motivation and winning attitude for a successful quit!
It helps to understand the potential roadblocks on your home front so you can navigate the murky waters ahead. You will want to keep your quit and your relationship intact. Since you'll also want support, encouragement and a little help, let's take a look at that smoker in your life! Did you know they have an emotional and habitual attachment to your smoking habit, as well as their own? This is perfectly normal. When you decide to quit smoking, their life will change, too. Here are some common thoughts, emotions and fears that the smoker in your life might subconsciously go through when you announce you are quitting smoking:
- You're changing and I don't like it. (Will you still like me/want me?)
- Change is uncomfortable to me. (Why are you doing this to me?)
- How will you spend your time now? (Will I be lonely?)
- What about our smoking friends? (Will I be bored/excluded?)
- We were smokers, what are we now? (I miss the smoking 'us'.)
- You can quit & I can't/won't/don't want to. (Are you better than me?)
- You'll judge me for smoking. (Why are you being unfair to me?)
- I feel guilty smoking now. (Why are you doing this to me?)
- I feel pressured to quit. (I resent you doing this to me.)
- You won't make it a week. (I feel threatened by your resolve/success.)
Your significant other may experience loss - losing a friend, losing your bonding time, losing your couples lifestyle and losing a part of your relationship history. You may feel some of these things, too! Be honest with yourself, process your feelings and be willing to let go of any underlying resentment towards your quit or your partner. Respect their choice to continue smoking at this time. Accept the process of change, and that it might be harder for them to accept since you initiated it. Change is good for everyone! Both of you can move forward successfully with mutual respect, empathy, consideration and open communication. Let your loved one know you recognize your choice affects them, you appreciate their efforts to support you and you don't expect them to quit until/unless they are ready to. If you socialize with other smokers as a couple, share how you plan to do things together just like before, once you get beyond the first few weeks or month of your quit.
Be sure to ask for help, and do so very specifically! Pick your battles. Identify your Top 3 requests that offer the most help for your quit. It helps to use "Please do" when possible, as "Please don't" may create resistance. Here are some examples:
- "Will you please help me by keeping ashtrays, cigarettes and lighters in this drawer?"
- "Will you please say "I'll be back in a minute" instead of "I'm heading out for a smoke?"
- "Will you please tell our smoking friends I quit so I don't feel on the spot?"
- "Will you please help me kick start my quit by smoking outside on the porch?"
Really brainstorm what would help you the most. Some people love to be made a fuss over, others like to be left alone. If your significant other is not very willing to discuss your suggestions, try giving options instead. An example would be: "Would you rather help me by smoking outside on the porch, in the garage or over at John's porch?" Support is a fair thing to ask for! You live there, too, and partnership is a team effort. Focus on what they will do to support you, get a commitment for how that's going to look, then thank them for taking the time to help you plan your quit.
Do avoid the "No matter how much I beg, promise you won't give me one!" request. This sets everyone up to fail. If you do beg, they don't know if they are supposed to honor the No Matter What rule or the intense, glaring person in front of them. Instead, let them know not to give you one unless you _______ or promise you won't get mad (and be sure you don't) if they hold steady. Have some clarification so they won't feel cornered!
With some effort and planning, you can increase your home support system, reduce tension, get along great and quit smoking in a smoking household. Chances are, as you celebrate each successful smoke free day, your loved one will become inspired to give quitting a try, as well.
KTQ in your happy, supportive home!
Vikki Q CTTS-M
Master Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist