TL;DR: Quitting nicotine might be one of the biggest challenges for not only the quitter, but also for your relationship. Have a plan and a support network, and be patient. Relapsing is normal. While you’re in this together, prioritize the quitter’s needs and feelings.
When my partner Phillip and I traveled to the Big Island of Hawaii recently, I thought it would be a fab opportunity to write about traveling as a couple. I had my bullet points in my head, ready to jot them down when I had a moment.
Communicate your goals ahead of time.
Schedule in “me” time.
Be patient with each other.
…and so on. But I realized I started to sound like everyone else on the internet who gives travel advice to couples. I realized I wanted to provide more unique value. So, I decided to skip that topic and give those bloggers a chance to shine like Roxie Hart in the musical Chicago.
So, what kind of unique value could I provide to help solve my readers’ relationship problems? What unique story could I tell that had some universal truth to it? I searched in the Hawaiian sand for that special seashell.
After some time, I remembered that Phillip had forgotten his vape juice when we drove to the Kilauea volcano that had erupted last year. In other words, he couldn’t feed his nicotine addiction while we were looking at steam vents ‘n’ shit. He couldn’t refill his inanimate friend that calmed him when he got anxious. He became slightly more irritable as time went on, although he tried to hold himself together like a PMSing woman at work. (Many readers and I have been that woman, so we know what it’s like.) He was a slave to his emotions. (Sound familiar?)
When I remembered that moment, I found a common thread that wove through trips of years past. When we went to Switzerland years ago, we almost broke up (at least that’s how I remember it) because he used that excursion as an opportunity to quit nicotine, didn’t tell me about it until the last day of the trip, and had been an angry beast for most of that time (again, as I remember it). Also, one time when we went skiing in Mammoth Lakes, California, he tried quitting again (and informed me ahead of time that time).
On both trips, he (understandably) thought a stress-free vacation would ease his withdrawals. On both trips, he had turned more or less into a demon. On both trips, it was like Judgment Day was nigh, and he was struggling like a possessed child. Both of us struggled.
So, this blog post is for people in relationships where at least one of you is trying to quit nicotine. And in a way, I don’t have all the answers, because this is Phillip’s and my journey, too. We’re discovering together. Let’s find that universal truth. Will you ride with us?
First, after being on the receiving end of my partner’s attempts to quit nicotine like an emotional punching bag, I can acknowledge and validate how incredibly difficult and deeply painful the quitting process can be for both the quitter and the partner.
However, I’ve come to realize that the quitting process is much more about the quitter than the partner, and the partner needs to practice patience like a monk meditates. The quitter not only has to cut a deadly, obstructive habit–a “companion” that pretends to be a friend but is really destroying his well-being like an abusive relationship–but he has to undergo intense withdrawals for a few weeks to a couple of months, and then avoid relapsing for the rest of his life.
Thankfully, many former smokers (such as my dad before I was born) and vapers can live a “second life” nicotine-free. It’s as much possible as it is to break any bad habit (#universaltruth), but it takes work.
So, based on what I’ve read about quitting nicotine, it seems the quitter needs two basic things:
- a plan (and possibly a backup plan or several)
- a support network
Find what works for you as a couple, but prioritize the quitter’s needs. Be as supportive and optimistic as possible, like a baseball fan with a big “You got this!” sign. If he relapses (which is normal), then congratulate him for getting as far as he got. (Think of the iPhone confetti animation one gets when you text someone “congratulations.”) It’s possibly the hardest marathon he’s ever run, so it’s best to encourage him like he’s a runner slowing down toward the finish line. After a relapse, try a different plan when he’s ready.
And I can’t stress the “support network” part enough (#universaltruth). Why? Because if I were to relate to a quitter’s saga in any way, shape, or form, then I think about when I was in graduate school, one of the most trying times of my life. I ended up hating the program and sacrificing my health (that is, I elevated my bad cholesterol and hardly slept for two years) for a high GPA. How did I get by after many crying episodes? People kept encouraging me to finish the game.
Just like a nicotine quitter and Frodo from The Lord of the Rings, I had to face my dragon (#universaltruth). I don’t think I could have easily done that without my support network, and that’s exactly what a nicotine quitter needs.
Finally, in the event your partner decides he can’t quit, no matter how hard he tries, then you need to find peace with it (#universaltruth) like you would any defeat.
A woman here asked a columnist whether or not she should leave her husband, the love of her life, because he hadn’t been able to quit for their kids. She asked this even though she went through the same thing and knows how “enjoyable,” “addictive,” and “brainwashing” smoking is for any human. However, the columnist gave her a reality check and told her that leaving her husband wouldn’t solve the problem, and it’s just not worth it if he has everything else to offer their relationship (#universaltruth).
So, I’m also trying to find peace if Phillip decides to use nicotine for the rest of his life. I hope you find it, too.
With that said, here are a few resources for further reading:
- Helping a Smoker Quit: Do’s and Don’ts (American Cancer Society)
- Relationships and Quitting (smokefree.gov)
- Help Your Partner Quit Smoking (Healthline)
- Ask the Expert: My partner’s smoking again and I hate it (The Irish Times)
If the time is right and you and/or your partner needs help carving a path to quitting nicotine, then fill out the easy form at the bottom of this page and I’ll get in touch ASAP.