It’s not uncommon for people who smoke to be in a relationship with another smoker. This can be like a double edged sword…it can either help or hinder a person’s goal of stopping.
If a smoking couple comes in together and each have the stated goal to stop smoking, special planning is required. In the best cases, each can be supportive and encouraging of the other, helping to get each other through the tough times, difficult withdrawal, and strong cravings. Sometimes this works very well, and it’s great to see people drawing such support from one another in this way when it does. Other times, one person’s stumble or relapse, can be just the excuse the other one needed to relapse to smoking. Things such as “well if he can smoke then so can I” can be heard.
With special planning, this kind of pulling each other back to smoking can be avoided. First, it’s important to focus on the fact that it is each person’s choice to decide to quit or not. Though it’s nice to do it together and support one another if possible, it is ultimately up to each smoker to decide whether or not they want to quit. It absolutely can make it more difficult to quit if your partner is smoking, but it doesn’t mean you have to smoke too.
I suggest that couples come to an agreement about a safety zone that is smoke-free regardless of whether neither, one, or both of them return to smoking. It’s good to keep this a smoke-free zone even if both continue smoking because it begins to create an ongoing smoke-free area. When possible, it’s nice for couples who don’t have any smoke-free zones in their lives to create one before they quit so they can get used to it. For people who smoke throughout their homes and cars, the first suggestion is to make the entire home and cars smoke-free. If that’s not realistic, then to have smoking only allowed in a certain location that is as isolated as possible from the rest of the home. Thus, a downstairs workroom with a door would be preferable to the living room. This same approach can be helpful if one partner is just not ready to make a quit attempt at this time.
The overall message is for smoking couples to encourage one another when you can, not let your partners relapse lead you to relapse, and to have a smoke-free zone that is agreeable to both partners regardless of smoking status of each of you.