Mancunian matters of the heart: Do I quit smoking or give up my boyfriend?

Bored in the bedroom? Fretting over infidelity? Whatever your love dilemmas are, MM’s agony aunt Kim Reader has the answer.

This week, MM’s very own agony aunt hears from someone whose wandering lips are causing serious problems in her relationship. What will it be, the boyfriend or the secret cigarettes?

If you have a question for Kim, you can email us here.


Hi Kim,

I’m in need of help. My boyfriend is threatening to leave me if I don’t quit smoking but I simply don’t want to!

I know you might say that it’s my choice but the problem is when we met I smoked so little I was able to hide it from him and lied to him about it for our first year together!

Then he discovered me doing it and I said it was just a social thing but I’ve increased it over the last two years so now I’m on 20 a day.

He hates smoking and said so when I met him – that’s why I hid it! But now he says if I don’t quit that he wouldn’t want to be with me.

He feels very strongly about it and we often have blazing rows if I smoke in the house when he’s out or if smoke comes into the kitchen when I smoke at the back door.

He says he couldn’t have kids with me unless I’d quit too as he doesn’t think a mum should smoke.

But I enjoy smoking. I have a stressful job and it relaxes me. What do I do?

Do I have to choose between my boyfriend and cigarettes?

Smoky Jo


Dear Smoky Jo,

As someone, who until very… very recently was a smoker, varying between three and 20 a day over the years, I can relate completely to this scenario and have been in similar ones. There is an awful lot to say!

To get being predictable over and done with, you’re right, it is your choice. Yes, it is bad for your health. Yes, it costs a fortune. Yes, it gives you wrinkles etc etc.

I would feel irresponsible not to advise against it, but we all do things that are bad for us so I’m not going to harp on about that.

Some things that are more toxic than nicotine? A relationship that started with deceit (in this case your secrets and lies about where your lips had been), emotional blackmail and manipulation thinly veiled by caring or concern for the future kiddies, and a frankly bizarre power play.

Before I get into the full swing of my rant, let me ask you this question – it is certainly one you should be asking yourself – do you want to stay with someone who is so willing to throw around the threat of leaving you?

Do you want to be with a man who, instead of supporting you, loving you and perhaps helping you overcome an ADDICTION, is happier to make you feel guilty about the wellbeing of your unborn children?

If this is what he thinks love looks like then what would he be saying if one of those future children grew up and decided to start smoking?

It is almost ludicrous to think that far ahead, but when those factors have already been thrown into the conversation (I’m not entirely happy using that word because it suggest an equal back-and-forth) they are worth at least mentioning.

I know I’m being harsh and I am sure your partner really does care about you. I’m sure he probably has the best of intentions and thinks that the threat might be the thing that gets you to quit.

He’s not handling this situation well at all. Trying to force someone into giving something up that is INCREDIBLY difficult to give up – because they are psychologically and physically reliant on it – is cruel.

Even if you did stop smoking to get him to stay with you, when the nicotine was out of your system and you started to go through the rollercoaster of emotions and questioning of your existence ‘now you’ve lost your smoker identity’ that a lot of people go through when giving up cigarettes, you’d start to resent him.

What then? A relapse? A betrayal? More secrets and sneaking off to dark corners for an intimate moment with a Marlboro light?

Also where does this game of threats end? If you quit and by some miracle manage to keep it and your relationship up that’s great except that he knows next time you’re doing something he doesn’t like, he can just threaten to leave again.

I’m making your boyfriend sound malicious and I am sorry. He may be, he may also not be. People generally seek power. It is only natural – being in control gives a sense of security – so it could be completely subconscious.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not being all ‘grrr evil man’ about this. You should have been honest from the get go and told him you were a smoker.

Okay, so right at the beginning before the love and ‘trust’ was established you didn’t necessarily owe him the truth BUT once a relationship was official you should have come straight out with it.

Also, if you had told him at the very beginning and he’d been given the chance to decide either ‘I’m done’ or ‘actually I’m attracted to her enough for it not to matter’ that would have been fair.

If a relationship had happened, it would have been built on very strong foundations and there would be no hurt feelings or sense of betrayal now.

However I’m not jumping down your throat about this because the truth came out TWO YEARS AGO! He could have dumped you then if it meant this much. Instead we’re two years of further emotional investment and happy memories and life together down the line and this is what it’s come to?

This relationship may well have been happy until recently but it sounds like an absolute shambles. Even the messiest of situations can be tidied up with a little… okay a lot of hard work and TLC though.

So grab that wonder product called conversation and get scrubbing (or chatting). Explain that you can’t be bullied into getting over an addiction and that what he is doing is unfair. It is incredibly important YOU apologise for keeping secrets and betraying his trust in you at the beginning.

You need to make how you feel about him clear, be positive about making the relationship work, show you’re willing to work at it and maybe start cutting down, but also be firm.

You will never successfully quit unless you do it for you.

I’ve tried to quit loads of times – for boys, for my bank account, for my health, for my guilty conscience, and for vanity. It never stuck until I just realised I actually wanted to.

If he’s not willing to put aside the manipulative tactics and be loving and supportive then, as I said, you need to sit down and think really hard about whether he is the right man to just spend the next month with, let alone, settled down and have kids with.

The NHS have loads of tips to help people who want to quit smoking and they provide great support and advice packs. You’ll be able to pick one up from your GP. To find out more, click here.

Image courtesy of Daniel Hoherd, with thanks.

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