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.