DEAR ABBY: I have been with my boyfriend for five years. We do not live together, nor do we share any children (we have three grown kids from previous marriages). He has been a smoker since he was very young, and when we got together, he said he would like to quit. Well, it still hasn’t happened. As the child of an addict (alcohol) I understand how difficult quitting can be. Luckily, my father quit cold turkey 20 years ago and never relapsed. Abby, I do not want a future with a smoker. The smell of stale tobacco is unappealing. It’s not exactly a breath freshener, and the health consequences are dire.
Am I within my rights to put my foot down? I brought up quitting this week in response to him lamenting that he looks aged beyond his years (which is true). He became very defensive and made me seem like a monster for asking for a real timeline about quitting. He struggles with anxiety and thinks trying to quit will send him over the edge, and I would be the one pushing him. How do I navigate future conversations?
— CHOKING IN PENNSYLVANIA
DEAR CHOKING: Tell your boyfriend you care about him and about his health, but you can no longer tolerate watching him damage it because of his tobacco addiction. If he doesn’t already know that the smell on his breath, body and clothing is offensive, point it out, and also that secondhand smoke is unhealthy for you. Then tell him he has a choice to make: It’s the smoking or you. The decision is his. There are many effective smoking cessation programs available, and he should discuss them with his physician, who may be delighted to know he is interested.
PS In this day and age many women — and men — simply “swipe left” if they encounter a smoker.
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DEAR ABBY: I am currently in a relationship that is approaching the seven-year mark. We dated in our 20s and rekindled in our 40s. We live together, but I’m afraid we are growing apart. Due to health issues, I don’t work; he works second shift. I cry easily and have always been an emotional person.
When there are disagreements, we can usually work it out. My problem is, I think about the discussion later and have more to say or ask. He then tells me we have already talked about it and he’s not discussing it again. He says I “overanalyze everything.” It’s not that. I just have another question or something I left out.
His refusal to talk makes me feel as though things are unresolved. He just downright won’t talk about something we have already discussed! Please help me to understand if I am too demanding and should just leave it alone.
— UNANSWERED IN ILLINOIS
DEAR UNANSWERED: It isn’t “too demanding” to want to discuss something further. If revisiting the issue would rekindle the disagreement, your partner is far too controlling. If you have a question, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to ask without it leading to conflict. To deny you that opportunity seems disrespectful.
Give it more time after a disagreement and decide if it’s really necessary to revisit the subject. When you do, avoid reapproaching it in a way that could be perceived as an invitation to another argument.