I Found The Man of My Dreams Except For One Thing — He Smokes. What Should I do?


Hi Evan, I’ve been reading your blogs and following all your advice. After several failed relationships, I finally found someone who is all the things you say that a real man should be. The only problem is that he smokes. I am a non-smoker and have never dated a smoker in the past, but I am in my mid 30’s and ready for marriage. He is too, but his smoking is the only issue we keep arguing about. He says he is trying to kick the habit for me, but he has failed to do so and it seems he smokes even more after each failed attempt. The other day he told me that he has already started looking for a house for us and that he plans to marry me next year and wants to start a family a year later. He has been working overtime at his job to make this happen and every month he shows me his bank statement. I’ve been ready for marriage for over a decade and over the past 5 years, I have been reading self-help dating books and blogs such as yours, actively making changes to better myself and attract better quality men. After doing all that, I finally found the man of my dreams who wants everything I want – except he’s a smoker. What should I do? By the way, he is 38 years and I’m 35. Your advice is much appreciated.


Glad to hear that your self-help has been self-helping you to attract better quality men. I’m sympathetic to your dilemma, as I’m sure most non-smokers are as well.

But as I’ve said hundreds of times before, whatever you call a dealbreaker is a dealbreaker. The more dealbreakers you have, the fewer relationship options you have.

Here are some common dealbreakers for my clients:

Makes $150K — 5%
Over 6 feet tall — 14%
Has a bachelors degree — 32%
Has advanced degree — 11%
Is Jewish — 1.7%
Doesn’t watch porn regularly — 33%

And so on, and so forth.

The more dealbreakers you have, the fewer relationship options you have.

This says nothing about looks or humor or kindness or generosity or emotional intelligence or communication or the desire to commit — you know, the things that actually determine whether you’ll have a happy marriage. Yet good luck asking a woman to compromise on any one of these things that she deems important. If you choose to deem them all important, your dating pool shrinks considerably.

That’s not my opinion. That’s math.

You want a guy who doesn’t smoke? That’s fine. Only about 20% of men smoke, leaving you 80% to choose from.

I know I’ve reduced an emotional decision to an exercise in statistics, but that’s largely because I’ve never seen a good way to issue an emotional argument to an emotional question. We can run down the reasons you object to him smoking — he’ll shorten his lifespan, he’ll taste like cigarettes, his clothes will smell, it’s disgusting, etc., but none of those things are subject to change as long as he smokes.

So this really comes down to something quite simple:

Presuming he smokes for the rest of his life, can you be happy with him? Or would you be happier without him — breaking up with him at this very moment to find a guy JUST like him… without that awful smoking habit?

You want a guy who doesn’t smoke? That’s fine. Only about 20% of men smoke, leaving you 80% to choose from.

I’m not telling you the answer; I’m outlining your two choices.

And lest you think I’m being glib about it, I went through very much the same calculus in 2008 when I was debating whether to propose to my wife. Best relationship I’d ever had by far, but part of me thought, “Weeellll…maybe I can find someone just like her, but five years younger and Jewish (instead of three years older and Catholic).” When I thought of how hard it was to find this awesome relationship, it became clear to me that I should stick with what I had instead of tempting the fates, spending three years looking for someone “more like me”, who will undoubtedly have ANOTHER set of flaws that I couldn’t calculate.

But again, someone will dump the smoker. Someone will dump the guy who makes 75K. Someone will not give a chance to the 5’9” guy. They’re all entitled to their preferences.

At the same time, I’d venture to guess that those are the women whose relationship advice you may not want to follow.

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  1. 41
    A sad lady indeed

    When I first started dating my boyfriend, it was a at a reunion, we had dated in high school decades ago (I was divorced from someone else). I was a devout non-smoker, and had previously vowed I would never date a smoker. So when we started going out, I didn’t know he smoked, and when I found out, I felt my heart sink. But since I had known him in high school, I decided to look past that. Long story short, we fell hard for each other. He tried hard not to smoke around me, and he seemed conscientious, but  the cigarette smoking bothered me too much (I can get  migraines from the smoke, tobacco smoke is a trigger) so after dating more than 6 months I wrote him a very sweet letter spelling out how I felt about him, both good and bad, the bad mostly being the smoking, and let him know explicitly that I would like for him to stop. For his own sake. I couldn’t and can’t make him quit, I know.

    After a time, he seemed to cut down, and even went on a little health kick. But even still, even after “quitting” and starting up and quitting again and even trying e-cigs, he couldn’t quit. I asked him why he needed to smoke, and he said at first it was the stress he was under. The topic of “why” again came up… This time, unfortunately for me, and for him, it  became a relationship deal breaker after he said he couldn’t quit because he “liked the taste of cigarettes”. Not the smoking – the taste, and wouldn’t give them  up, for the TASTE. This was really the final blow (amongst other issues that reared up), but it’s the taste he had for  cigarettes that repulsed me, as well as the smoke, which clung hard to his clothes, his body, his car, his MOUTH… anything he was near. After a while, I couldn’t stand to be near him, to kiss him, to hug him. He was upset when I didn’t reach for him anymore. He wondered why…He knew I didn’t like the cigarette smoke, the smell, and of course, the health effects. Yet he claims he loved me, cared for me, and still says he does. I don’t believe that’s love … he loves the taste of cigarettes… ugh.

    The “taste” of cigarettes. Well damn, I really enjoyed kissing him when we met and  after  he  quit… I truly loved him, still do, but after he started smoking again – that – the taste of his mouth – is the biggest turn off. I’m sorry, it bothers me too  much. And that’s aside from giving me migraines! His taste for cigarettes superseded my health and kisses and love. So very sad.

    1. 41.1

      Good for you! Just told someone on our first date, don’t date smokers. He said “hopefully we can be friends with benefits.” LOL, like I would still want to kiss an ashtray! NO benefit to me! Sadly, such a nice, used-to-be-nice-looking guy, whose skin is aged & parched from the smoking!

  2. 42

    Smoking is definitely a deal-breaker to me, and for a very important reason. I have asthma and tobacco smoke triggers it badly. I specifically state on my dating profile “no way” for smokers, yet I still get smokers (some of them who even smoke “daily” or “often”) contacting me. It’s pretty frustrating.

  3. 43
    Debraj bhattacharjee

    I am a smoker .I smoke over 30 cigarettes in a day.I love smoking.now I am 30 yrs. Age and I start smoking when I was only 14 yrs.old.I really like it.I am proud of being smoker.my dad and grand PA were smoker.they both died of smoking but I love smoking. My mom is panic because of my smoking,but I love smoking and I will do it rest of my life.

  4. 44

    I married a smoker. At the time I smoked occasionally. I guess I assumed once we had a family we’d both stop. He didn’t. He never smoked in the house, but it became an issue. I hate that my kids see him smoke. I became less and less attracted to him. He’d come inside from smoking and I’d feel sick from the smell. I didn’t want to hug him, much less kiss him. My grandfather was on oxygen for the last 10 years of his life because he was a smoker. His mother died of cancer after smoking for many years. It was a real point of contention for us, and it really contributed to the breakdown of our marriage. He has had congestive heart failure and got a stent put in. Last year he had a heart attack. He has 2 daughters who love him and it saddens me that he might not live to see their graduation. I really don’t see this as on the same level as being Jewish or your age, because those are not things you can change and doesn’t necessarily impact your attractiveness. I understand these might also be “deal breakers” but in the grand scheme of things those don’t really affect your daily life so much. Smoking can and does.

    Sacredfire–what a load of crap. I know plenty of Christian women. I really really doubt Jesus would say this, especially given the horrible behavior of many men. Marriage shouldn’t be about giving up your dignity.

    1. 44.1

      AMEN! Well-said!

  5. 45

    I am so happy that you have found the man of your dreams! It can be very difficult to find that, and it’s great that you focus on self-improvement, happiness, and quality. I also understand your concern regarding smoking. Being a smoker myself, who is also trying to quit, is not only nerve-wracking, but seems to limit choices especially where dating is concerned. Though I’m full-figured, a good amount of quality men seem to be alright with that. But throw in smoking? In the last 10 years or so, there seems to have been a massive “witch hunt” and very harsh judgment placed on smokers. I am very aware of the dangers and the pros of quitting. Most people mean well, but do not know how to help. Believe it or not, most smokers would quit if they knew how, and understood that it does take some trying til you get it right.

    If you are open to advice, please read further.

    He sounds like a wonderful man. Though women fear failure, I think men fear it even more. It sounds like he sees value in you and is really invested. He might really want to quit, but he has to be ready. If you are guilty of pressuring, nagging, telling him it’s bad for you (we know that), then switch up your approach. Believe me when I say, the right kind of support goes a long way. One example that does not help me…someone retorts with something like, “Go ahead, it’s not me that’s going to die of cancer.” Not saying you do this, but statements like this reek of ignorance and kind of set the stage for failure.

    To the other extreme, those that want to talk to a smoker about it all the time and drop pamphlets in the door are daunting to deal with too, because it reminds them of smoking. Find a medium ground. Tell him lovingly that you will be supportive if and when he’s ready. Do not draw it out. Check in every once in a while if he does. Accept he may have relapses. He might get moody and restless. First 2 days, then first 2 weeks are the hardest. Physical activity is a big help. Meditation, breathing, even trying sleep hypnosis videos on YouTube could help.

    I was quit for 3 years through a smoking cessation course. The woman that ran it was a former smoker, studied psych and addiction, and was a tremendous help and judgment-free. We had gotten patches through the program. They work, and when nicotine lozenges are used, it’s even more effective. I could be around smokers after a short amount of time and didn’t even gain much weight! Truth be told, I wasn’t even bothered by it! I made the mistake one night of asking someone for a cigarette after too much stress culminated together at once. I made a mistake, and here I am a year later trying to quit again. It takes tenacity. You can fall off the horse…get your bearings, get back on. Remember, it’s a long-instilled habit. It does take time to completely get over it, but it can be done.

    I don’t know if this helps any, but it sounds like you’ve got a definite catch! I wish the best to you both. Believe in him, it will go a long way :).

    1. 45.1

      Oh yeah, I forgot; the reason he smokes more after an argument about it:

      – You could wake up and not eat for several hours upon waking and not care, but when you fast for blood work or a procedure, you’re ravenous.

      – When people approach a healthier lifestyle with an 80/20 or 75/25 eating agenda, make choices in moderation, and build up to goals, they are happier/healthier/feel better/and are more successful. When they pump their fist in the air and announce they’re going to start their diet on Monday with 0 carbs, no sugar, gym everyday, and salads only…they fail.

      The immediate shock and preparing for extremes is one of the most difficult when starting anything. Best to ease into it, mental-preparedness is everything when trying to quit.

  6. 46

    As usual, I agree with Evan’s advice here. But as a woman currently in this position, I’ll offer a look into one possible future for you.

    Like you, I always considered smoking a dealbreaker. But then I met someone who is pretty much otherwise perfect. And since I had several dealbreakers that reduced my dating pool significantly, I figured I had to finally let one slide. We dated somewhat long-distance, only seeing each other about every two to three weeks, until we got engaged. After that he moved in with me.

    Mistake #1 was overlooking a long-held dealbreaker because I felt time was running out… Mistake #2 was underestimating how much it would bother me. But there was really no way to know this without living together, I guess.

    It’s not just the smell; my throat actually swells and hurts when I’m exposed to tobacco smoke. I don’t go outside with him when he smokes, because of this. But that means every time we’re hanging out and having a nice conversation, it’s interrupted every half hour or so while he gets his fix. This might seem petty but it actually feels like crap that he can’t just focus on spending time with me. I always feel second to smoking. But I sit and wait and try to resume the conversation or activity when he gets back.

    But when he gets back I have to sit across the room, or at least turn so that I’m not facing him, because the smell sticks to him for a while afterward.

    When we go places I have to drive, because he can’t drive without smoking.

    Every place we stop, I wait while he smokes. I don’t mind the wait, really. But then he gets back in the car and I’m trapped with the smell. I roll the windows down, and I feel bad as if I’m embarrassing him. In other words, it’s a constant thing hanging over us. It’s little things that add up to overshadow our time together.

    I’m about to turn 38 and all my life I’ve wanted to have a child with someone I love (my previous attempt, when I was much younger, was an awful mistake) We’ve been discussing the issue of having a child together… Due to my age, it’s now or never. Well, I’ve been pregnant before and cigarette smoke was horrible. I’ll basically be avoiding my fiance the entire time I’m pregnant… and I detest seeing people smoke with kids in the car, so due to aforementioned inability to drive without smoking, he’ll never be able to take the kid anywhere…. And I won’t let anyone hold my baby while smoking or right after smoking, with it on their breath and stuck to their clothes… You can see what I’m getting at here. I’ll be raising that baby pretty much alone. Because smoking rules his life, even though I doubt he sees it that way.

    Obviously that’s a terrible plan, so now I’m accepting that I won’t get to have a child.

    And I could leave him and start over, but by the time I find someone else… time’s up anyway.

    All I can say is that I feel constantly as if I’m second to his addictions (aside from cigarettes there is also nonstop pot use, which also limits life significantly). And now I’m confronting the fact I’ve lost my chance at a long-held dream… All because I didn’t walk away two years ago when a dealbreaker presented itself.

    Your situation might be different. Maybe you can accept this. But also think about future children, if you plan to have them. This affects them too.

    I’m living with significant regret and don’t see a way out. So I just had to offer this side of the story.


  7. 47

    An hour ago I was checking out a guy’s OKCupid questions as preparation for our upcoming phone call and discovered he’s a smoker — he’d checked ‘no’ for smoking in the actual stats they present on the profile 🙁   It was awkward have to let him know our call isn’t happening (once I confirmed with him that he’s still smoking) and certainly tried to be as gentle about it, but better for both of us to know now than to find out at the end of our first date.

    1. 47.1

      I was lied to about smoking status when I was in OLD. He was an “occasional” smoker of tobacco and an “occasional” smoker of another substance. I had already made it clear in my profile, and in the early days of our interacting that I was NOT OK with either substance being smoked. Since his smoking of tobacco and “wacky tobaccy” were occasional, I did not smell smoke on his breath, clothes, etc. He told me after about 6 weeks in, when we were dating exclusively. I asked him why he hid this info from me, and he said because he didn’t think it was “important”. I think I was more upset about him deeming my desire for a non-smoker as “un-important” than I was with the deception. Needless to say, the relationship did not work out. Other guys fudged on the smoking question as well, but typically I could smell it on their clothes at our first meet and greet.

  8. 48

    It’s interesting that the subject went to”deal breakers;” rather  the real, rather large, HEALTH & SOCIAL-related issues associated dating/marrying smokers. It’s tough to quit, but I did it after nearly 40 years as a “casual” smoker. Many didn’t know I even smoked. The terrain is much different for smokers in this day and age. There are organizations that won’t hire smokers (guess they’ve reduced “their pool” of qualified   workers also). Sounds like “Evan” is saying, be alone & healthy (GOD forbid! Of course, you may never meet another man you love in life. NOT true; they’re not that unique! LOL!) OR marry the “smoking” man of your dreams (literally in all ways it sounds) & forget the smoke-filled home he’s “saving” for (saved a TON when I quit smoking! ); the possible respitory issues of your future children; & BOTH of your impending health issues sure to come related to smoking. What “Evan” is not saying is, once “the honeymoon phase” is past, that smoking issue will only be magnified & resentment is sure to follow! Also, are you prepared/ready to accommodate ALL the non-smoking conditions socially? Hotels, restaurants, traveling, work place, etc. In my humble opinion, if & when he’s truly ready to quit, he will; just like most forner smokers. HE has to want it more than you!  

  9. 49

    This has to help me a lot because the person I am dating smokes and my parents won’t let me be with them they even told me that I have to break up with him but I haven’t because I like him. But reading this has made me understand that maybe he won’t change and he won’t stop smoking. He has everything that I like about a boy and he respects me and my family. But the part that he smokes is not good. I have never smoked in my life and I do not want to know how it tastes like. I just thought he was the right person because he is always there when I need someone.

  10. 50

    Two years ago I found myself with the same dilemma. I met the perfect man for me. He is kind, intelligent, hardworking, loving and checks all of my boxes for what I want in a mate. His only flaw was that he was a cigarette smoker. I knew this before we became involved and he never tried to hide it from me or told me that he was trying to quit (although he has tried a couple of times only to go back to smoking). I really didn’t want him to smoke, of course, mainly because I worried about his health and did not want to watch him go through a horrible illness. I also had to decide if this was a deal breaker for me. I finally came to the conclusion that it was not. It was certainly not my preference but I loved him and I knew that he loved me. I also knew that it was unlikely that I would find another man who treats me as well as he does. But I still had to address the issue with him. I didn’t want to nag or threaten him so I simply told him that I wish that he didn’t smoke, that I was concerned for his health and did not want to one day face the world without him. I did not give him an ultimatum. I told him that I accepted the possibility that he would never quit smoking and I knew that if he did quit he would have to do it for himself. I told him that if he ever decides to quit that I would support him and be there for him in any and every way I could. Then I told him I loved him. After that, I felt like I had said what I needed to say and that the ball was in his court. We have now been married for a little over a year. He is still a cigarette smoker but our love for one another has only deepened. I’m thankful that I did not make it a deal breaker. It’s not an ideal situation but he is still the ideal man in my eyes except for this one vice. I don’t know if he will ever try to quit smoking and since that initial conversation I have not brought it up. He knows how I feel. I knew going in that I could not force him to change and that if we were to be married that I had to accept him exactly how he is. My decision was to learn to live to with it. I know that not everyone would make the same decision as I did. You have to decide for yourself what is a deal breaker for you and smoking may be one of those things. But if had been a deal breaker for me, I would have missed out on the happiest year of my life. These kinds of situations often don’t have easy answers. I know that it will likely impact my husband’s health one day and I will be devastated. I have worked to prepare myself for this possibility, even though I know I won’t be ready for it when or if it comes. Still, I wouldn’t change any of the decisions I’ve made about this man and I remain hopeful that one day he will come to me and tell me that he wants to quit smoking. I realize that he may not and I have decided to accept this fact and not let it ruin an otherwise happy marriage. You just have to decide for yourself what you can or cannot live with. But don’t string him along. If this is a deal breaker for you then act on it. If he is worth somehow finding a way to accept it, then do so and don’t look back.

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