Nagging smokers to give up never works. They just become more rebellious.

Nagging smokers to give up never works. They just become more rebellious.

My husband has been told he’ll die soon if he doesn’t give up smoking. He has tried but he doesn’t really want to give up. I can’t stop myself using emotional blackmail and checking up on him. Now he sees me as the enemy rather than cigarettes.

You are perfectly right. You have made yourself the enemy and he is focused on dealing with you. If he looked at the situation calmly and objectively, he would surely be concerned. But how can he do that when you are making it into a full-blown catastrophe? At the moment everyone’s attention is on you. Their biggest concern is you and your emotional reaction to this situation. You are afraid and angry.

You are terrified that he might die. You don’t want to be alone and you don’t want to lose him. At the same time, you are furious that he is not concerned enough to dispense with cigarettes. He is the one who is at risk of dying, not you. But you are the one who is in a panic. You are worried about yourself and a future without him. He is your insurance against a harsh world.

If you truly loved him, you would be giving him some space. You would allow him to work out his reaction to this situation. Perhaps quality of life is more important to him than life at any cost. He might see cigarettes as essential to his quality of life especially if his wife is emotionally disturbed and putting pressure on him.

He doesn’t want to listen to you reminding him that he might die. His natural instinct is to run from this thought. You make this easy for him. How you overdramatise. You blow it all out of proportion with your fearfulness. It is easy for him to discount it. You keep trying to coerce him with your reminders of imminent doom because you don’t think he is listening to you. You feel he isn’t taking it seriously and you are right. He isn’t. The more you coerce him with your fear, the further you push him away.

Stop hassling him. Button your mouth and say not a word about smoking or giving up. Instead concentrate on getting your emotions in control. If this is difficult, you need to face your fears. Do this by imagining his death. This will upset you, but the truth is you are already upset. You have not been taking responsibility for your emotions. You have been coping by manipulating him.

Let the scenario of his death play out in your mind. Allow yourself to grieve and cry. You would be widowed. How would you cope? Who would be there to help you? See yourself working through your grief and eventually moving on with your life. If you can truly accept his right to live his way, you give him the freedom to really consider his options. Although you would prefer to have a future with him, let him know it is okay if he chooses to smoke. You will accept his decision even if you lose him.

You are responsible for your life and future. Work on feeling at peace, with or without him. Be calm and confident around him. You might find he decides life is worthwhile even without smoking. 

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