Dr. Howe: How do you feel about the fact that your wife is considering divorcing you over your cigarette addiction?
Husband: I think it’s ridiculous. She’s got a lot of bad habits and I don’t threaten to divorce her over them
Dr. Howe: But it must really be bothersome to her that you smoke if she’s willing to divorce you over it. It’s clearly a major issue for her.
Husband: I don’t see why it should be such a major issue. I don’t smoke around her. I don’t smoke in the house. Hell I don’t even smoke in the yard. That shows I care how she feels; but I smoke. I’m a smoker. She knew I was a smoker before she married me. Now she wants to give me ultimatums? Either I quit smoking or she’s divorcing me? I don’t tell her either she loses a hundred pounds or I divorce her and I no more like the fact that she weighs two hundred pounds than she likes the fact that I smoke.
Dr. Howe (to the wife): How do you feel about what your husband has just said?
Wife: I think it’s typical. And I’m not two hundred pounds. He expects me to be the size of a Victoria’s Secret model. Well I’m not a Victoria’s Secret model. They’re the size they are because they’re Victoria’s Secret models. They have to starve themselves and go to extremes to stay skinny like that. I know I’m a little overweight, but I’m not obese so I don’t see the need for him to make that statement. I don’t see what one thing has to do with the other. Smoking is dangerous. Smoking can kill you.
Husband: Being fat is dangerous. Being fat can kill you. You can have a heart attack
Wife: I’m not that fat that I’m danger of having a heart attack
Dr. Howe (to the wife): Do you think of your husband’s smoking as an illness–as an addiction?
Wife: An addiction yes. I don’t know about an illness. I don’t think addiction is an illness. People can overcome addictions just by choice if they really want to. You can’t technically choose to overcome an illness. It’s not like someone with cancer can decide to no longer be a cancer patient and overcome cancer by modifying their habits . An addict can decide no longer to be an addict and stop doing the thing that makes them an addict. It might not be as easy to achieve as snapping their fingers but it can be done by sheer will alone. So, no I don’t consider it an illness if what you’re trying to get at is that I took vows to be with my husband in sickness and in health.
Husband: The thing I don’t get is, I cheated on this woman twice and she’s still with me but she wants to divorce me because I smoke? What sense does that make? Is she really trying to say my smoking bothers her more than the fact that I cheated on her twice?
Wife: I don’t know what you’re bringing that up for. That has nothing to do with this. And I stayed with you because you begged me not to leave. You swore you were sorry both times. I let you convince me that we had something worth fighting for. And yeah, I’m probably a fool for not leaving the first time. That’s your point right? I’m a damn fool because I stayed with you even after you cheated on me twice.
Dr. Howe: Why don’t we try to stick with the matter at hand. We can get into the cheating another session. Let’s focus our attention on what we can do if anything to not break up your marriage over cigarettes.
Wife: I don’t really want to continue this discussion. There’s no point to it. My husband wants to keep smoking. It doesn’t matter to him how much it bothers me. The fact of the matter is he has a right to smoke if he wants to smoke; but I have a right to be comfortable. If I’m out somewhere and someone comes around me smoking I don’t stand there and endure the smell of the smoke. I move away. Why should I have to spend the rest of my life inhaling an odor that leaves me feeling sick to my stomach just because of some vows I took?
Dr. Howe: But your husband indicated that he doesn’t smoke around you?
Wife: He doesn’t. It’s the smell that it leaves behind in his clothes, in his hair, on his breath. It even comes through his pores and it makes life very unpleasant. I smell it when we’re making love and it’s an instant turn off. I can’t enjoy sex with my husband because I am always assailed by the horrible smell that comes from his breath and when I turn away into his shoulders the smell is coming through his pores. It’s on his fingers. It’s every where and it makes me sick. It alters my mood and then I get blamed for being in a bad mood. I’ll be in a perfectly fine mood and then he’ll come home and suddenly the place has this horrible smell and I’m sensitive to scents and I keep telling him that and he doesn’t do anything. He doesn’t make any adjustment. So I’ve come to the conclusion that I have to make the adjustment and the only adjustment I can make so that I’m able to live comfortably is to leave him to his cigarettes since he won’t give them up. I have a right to live comfortably don’t I?
Dr. Howe (to the husband): How do you feel about what your wife has just said?
Husband: I think she’s being melodramatic and blowing things out of proportion. It’s not like she always smells like roses, and I don’t get on like that about it when she stinks.
Wife (to Dr. Howe): Do you see how it is? He turns everything around and tries to hurt my feelings as if we’re kids trying to see who can say the worse things about each other. You don’t hear me insulting him. All I’m doing is stating how his cigarette smoking is affecting my life and affecting our marriage. I’m not attacking his character. I’m not trying to disrespect him and show him up; but he seizes every opportunity to insult me. First I’m two hundred pounds even though I’m really only one-seventy-five; then he rubs the fact that he cheated on me twice in my face, now he says I stink. And all this while giving every indication that he just doesn’t care how his cigarette smoking is affecting our lives. It’s so bad I’m at a place where I feel like divorce is the only option I have for getting his smoking out of my life and even hearing that he just keeps insisting that I’m being melodramatic and blowing things out of proportion.
Dr. Howe (to the wife): Do you feel that your husband’s smoking is something you absolutely can no longer live with?
Wife: I don’t think I should have to. I don’t think it’s fair to ask me to be the one to compromise and put up with something that really isn’t something he should be doing anyway.
Dr. Howe (to the husband): Are you willing to give up cigarettes to save your marriage?
Husband: I don’t think I should have to any more than she thinks she should have to compromise. I don’t think asking me to quit smoking to make her comfortable is reasonable. Not once did I hear her say anything about being concerned for my health. It’s all about her. She wants me to quit smoking so she doesn’t have to be made uncomfortable by my smell. It’s not that she’s concerned about my welfare and doesn’t want me to get cancer and die. It’s that she doesn’t want to have to smell anything unpleasant. If she’s willing to divorce me so she doesn’t have to smell me then she can’t really love me can she?
Wife: And if he’s willing to agree to get divorced so he can continue smoking cigarettes then obviously he loves his cigarettes more than he loves me. And if cigarettes are more important than I am then what am staying around for?
To be continued…
Note: Dr. Howe is not a real person. She’s a character created for entertainment purposes and the series Sessions with Dr. Howe has also been created for entertainment purposes. Some of the Sessions with Dr. Howe content is based on real stories of real couples while other content is entirely fictionalized.