You already know smoking is bad for you. There are billboards and commercials and pictures of skulls on cigarette boxes to tell you this, as if you won’t also hear terse comments from strangers offended by your puffs of smoke as you walk by them in the street. At this point, anyone who smokes does so with the knowledge it’s not a healthy habit, which means it’s an active choice to prioritize pleasure.
If you smoke, it’s totally up to you, and while it’s not good for your body, it’s okay to make your own decisions! But what if a partner really hates it? Should you stop smoking for them? Like so much else in relationships, it really depends on a number of factors.
Is smoking a dealbreaker?
In romantic situations, there are dealbreakers, but then there are “non-starters.” Non-starters, according to eharmony relationship expert Laurel House, “are firm and unbending values that don’t allow you to start a relationship. They’re individual and based on your own life experiences and needs. For example, they can be around religion, politics, drugs, alcohol, a nasty relationship with their ex, negativity, or finances.”
If smoking is a non-starter for someone, you may never even know it. A lot of dating apps, like OKCupid, give you a space on your profile to indicate if you smoke or not, and, if you do, whether it’s more of a social or habitual occurrence. On Hinge, users can even filter potential matches based on whether they smoke and avoid the profiles of people who do. For someone who is adamantly against a partner smoking, those are easy ways to weed out puffing partners—and you, the smoker, would be none the wiser if someone swiped left on you because of your existing love affair with Newports.
If smoking is more of a dealbreaker than a non-starter, you might get a few dates into a new partnership before the other person signals to you that they’re not a fan of your habit. If that happens, listen to them, don’t get defensive right away, and consider whether this is a good opportunity to make a healthier choices.
Consider why they want you to quit
Listening to your partner is critical here. In the event your habit isn’t catastrophic enough that it could cause them to call off the relationship completely if you don’t immediately comply, there is a chance for some solid dialogue that can help you better understand them and better understand yourself.
One 26-year-old freelance model told Lifehacker they prefer not to date smokers because it triggers them to smoke, a habit they’ve recently given up. They mentioned that they wouldn’t rule out dating someone who partook, necessarily, but a partner’s “understanding” of their past addiction—and interest in avoiding being around it—is fundamental to the future of a relationship.
Spend some time working on that understanding. The other person’s dislike for smoking could stem from a variety of sources. They may hate the smell or the way you taste when you kiss them. They may have had a family member who got sick or even died from smoking-related illness. They may be worried about your health. Those are all totally valid concerns, but each one is also unique. Hearing them out and respecting that they’re coming to you with this issue is important, even if you do end up breaking up over it.
Is it worth it to change yourself for someone else?
That’s what you have to ask yourself. Your partner’s reasons for not wanting you to smoke may be legitimate and coming from a good place, but ultimately, what you do with your body, money, and time are all up to you.
Changing something about yourself for someone else—even if it seems like a good, healthy change—isn’t always the best idea. As mentioned earlier, it’s not like you don’t know the risks of smoking every time you light up. You’re an adult making your own decisions. Even when those decisions can harm you, there is a value in self-determination.
In the same way you should hear your partner out when they explain why they don’t agree with your choice, take some time to think about your own reasons for smoking and decide if those are worth waiting around for someone who won’t mind if you light up in the evenings. Do you smoke because it’s something you can have in common with your friends? Do you smoke because you’re in a 12-step program for another substance, nicotine is one of the only substances still allowed in your new routine, and it keeps you away from something you consider even more harmful? Do you do it because it’s nice to take a little break from work or because you like the dependability of a habit? Whatever your reason, it’s your reason, and while smoking might be a small vice in the grand scheme of things, you have the right to do whatever you want as long as you’re well-informed of your choice and it’s not actively hurting anyone else. If you drop smoking for a partner, yes, you’ll make a positive step toward better overall health, but you’ll also be compromising a part of who you are for another person. And like smoking, doing that can also be habit-forming. Is that a precedent you want to set before you lose other, even more substantial parts of who you are?
Smoking isn’t the easiest thing to compromise on, either. Sure, you can do it away from your partner, but the smell lingers. Moreover, doing it occasionally instead of constantly probably doesn’t really address their concerns, whatever those may be, or completely wipe out their worry or annoyance. If you’re not ready or willing to quit, this might be one of those instances where you really do just have to break up, but make sure you talk it all out first, both understand where the other is coming from, and investigate all your options.