TROUBLESHOOTER / My husband refuses to stop smoking, despite the risks

The Yomiuri ShimbunDear Troubleshooter:

I’m a female company employee in my 50s. I’m having problems with my husband, who’s a heavy smoker.

I hate cigarette smoke. We’ve been married for 30 years, and I’ve put up with his smoking for a long time. He doesn’t smoke in our house, perhaps because he knows that I don’t like it. However, he smells like cigarettes when he comes back from smoking outside the entrance to our home, and the odor clings to him.

About 10 years ago, he was able to temporarily quit smoking after going to a clinic, but got back on the habit after three months.

Partly due to menopause, I can’t help but be irritated by cigarette smoke. The results from my recent health checkup were not positive. Thinking about the rest of our lives, I suggested that he reduce his health risks as much as possible.

However, my husband became agitated and replied that “preaching is verbal harassment.” We ended up arguing, and he even said that it’s OK if he didn’t live long.

How should I talk to him about quitting without irritating him?

S, Fukushima Prefecture

Dear Ms. S:

My parents were also heavy smokers, so I completely understand how you feel.

It’s acknowledged throughout the world that smoking carries health risks. You may be sad rather than angry about your husband’s selfish complacency when he says he does not plan to live long.

Your husband will inevitably fall ill if he continues to smoke, but you may regret your inaction if you don’t do anything about it as his wife.

Your husband must have been aware of his nicotine addiction and desired to quit, as he previously attended the smoking clinic. You shouldn’t make blind assumptions that he gave up because he’s mentally weak. Rather, you should first compliment him on the fact that he visited the clinic for three months.

If everybody had the determination, they would all quit smoking. But it’s painful when you can’t quit even though you want to, and the support of family and medical institutions is crucial.

Why don’t you suggest he go to the clinic again for three months? Compliment him when he smokes one less cigarette than the day before, or praise him when he doesn’t smoke for a whole day per week, or even for half a day. Perhaps you could also serve an extra dish of his favorite food as a reward.

Rather than scold him if he reverts to smoking, show your understanding by acknowledging that sometimes it can’t be helped. Expressing a willingness to take this on together will strengthen your bonds as a couple and bring meaning to your daily life.

Hazuki Saisho, writer

(from Jan. 17, 2019, issue)Speech

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