Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“How Can I Get My Boyfriend to Quit Smoking?”

My boyfriend, “Tom,” and I have been together for almost three years (I’m 23, he’s 24). In the beginning, we were both smokers. We kind of bonded over it, I guess, and it was something we shared. He has always been a heavier smoker than I, and almost everyone in his family smokes, unlike mine where almost nobody does. In retrospect, I think I became a heavier smoker to feel more welcome in his family and to share something with them.

But this year it all changed. His nephew was in the hospital for a respiratory issue, and, although it was caused by a virus and had nothing to do with the fact that everyone smoked, it was very eye-opening for me and four months ago I quit smoking. I am positive I want to stay smoke-free. And here is were the problem lies. At first, Tom and I decided to quit together, and he started using nicotine patches, but that only lasted a week. I kept nagging him to try again, but after a while I felt it was taking a toll in our relationship. I have also tried to make him read Allen Carr’s “The Easy Way To Quit Smoking,” which really helped me, but he didn’t read it. What annoys me the most is that I don’t feel like he is even trying. I don’t want to become a nag, or one of those holier-than-thou nonsmokers who look down on people who are still smoking, but it has become harder and harder to let this pass.

We have been talking about moving in together, but it would really bother me to live in a house that constantly reeks of cigarette smoke. I feel like I ruined a perfect relationship by quitting smoking, because it has shed light on things I didn’t notice before, like maybe he is not as considerate as I thought he was, and it has made me wonder if he can’t quit because he’s somewhat depressed. I’m at a loss, and I feel like this is not enough to give him an ultimatum or something like that, but I feel that, if I don’t tackle it now, it will become a bigger and bigger issue. I just would like for him to realize what a big deal this is to me without feeling like I have to nag him to death about it. — Nonsmoker For Life

Here’s the thing about bad habits, whether it be smoking, drinking too much, over-eating, watching “The Bachelor” religiously every night–oh my God, when is it going to come back onnnnn? — they’re hard to quit. And, when the bad habit is a true addiction, it can be damn near impossible. What makes people succeed is the desire to quit. Without the desire, there’s no motivation to fight the constant and overwhelming urges. Your boyfriend doesn’t have the desire. He may want to have the desire, but he doesn’t. And you have to accept that he may simply never get the desire to quit for himself. He may have to be motivated to quit for a reason bigger than himself and his health, and that reason may just be you and your relationship (or it may not).

At the same time, you have to decide whether your desire to be with this man is worth giving him an ultimatum and making him choose between his addiction and you. What if he chooses you? And what if you realize after (if) he quits smoking that the other issues that recently came to light are still there? What will you do then?

Maybe you’re thinking, “But they won’t be! All the issues stem from this one — his smoking,” in which case I ask this: is your commitment to him dependent on his quitting smoking? Can you only be happy with him if he quits? Do you think you’ll be increasingly unhappy the longer he goes without quitting? What if he tried, but only for a couple of days? Is the effort enough for you or does it need to be a successful effort?

These are questions you need to answer for yourself, and you may find that what you arrive at is this: smoking is a deal-breaker. And you know what? That’s a perfectly reasonable deal-breaker. Smoking is a pretty nasty habit. It stinks, it’s expensive, it’s bad for your health (and bad for your breath). It will affect your relationship every single day. It will affect your future. It will affect your finances if you were to combine them, the lives and health of any kids you might have, the cost of health and life insurance, and almost certainly the lifespan of your partner. These aren’t small things. They’re pretty big things to think about when you’re considering whether to continue pursuing a committed relationship with someone.

Is smoking a deal-breaker for you? If so, at what point do you want to throw in the towel? How much time are you willing to give your boyfriend to quit? If it’s not a deal-breaker for you, then you need to let it go. Accept that your boyfriend may never quit, that this is one of the things you have to deal with as long as you stay with him, and that the nagging is only going to become a wedge between you. And so will all the other women, if the smoker you’re dating happens to be Don Draper. Small price to pay, I say. Don Draper.

***************

You can follow me on Facebook here an Twitter here.

If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at [email protected].

74 comments… add one
  • Amybelle

    Amybelle October 9, 2012, 9:10 am

    WWS Also yay Allen Carr, that’s how I quit this past January!

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  • JK

    JK October 9, 2012, 9:13 am

    WWS.
    Speaking of Mad Men, I just started watching season 1 ( ithink I´m on ep.10). The amount they smoke makes me so nervous. I HATE smoking with a passion. I´m so glad most people are a bit more aware just how bad smoking is now. Except for my FIL of course. Ugh.

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    • katie

      katie October 9, 2012, 10:36 am

      i heard that on mad men they smoke herbal cigarettes because its illegal in california to smoke at work… haha

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      • avatar

        Riefer October 9, 2012, 10:52 am

        Yeah, and also because they can’t really force the non-smokers in the cast to take up smoking just for the show. 🙂

        Those herbal cigarettes must still be bad for the lungs though,because of smoke inhalation. At least they don’t have tar and other additives like regular cigarettes do.

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      • avatar

        Addie Pray October 9, 2012, 11:13 am

        See that sweet little girl in my gravatar? ——>

        It’s 9-year old Tatum O’Neal playing Addie Pray in the 1973 movie Paper Moon. She actually smokes in the movie! See: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ma_XNn1bwOM

        I assume it’s real. I’m guessing they don’t make little kids smoke in movies anymore.

        God I love that movie.

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      • avatar

        Js October 9, 2012, 6:16 pm

        I heard an interview where Jon Hamm described them to be like “bad pot.”

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    • avatar

      Addie Pray October 9, 2012, 11:16 am

      hubba hubba don draper.

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  • avatar

    kerrycontrary October 9, 2012, 9:19 am

    WWS! and can I add that the nephew was/is probably more likely to get serious respiratory infections due to secondhand smoke? I can’t even imagine smoking around a child nowadays.

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    • JK

      JK October 9, 2012, 9:27 am

      Yeah, recent research has proven that even 3rd hand smoke (residues on furniture, curtains, etc) can cause respiratory issues.
      I mean, even though the cause was a virus, the poor little kid is gong to be a lot more prone to respiratory issues (and even allergies) due to exposure to smoke.

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      • JK

        JK October 9, 2012, 9:31 am

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  • iwannatalktosampson

    iwannatalktosampson October 9, 2012, 9:45 am

    I am so confused about why anyone under the age of 50 smokes. You would have had to start when you knew all the cons to doing it: bad for your health, turns your teeth yellow, it’s stinky and never gets out of your clothes, it’s expensive. And most importantly it’s not really cool anymore. People used to do it to be rebellious and look bad ass and whatever – but it’s just not cool anymore. Every time I see someone smoking that was born in an era when all this was known – I judge them a little bit.

    So as you can see – this would be a deal breaker for me. But if it’s not for you maybe just start not allowing it in the house – his and yours? My parents said when they moved to a new house when I was young they made that rule and they cut back a lot because half the year it was too damn cold to smoke – they had to reeeeeaaaaally need one to make it worth the cold.

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    • JK

      JK October 9, 2012, 9:50 am

      The thing is that smoke sticks to your hair, skin and clothes, as well. So just going outside to smoke, he would still come back in covered in stinky smoke.

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    • avatar

      lemongrass October 9, 2012, 10:53 am

      Most people start smoking in their younger teen years (I did at 15). At that point you don’t think you are going to get addicted and you so desperately want to seem older.

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    • avatar

      Riefer October 9, 2012, 10:54 am

      It’s still cool for, like, 15-year olds. Don’t know why. But a lot of current smokers started that young (or younger!). My SIL and her friends all did.

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  • avatar

    Mel October 9, 2012, 9:49 am

    “I think I became a heavier smoker to feel more welcome in his family and to share something with them.”, I dunno, Ithink this is very very sad. Surely there’s a lot more to you than just smoking.

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  • avatar

    tbrucemom October 9, 2012, 10:05 am

    Smoking for me is a dealbreaker so I wouldn’t even date someone that smokes. This situation is different of course since they both used to smoke and now just one of them does. I think Wendy’s advice is spot on (of course!). If it’s a dealbreaker, and she shouldn’t feel bad if it is, then she needs to let him know that. If it’s not, then she should plan accordingly. I would still try to get him to quit, without nagging him. If they move in together, he needs to smoke outside, wash his hands when he comes back, breath mints before kissing, etc. She may never get him to quit, he has to want to for himself. I can tell you that both my parents smoked for a long time and my mother quit, long before my dad did, when I became pregnant with my first child (dad didn’t quit until he had his first STROKE). It’s true that former smokers are worse that those that have never smoked. However, my dad was not a heavy smoker and was considerate and didn’t smoke around her. As far as young people smoking, a lot of them think they’re invincible. My 26 year old son smokes and I told him it breaks my heart that he does something so unhealthy when I spent so many years doing everything I could to keep him healthy and safe.

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  • avatar

    iseeshiny October 9, 2012, 10:08 am

    WWS. You can’t make anyone quit smoking. You just can’t. There’s no way to force someone. It has to be something they decide for themselves, wholeheartedly. You might be able to get them to pretend that they’ve quit, but then you’re going to get sneakiness, and lies, and sniffing his clothes like a crazy person, and when you catch him smoking you are going to be as pissed as if he’s cheated on you. You are going to try to follow him every time he goes to take out the trash, just to make sure he’s not sneaking a smoke. That way lies madness.

    But for the love of God, don’t you start smoking again! Then when you get emphysema or lung cancer you will blame him.

    Reasonable accommodations if you do decide to stay with him and move in together: just ask him to smoke outside.

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    • avatar

      Riefer October 9, 2012, 10:57 am

      I dated a guy for almost 5 years who had quit when we started dating, and then lied to me on and off about it the whole time. It completely kills the trust. I don’t think you can use it as an ultimatum because if he legitimately tries and just cannot quit, then he’s going to hide it to keep you. You have to just decide whether you’re willing to have a boyfriend who smokes or not.

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  • avatar

    j2 October 9, 2012, 10:09 am

    I agree that smoking is a deal-breaker.

    The facts that you originally had that in common, his family are smokers, and it has been three years complicate things.

    Wendy’s points are all excellent, but the health impact on LW from second hand smoke should also be included. And, if there are children? Will LW be able to keep smoke out of their house? Even residual smoke (third hand stuff) look now to have health impacts.

    In summary, the boyfriend’s continued smoking is damaging LW right now, will continue to, and will probably damage their kids. Is this acceptable to LW?

    Deal-breaker, indeed.

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  • avatar

    jlyfsh October 9, 2012, 10:11 am

    I think it’s easy to judge people about their vices and addictions, but the truth of the matter is we all do things that we know are bad for our health. I would be lying if I said I never ate at McDonalds or drank too much or did other things that I know are bad. Cigarette companies still exist because smoking is addictive, so addictive that having people tell you are gross or stupid for doing it doesn’t do anything to change your mind about your addiction. You have to have a moment like the LW where you decide that you want the change. I also think growing up in a home where it is the norm also makes you discredit the things you read about the unhealthiness of it, if your entire family smokes and no one is sick obviously these companies don’t know what they are talking about and it’s your body anyway (I know people who have this view point, although it’s not mine).

    The unfortunate thing like Wendy said is there is no getting the boyfriend to quit. He has to want it. The LW has to decide if it is a deal breaker for her now.

    Also completely unrelated to this letter I’ve been at home for the past two days with an allergic reaction to something. No idea what. I couldn’t type yesterday because I was so drugged on benadryl. Today I’ve switched to a new pill and I’m a little more with it. I do have a great excuse for spelling and grammar mistakes for a couple of days now. Cigarette smoke is one of the things I’m allergic to, however it can’t be blamed for this latest and greatest reaction….

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    • JK

      JK October 9, 2012, 10:19 am

      Hope you feel better soon!!!

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      • avatar

        ktfran October 9, 2012, 10:34 am

        jlyfsh – i hope you feel better!

        Anyway, I was trying to figure out what I wanted to say to this LW. You summed it up pretty nicely so I second what you said!

        LW – your boyfriend has to want to quit. Maybe the thought of losing you will make him want to quit. Maybe not. I wouldn’t judge you for leaving and I honestly can’t judge him for not quitting, especially since smoking is an addiction. A gross one, but that’s besides the point.

        If this is deal breaker for you – and it kind of sounds like it is – i think you should MOA. You’ll find someone equally as great with the added benefit of being a non-smoker. If you stay, you’ll grow to resent him. And it sounds like that has started already. And he will begin to resent you for wanting him to quit.

        Just know that it’s ok to leave if the situation no longer fits your needs. You aren’t a bad person for it.

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    • theattack

      theattack October 9, 2012, 1:09 pm

      I hope you feel better! I’m also having an allergic reaction to something I can’t figure out, and it’s kind of embarrassing looking. Annoying.

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      • avatar

        jlyfsh October 9, 2012, 1:35 pm

        thanks to you all. i’m feeling better than i was. thanks to you good drugs and steroid cream!

        theattack one of my eyelids is swollen and i have a red rash that looks like a mix between measles and eczema all over my body. ALL OVER. even my poor boobs and if i’m being honest, i think its on my butt because it itches too. i have a feeling after we get this episode fixed i’m going to have to endure another set of let me poke you with 500 things and find all the things you’re allergic to and then get shots. even though i did that when i was a kid. i’m just so thankful i didn’t have a severe reaction and i can still breathe!

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      • theattack

        theattack October 9, 2012, 3:22 pm

        Oh my gosh, that sounds horrible! I’m so sorry! I have a rash all over my body too, but it doesn’t sound nearly as bad as yours. I was wondering if I might have chicken pox, but I don’t have any other symptoms, so I don’t know. Of course mine would happen as soon as I’m finally able to get back on my birth control after not having it for months.

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      • avatar

        jlyfsh October 9, 2012, 8:28 pm

        hmm if it was chicken pox i feel like you would know. i had it when i was 5 but i can still remember how itchy it was! i’m going to the dermatologist tomorrow. i can’t wait to feel like a normal human again.

        hope you feel better soon too! if you think it’s an allergic reaction my doctor suggested an all day anti-histamine (zyrtec, allegra, etc) over benadryl and i’m using hydrocortisone cream to stop me from itching my first layer of skin off.

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  • avatar

    Eljay October 9, 2012, 10:14 am

    WWS!!!

    And, btw Wendy, I am also a closet Bachelor/ette fan. I love the spoiler blog by Reality Steve. If you love all things Bachelor, and don’t mind having the season spoiled (he gets awesome info and can tell the “winner” before the season airs), you HAVE to visit this site http://www.realitysteve.com. He already has great info on the current season with Sean!

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    • Dear Wendy

      Wendy October 9, 2012, 10:16 am

      I was just reading it the other day!

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  • katie

    katie October 9, 2012, 10:35 am

    yep, i think this is one if those classic dealbreaker vs. habit-you-dont-like senarios. LW, you have to decide for yourself if this is a dealbreaker for you. no one can tell you it is or it isnt, because its not a cut and dry thing, its different for everyone, and it doesnt have a “right” answer.

    i will echo a bunch of other people though- i wouldnt even date a smoker. ew.

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  • avatar

    mf October 9, 2012, 10:49 am

    Smoking is a dealbreaker for me too. I grew up watching my mom smoke and I really worry about her health now that she’s getting older. She’s been saying that she wants to quit for the past twenty years but she never has. For her, it’s an addiction and while I hope she is able to quit one day, I’m not holding my breath.

    Personally, I’d hate to feel the same way about my spouse or boyfriend that I feel about my mom. I don’t want to worry about my husband getting lung cancer as we grow old together. I don’t want to raise kids around second-hand smoke. I don’t want our money going towards such a toxic and gross habit. So if I were in your shoes, I wouldn’t hold out hope that he will change (if he doesn’t want to quit now, I mean). Smoking can be a VERY hard addiction to break.

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  • avatar

    Leah October 9, 2012, 10:58 am

    If you’re still uncertain if smoking alone is “enough” to be a deal-breaker, just look back at what you wrote about moving in together. I’m not sure if one person can demand that another person’s body be smoke-free, but you are certainly well within your rights to demand that your living space is. It’s unhealthy, smells up the house and will make it difficult for you to remain smoke-free yourself (congratulations, by the way!). That means that your boyfriend will have to spend the rest of his life smoking on the porch which, since you say he’s a heavy smoker, will put a pretty big dent in his lifestyle. If he’s unwilling to accept that, and he’d be well within his rights not to, that means you can’t move in together. An impediment to moving in together definitely sounds like a deal-breaker to me.

    Like Wendy said, if he’s unwilling or uninterested in quitting for his own health maybe he’d be willing to quit for the future of your relationship. Or at least his own future spent inside the house instead of on the porch!

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    • KKZ

      KKZ October 9, 2012, 3:02 pm

      I’m glad someone else said what I was thinking – if she moves in with this guy and can’t kick the habit, it will make it harder for her to stay cigarette-free as well. I can’t imagine having once been addicted to something and only being “clean” for 4 months, then moving into an environment where I’ll be around it all the time. Maybe I’m just weak-willed but I don’t think I could last long like that.

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      • KKZ

        KKZ October 9, 2012, 3:03 pm

        *if she moves in and HE can’t kick the habit, is what that should have said.

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  • avatar

    lemongrass October 9, 2012, 11:01 am

    WWS. You definitely have to decide for yourself whether it is a dealbreaker or not. I have to say I’m lucky my husband didn’t. He never smoked and I did when we first got together. I knew he didn’t like it but he wasn’t a jerk about it. So I decided I would quit for him. It lasted 6 months. Over the course of the next 3 years I was on-and-off. I would smoke for a month or two and quit for a month or two. Or I would only smoke at parties, and then the next day to use up the pack I bought. I asked him once if it was a dealbreaker. He said no, that he could handle it if I never quit. But it was a dealbreaker if I smoked while I was pregnant. I absolutely agreed to that. I hope that once I’m done being pregnant/breastfeeding that it remains this easy to not smoke.

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  • CatsMeow

    CatsMeow October 9, 2012, 11:17 am

    I’m a smoker. There. I said it.

    I started when I was 19 and going through what I now call my pseudo-rebellious phase. It was dumb. I developed a lot of bad habits in my 19th year. I tried to quit many, many times. At age 23 – 24, I was successful for about a 9 month stretch and then started again. At age 27, I quit “for good.” It lasted 2 years, but then I got cocky and thought I could have one “every now and then” ONLY when I was drunk. I had it under control for a stretch of time, and then I got dumped. And I started again. And then we got back together, and I quit again. But now I’m smoking again and I hate it but I feel unable to quit.

    It’s a long, hard journey, LW. I commend you for quitting and I hope you don’t have all the relapses and setbacks that I’ve had. It’s easier for some people to quit, I think. I’m an addict for life. Even during the 2 years that I smoked NOTHING, I would crave cigarettes at least once a day. Other people can quit and never look back. I think your boyfriend’s addiction is probably more like mine. I’ll echo what everyone else said: He has to WANT to quit.

    If depression is an underlying issue for him (as it is for me), he might want to try zyban/wellbutrin. My depression gets SERIOUSLY exacerbated when I quit. I used the wellbutrin in addition to nicotine gum and it worked for me. E-cigarettes are a good replacement as well. The patch did NOTHING for me. Be supportive of his efforts rather than critical, and understand that for most people it takes many, many attempts before it sticks.

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  • landygirl

    landygirl October 9, 2012, 11:30 am

    If people could actually make other people do things, we wouldn’t need advice columns.

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    • avatar

      lemongrass October 9, 2012, 11:50 am

      If people could actually make other people do things, the human race wouldn’t exist anymore.

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  • othy

    Othy October 9, 2012, 11:56 am

    I’m a non-smoker married to a smoker. He’s tried to quit a number of times over the years, but in the past it was always because I asked him to do so, not for him. None of those stuck. This year, he had a health scare, and the doctor told him he really needed to quit. With the exception of a pack he bought during a particularly stressful week, he’s been smoke free since January. It was him who decided to quit, not me asking him.

    That said, when he was smoking, we set up boundaries to make it easier on me (the smoke really bothers me). He never smokes in the house (talk about ruining property values). Before coming to bed, he needs to shower and brush his teeth, so he doesn’t get the smell into the bedroom.

    On a side note, when he does fail to brush his teeth before bed, his morning breath is AWFUL!

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  • avatar

    ele4phant October 9, 2012, 11:57 am

    I’m I alone here, or does any else not get John Hamm, based on looks alone?

    Don’t get me wrong, I think he’s tremoundously talented and versatile (his Don Draper is amazing, but he’s also got an amazing comedic sense), and from his interviews he seems like a really smart, nice, funny guy.

    But I just don’t feel any sort of physical attraction for him.

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    • JK

      JK October 9, 2012, 11:59 am

      I totally agree.

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    • avatar

      Addie Pray October 9, 2012, 12:04 pm

      Dats ok, more John Hamm for me!!

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    • avatar

      mf October 9, 2012, 12:13 pm

      I hear you. I think he’s objectively handsome but I don’t really find him sexy.

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      • avatar

        ele4phant October 9, 2012, 12:18 pm

        He looks like a dude. I really cool, smart, talented dude who sometimes wears expertly tailored suits, someone who I’d totally hang-out with, but I can’t look at a still-image of him and get hot.

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      • JK

        JK October 9, 2012, 12:22 pm

        Yeah, he´s like too handsome. I never like guys that are too handsome (with the exception of George Clooney).

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      • JK

        JK October 9, 2012, 12:21 pm

        Yeah, that´s it. Also, I usually don´t like too handsome guys (with the obvious exception

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      • JK

        JK October 9, 2012, 12:23 pm

        oops. I was typing an my daughter pushed something so it posted. Please ignore!!!

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    • SarahKat

      SarahKat October 9, 2012, 12:22 pm

      No joke, I read your comment and did the same “WHHHAAAAAT? WHAT WHHHHHHAAAT?” line that Ralphie’s mom did when she found out he said the F word in The Christmas Story.

      So uh, I don’t agree lol. I would let that man do terrible unspeakable acts against humanity to me.

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      • avatar

        ele4phant October 9, 2012, 12:24 pm

        Haha, well we all have our preferences.

        If I’m being honest, I like ’em pretty. And John Hamm, for all his masculanity (or maybe because of it), wouldn’t be considered a pretty boy.

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      • SarahKat

        SarahKat October 9, 2012, 12:58 pm

        See that must be it, because I HATE pretty boys. Give me a guy with bulky shoulders and a face that looks like it got hit with a baseball bat a few times when he was a kid. Rawr.

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      • avatar

        lemongrass October 9, 2012, 12:25 pm

        I was just quoting that line at thanksgiving dinner!

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    • CatsMeow

      CatsMeow October 9, 2012, 2:17 pm

      Whew! I thought I was the only one.

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  • avatar

    Lucy October 9, 2012, 12:07 pm

    On the one hand… my mom was in the same position as the LW when my parents first met, except she was never a smoker herself. She wanted my dad to quit, but didn’t want to give him an ultimatum, so he promised to try to quit. You can imagine how that went. But she didn’t want to give him an ultimatum, so instead she nagged him. ~50 years later she is still nagging (and trying to manipulate the rest of us into nagging him as well), and he, along with the rest of his family, is still smoking… even though his father died of lung cancer metastasized to his brain, even though his brother has already had lung cancer and lives in dread of a recurrence, even though his mother had emphysema and died of a heart attack.

    OTOH… when I met my husband he smoked, and I told him I don’t date smokers. He used that plus the fact that the world was going increasingly smoke-free anyway as an excuse to quit. He had multiple relapses, but he hasn’t smoked in many years.

    So LW, I would say that if your bf really wants to quit anyway, an ultimatum (“Smoking is a dealbreaker for me”) can work. But promises to “try” to quit aren’t worth much. If smoking really is a dealbreaker for you, don’t even discuss moving in with him until he’s well and truly quit. And you’re right to fear this will become a bigger and bigger issue over time. It’s not too small a thing to take a stand on, because the long term health consequences of his smoking will be your problem too.

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  • Fabelle

    Fabelle October 9, 2012, 12:14 pm

    So, like I mention here every now & then, I’m a smoker– sort of. At most, I’ll smoke 7-10 cigarettes during a night out. Maybe only around a pack per week if I’m in a consistent “smoking” phase. Right now, I’m not. I haven’t smoked in about 2 weeks. (I’ve been pretty good lately!)

    But anyway– this LW sounds like she had been a light smoker, like me, so I understand where she’s coming from. I’ve actually always chosen partners who were non-smokers because I know that being around friends who smoke really increases my odds of lighting up. I had FWBs who were smokers, & guess what? I’d smoke more around them. So I get where this girl is coming from– if her boyfriend & his family smoked a lot, you kind of feel bonded over that. It’s the smokers’ bond! Like, I remember during class breaks in college, all the smokers would run outside together & then those would be the people who’d become close. At parties, I used to always chat with the other smokers before really warming up to anybody else in attendance.

    Sorry for rambling, but I’m just trying to explain this part: “I think I became a heavier smoker to feel more welcome in his family and to share something with them.” Smoking is a bad habit, but people bond over habits. Like how you might feel left out at a big dinner party with a bunch of foodies while you’re on a diet.

    Sooo, onto the advice: LW, you can’t “get” your boyfriend to quit. If you’re thinking he’s “inconsiderate” just because he won’t, then stop. A smoker has to WANT to quit. He/she won’t just do it when a loved one asks (otherwise there wouldn’t be any smokers, would there?) If you like him enough to compromise, then maybe he’ll agree to just smoke outside (like ieeshiny suggested).

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  • avatar

    melancholia October 9, 2012, 12:28 pm

    First of all, congratulations on quitting smoking!

    I’ve been with my fiance for 4 years now. He has been a smoker since I met him, I’ve never been a smoker, though I have tried cigarettes in the past. My fiance is also a drinker and I used to be a heavy drinker when we first met (I was 19, he was 21 when we met). Both of us have cut down on drinking, I rarely drink at all now and he has a few beers most nights, but rarely gets drunk. He still smokes, but he has cut down on that as well and has never smoked inside the house out of respect for me.

    One thing I have learned throughout this relationship, and previous ones, is that you cannot change people. No matter how hard you try, you cannot change a person. They have to want to change, but the “want” to change is the first step, actively TRYING to change is the most difficult step. Your boyfriend may not be ready to make this change in his life right now, he may never be ready. I personally don’t believe ultimatums work, it’s just a form of manipulating someone by forcing them to make a decision they aren’t necessarily ready for. Besides, if you were to say “quit smoking or we cannot stay together”, would you be able to carry out your decision to end the relationship if he cannot quit? I think that puts you in a bad situation because quitting smoking can be one of the most difficult addictions to quit, and it almost sends a message to BOTH of you that your partner’s addiction is as important to him as you are. And that is not true. You can try and convince your boyfriend to quit smoking until you are blue in the face but unless he is willing and ready to make that change, it will not happen.

    I would ask yourself the question Wendy asked: Is smoking a deal breaker for you? If it’s not, then you need to stop trying to change your boyfriend. You can try and come up with other ways to suggest he quit, but I think the more important issue is whether or not you can deal with his smoking.

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    MiMi October 9, 2012, 12:31 pm

    The thing is, you changed the channel on your boyfriend with regards to smoking, and now expect him to accommodate your change because you said so. I am not defending smoking, can’t stand it myself, but I think the guy has some rights in this situation. Suppose you two were married and after years of saying he wanted kids, he has an epiphany and not only tells you he doesn’t want kids after all but now wants you to jump onboard, right now, with the new no-kids paradigm? This is an extreme example but if that situation is one in which both partners should make a bee-line for a good counselor, so should you two regarding this issue. If one partner changes a basic “agreement” of the relationship, it should be negotiated out as fairly as possible. Don’t start throwing ultimatums around until you have both had your full say.

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      Violet October 9, 2012, 2:49 pm

      I agree; as someone who smoked a bit a long time ago, and now does not care for it at all, I feel for the boyfriend here. I cannot imagine how annoying it would be to have someone nagging you constantly to quit something you do not wish to quit. I imagine if the boyfriend were nagging her to lose weight (just an example) because of her health, she would likely hate that. I just think LW needs to back off for awhile and decide if this is her dealbreaker, as Wendy said. Both of them are certainly going to lose patience with each other if this continues, and he might even want to keep smoking just so he doesn’t feel like he was bullied into quitting.

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      • SarahKat

        SarahKat October 9, 2012, 4:00 pm

        I agree, but I also disagree in some ways. To me I see smoking and being overweight as not being on the same level of danger to the person. Now, if a person was morbidly obese, I do think it is time to talk to a partner about what’s causing the gained weight, because that can be very dangerous. Or if a person was developing an eating disorder. These are things that can threaten a person’s life, albeit a lot faster than smoking could statistically, and I find that to be absolutely acceptable to discuss with a partner.

        Even though smokers tend not to think of cigarettes in the same fashion, nobody plans to smoke their whole life. When all smokers give the same line of “I’ll quit when I feel like I just don’t feel like it right now”, can you blame people who’ve never smoked for not knowing which smokers are in denial and which smokers actually plan to quit? Its not even about trusting the person because unless we’re in the smoker’s brain, we can’t know how addicted a person is to cigarettes and how capable they are of overcoming that addiction.

        But I do agree in that she shouldn’t nag him, because its just gonna make him smoke more. But but I do think people can and should change dangerous habits for the sake of their partners and their relationships.

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        Violet October 9, 2012, 10:13 pm

        I do understand what you’re saying, and it was probably a poor example. It was more about the nagging/resentment issues that arise. But in this case, they bonded over smoking, in the LW’s words. I know smoking is gross and awful, but the LW’s boyfriend doesn’t seem to be in denial, he just didn’t bargain for his partner going this route, and the LW does not fall under that category of having never smoked.

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  • SarahKat

    SarahKat October 9, 2012, 12:55 pm

    I think smokers can have a bit of a chip on their shoulder sometimes about other people wanting them to quit. I know a lot who do. I mean, it makes sense, like WWS, its like any unhealthy addiction and the repercussions you don’t want to face. Like, I know pop tarts are bad for me but F*CK YOU DON’T TAKE AWAY MY POP TARTS I WILL DIE WITHOUT THEM.

    Plus, because his family are all smokers and the reason you quit suggests a tone of responsibility on them to quit for the health of this nephew (which, you know, it does affect), they are probably dealing with a lot of denial about the problems with smoking, especially around kids. They might even be projecting a lot of their guilt about it onto you and people who want them to quit. Like they’re the rebellious underdogs just trying to enjoy the small satisfaction in life of smoking while the government and non-smokers ban together to outlaw smoking and fun everywhere.

    Ask a run of the mill hipster about the US immigration policy and he’ll look at you like you’re as interesting as a vanilla yogurt or best buy (hipsters hate best buy), but OH LORDY bring up California’s anti-smoking bans and they will GO OFF like muthaf*ckin Mr. Smith goes to Silver Lake. Some smokers kind of embrace the rebel title. And you know what feels good when you feel like a repressed minority being victimized by the surgeon health generalazi? Smoking. Naughty naughty smoking.

    So, you’re kind of facing an uphill battle because quitting for them, and for your boyfriend, means admitting that 1. They are doing something that can inflict deadly harm to themselves and to people (and children) around them and 2. They are addicted to it. It requires a lot of self reflection, which is hard for everyone with bad habits. I will also tell you that smoking can and will be a relationship ruiner if you guys don’t reach a solution to it.

    I think you should do what Wendy said and ask yourself if this is a dealbreaker for you. Imagine the scenario of you constantly asking him to quit, and him constantly keep smoking. At some point you will either take it personally and you both get resentful about it or you will have to let it go and wait for him to want to quit on his own (which by the way, judging from his family, could be never). Are you willing to let it go? Should you have to? And yes, I would give up Pop Tarts for my boyfriend. I WOULDN’T F*@KING LIKE IT, but I would do it. Its not even like Pop Tarts are bad for you. There’s fruit in them, jeez. Whatever.

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      mf October 9, 2012, 1:25 pm

      Ha! I love everything about this comment.

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      painted_lady October 9, 2012, 9:28 pm

      Your comment made me think of a conversation I had with my smoker friends a few months ago. When people got on me about my smoking, or I was subjected to anti-smoking propaganda, the first thing I wanted to do? Was light a fucking cigarette. Sometimes, yes, it was the contrarian, bitchy 13-year-old who lives inside me snarling, “You can’t tell me what to do! You’re not the boss of me!” But some of the time, it was simply thinking about not smoking that made me want to smoke. Or maybe any mention of smoking at all made me want to smoke. Whatever. Anyway, the anti-smoking approach is completely ineffective for smokers. We know it’s unhealthy, thanks…now anyone got a light?

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        Violet October 9, 2012, 10:16 pm

        That was the point I was trying to make above, painted_lady. I am not a smoker, but it’s clear that people HATE feeling forced into anything they don’t want to do. I just don’t see this ending well, because the BF didn’t seem to be on this train at all, except by coercion.

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      Addie Pray October 10, 2012, 12:08 am

      I could read your comments all day long. Do you have deep thoughts on filing or ironing or something equally boring? I’d want to read!

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    Slamy October 9, 2012, 1:25 pm

    I quit smoking this year. Hooray! It was so hard. I had tried to quit previously. I had a boyfriend demand that I quit. We dated for a long time (over a year). He wanted me to quit that whole time – I never did. I only smoked in secret. You can’t force someone else to quit their unhealthy habits. You can decide you won’t stick around, but it’s his decision to quit. I ended up quitting this year because I was tired of getting sick all the time and wasting money on cigarettes. My current boyfriend was, of course, pleased that I quit smoking, and who knows if he would have continued to date me if I did not quit smoking, but my decision to quit had nothing to do with him. If I hadn’t decided I wanted to be a non-smoker, I would have probably just stayed a secret smoker.

    Long story short… you can’t force him to quit, because you can’t force him to want to quit. You are, however, allowed to decide that you cannot date a smoker.

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    Schwinny October 9, 2012, 1:53 pm

    Congratulations on quitting! I wish your boyfriend every success in doing the same. WWS is absolutely true, though. Ultimately, quitting has to be his choice.

    There is a drug called champix that has helped two friends of mine who were heavy smokers quit quickly and completely. Both had serious health issues caused or magnified by their smoking so gradual reduction was not an option. Champix works by alleviating cravings and blocking the receptors in the brain that are stimulated by nicotine. It stops a smoker from getting a high from smoking. If your boyfriend gets serious about quitting again, he should talk to his doctor to see if this is an option. It’s prescription only. Nicotine replacement can have some pretty wicked side effects and doesn’t really address the craving. Champix has its own issues but in the care of a good doctor, these should be minimised.

    Good luck!

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    karenwalker October 9, 2012, 2:20 pm

    Honestly, your boyfriend’s nephew’s hospitalization was definitely in part due to the exposure to second hand smoke. In fact, that exposure increased his likelihood of contracting a respiratory virus. I’m a pediatric nurse and from now until about April the majority of our patient population will be children with viral infections that affect their respiratory condition. In most of these patients, there is a reactive airway component to their illness – their lungs are acting like an asthmatics’ and are constricting in response to the virus. This is most definitely worsened by second hand smoke. Depending on the severity of the nephew’s illness, he may now be at a higher risk for developing asthma – which is definitely worsened by smoke.

    Obviously, we recommend people quit smoking. We also advise no smoking in the house and before you touch a child you should at the very least wash your hands, if not a shower and full change of clothes – that’s how sensitive children are to second hand smoke exposure! If you and your boyfriend are thinking of your futures and having children, these are some things you, and he, should be aware of.

    If you want to help your boyfriend quit, maybe try and make it fun. Every day he doesn’t smoke, reward him with a favor (sexual or not) of his choice. It might also help you two bond and grow closer as a couple. Keep it positive and supportive. Understand that most people will fail a couple of times on their way to quitting; don’t get angry, offer support during those times to keep him encouraged and show him that you believe he can do it. Though, to be perfectly honest, he’s not going to quit until he’s ready to make that change.

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    • JK

      JK October 9, 2012, 2:24 pm

      It´s so strange hearing Karen Walker´s voice (in my head) saying such sensible things. 🙂

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        karenwalker October 9, 2012, 2:30 pm

        this is what happens when grace doesn’t let me have my work martinis!

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      Jubietta October 9, 2012, 3:58 pm

      To go along with the comment about rewarding someone who’s trying to quit smoking…

      I read recently that a smoker gets about 400 reinforcing “rewards” for their smoking every day. I think that’s based on a pack a day = 20 cigarettes and each cigarette = 20 tokes and each toke goes straight to the brain and makes happy happy with the neuro receptors saying, “Hooray, thank you for smoking, it feels so good, do that again!” (because brains are good at run-on sentences)

      I’m a life-long non-smoker (with smokers in my family) and so I don’t understand the physical addiction issues first hand, but I’ll tell you for certain that if somebody patted me on the head 400 times a day, genuinely told me I was doing a good job at one specific thing, I’d be hard pressed to stop doing that thing. Ever. And that neurochemical hit is just a part of the reward system for smokers. There’s the taking a break from the crap in their day to have a ciggy, there’s the social bonding with other smokers, there’s the way nicotine drives away hunger and maybe keeps a smoker 20 lbs lighter than they’d be without it, there’s all the great after-dinner smokes. Any program that tries to get someone to stop smoking has to fight against all of that, and probably more. No wonder smokers can’t quit for anyone but themselves…that’s a mountain to move, with immediate rewards for slipping.

      LW, I congratulate you on breaking your habit. I congratulate you on the doubts you have about effecting that kind of change in another person. My caution would be that every smoker’s relationship with their addiciton is different and so every smoker’s choice can only be understood from the inside…where only the smoker lives. I think it’s a good idea to start talking about the issue, “I’ve stopped and it’s changed my life, and now I have a very different idea about smoking in general. I didn’t plan for it to affect my relationship with you, but it has…and now I’d like to talk about what that means for our future.” That way BF doesn’t get smacked up side the head one day if you come to the realization that you have indeed changed and smoking is now a dealbreaker for you.

      This can never be a rational situation with a rational solution…addiction and change inspire irrationality in people. Be kind and it will work out.

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    Painted_lady October 9, 2012, 3:50 pm

    So I’ve actually been in both the LWs and the boyfriend’s position, and I can see both sides. When my ex quit, I kept smoking, and I dealt with the little passive-aggressive digs and snide comments about how I smelled, and eventually it became a major bone of contention between us. He was a little self-satisfied, but there were honestly already cracks in the relationship that just started showing worse when he quit. He was self-satisfied about being a vegan, driving a Prius, about making more money than I did with no education past high school. Those problems were there. It sounds like your problems are also already there. A major life change for one of you – like quitting smoking – will bring that to the forefront.

    I just quit about a month ago. My boyfriend still smokes. It’s not a problem. We have very few issues as it is, so nothing “came up” that was already a problem. I think maybe that’s the key – he will quit when he’s ready. All the anti-smoking rhetoric and smug “I did it why can’t you?” in the world will do nothing except cause friction. If it’s a deal breaker, so be it. But then say so rather than dropping hints and nagging, hoping he’ll get the message rather than you telling him the actual issue. He may never quit. Can you handle that? If not, tell him. If so, then you need to accept it for real.

    The other thing is, you were still a smoker until you weren’t – obviously – and so think about who all around you patiently tolerated your bad breath, smelly clothes and hair, and hazy house. Why can you not do the same for him? That isn’t rhetorical, I’m wondering if there’s a reason (like with my ex and me, he wasn’t tolerant because…well, we didn’t actually like each other much at that point). As tempting as it is to feel like, “Hey, asshole, I did it, why can’t you?” his brain isn’t synchronized with yours. He may be stuck where you were till you decided to quit. He won’t quit until he does…and neither did you. So he needs to come to that on his own time.

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      Painted_lady October 9, 2012, 3:55 pm

      I would like to add, I have zero issues with vegans, Priuses, and success despite limited formal education. Just don’t act like you’re a more highly evolved species because of it.

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    kizzy October 9, 2012, 10:11 pm

    Congrats on quitting LW!

    I’m a smoker. I am a 23 year old chimney smoking two packs a day. I’ve tried to quit and that didn’t quite work. I really hope one day it will. But that’s not the point here.

    LW has the right to not want to date a smoker. Her boyfriend has the right to smoke. If they can’t reach some sort of middle ground, it’s not going to end well. He can’t quit for her. It’s just not going to happen. He’ll sneak them, or just give up all together. And he’s going to get fed up of the nagging pretty soon.

    but to be clear, I don’t think LW should date a smoker if she just quit herself and it’s not something she wants to be around. Some people are fine being around smokers after they quit and some people just can’t stand it. To each their own.

    Oh, and other thing. I do not smoke in my house. My parents always have, even when we were babies, and it’s disgusting. I recently moved back home and I can’t even breathe here. The whole place fucking stinks. If my boyfriend and I lived together and he decided to smoke indoors, I’d be out of there pretty quickly. It’s just a whole level of gross I want nothing to deal with.

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    Temperance October 9, 2012, 11:25 pm

    The child probably got sick because of the secondhand smoke. I have severe asthma and allergies because of the exposure I had as a child (or, at least, severely aggravated by the constant secondhand smoke exposure thanks to my grandmother and my mother, who kept bringing me to her house even after my allergist told her no smoke). I had chronic bronchitis and sinus infections – it was gross and painful and embarrassing to be hacking up a lung and uh other stuff at age 6. Humiliating.

    Can you deal with reeking like an astray everywhere you go? Can you deal with your kids being exposed to as many smokers as your boyfriend’s nephew? Your boyfriend was raised by smokers; smokers like that don’t believe that smoke is harmful (really). They think that the dangers are exaggerated, and it will be a fight all the time to keep the smokers away from your children, and to keep your babies out of smoke-filled homes.

    I just don’t get the appeal of smoking, but being around smokers for even an hour or two is enough to give me a sinus infection. :-/

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    demoiselle October 10, 2012, 12:22 pm

    I have severe, year-round allergies, and as a kid I had asthma and was hospitalized for bronchitis. Except, perhaps, for the latter, I’m pretty sure my mother’s smoking had a lot to do with it, and I continue to pay the price (I have to take allegra every day, and still suffer from allergies–I wish I could afford allergy shots now…).

    Even if you do get your boyfriend to quit, LW, it is highly likely that he will relapse at some point. My mother smoked for 13 years, quit for two full years, then got hooked again for another ten years. It was my weeping and sabotage as a seven-year-old that got her to quit for good at 47 or so. Now she is 70, and has never smoked again.

    However, even if your BF quits, there is a strong chance he could start smoking again, just as heavily, and it could take a LONG time for him to quit again–just like my mother. Or you could relapse. And you and your kids will pay the price.

    Even if you are a non-smoker, you could suffer. My grand-mother-in-law, a lifelong non-smoker, died of emphysema. Her husband was a heavy smoker.

    Think seriously about this situation. What if your BF quits, you get married and/or have a kid, and he starts again. Where will you stand then?

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