My Wife Smokes Too Much! My Husband Doesn’t Work Out! Ack!

Dear Robin:

I am in a very happy marriage and that is why I write to you today.  I am worried about my wife’s smoking.

When we met she smoked but it seems like over time and especially in the past few months she has been smoking more and more.  She only smokes at night with alcohol which means when she is smoking more she is drinking more.

She is under a lot of grad school stress, her sister has cancer, and a good friend of hers died in a car accident over the holidays.

I understand why she is smoking more but I love her and I do not want her to get sick. She wakes up most mornings lately with a terrible cough.

How do I get her to quit or cut back?  As a surgeon, you would think I’d be able to convince her but so far, I’m not.

Loving Husband

Dear Loving Husband:

Thank you for your email and the responses to my questions.

Thank you also for putting me in touch with your wife, who appreciates your concerns but has one of her own about your lifestyle.

That’s great news, because I think I’ve come up with a quid pro quo solution that will help you both change your habits!

My Talk with Your Wife

Your wife also describes herself as quite happily married after eleven years, so count yourselves among the very lucky.  So many relationships go like this instead:

The Thrill is Gone.

She admits her smoking, while normally something she did on a limited basis in the evening, has greatly increased over the past year and especially the past several months.  She notes the increase in stress does not excuse the increase in smoking, but goes a long way towards explaining it.

Your wife is committed to cutting back and would like to eventually quit, but for now she wants to focus on reducing the number of cigarettes she smokes rather than eliminating them.  She fears adding the weight of nicotine withdrawal to her current worries could result in injury to you or one of your pets.

Point of fact about your wife’s health:

Despite her smoking habit, she is very healthy!  She exercises regularly and eats a balanced diet, although she admits her alcohol consumption could be curtailed.

Gosh golly, I feel like I know her.

What She Says About YOU!

I love that you love her and want her to remain healthy, and that you felt so strongly about it that you’d write to me.

You may regret that decision, however, once I tell you what she said about you:

You do not exercise on a regular basis anymore.

When you first met, working out together was something you enjoyed several times per week.  Over the years, you have essentially stopped exercising except on a sporadic basis, while she has become more dedicated to fitness.  

I asked her to estimate your average number of workouts per month: she pegged the number at around six or seven.

That won’t do.


Maintaining your cardiovascular health and muscle mass is essential if you want to lead a long, happy, and frisky life with your wife.

While she has never had any complaints about your physique and finds you terribly sexy, you have complained bitterly in recent years about a weight gain of roughly 15 pounds, even as you curtail your exercise habits and regularly eat chips or popcorn before dinner.

Your wife has mightily encouraged you for a long time in many ways to exercise on a regular basis. She has offered repeatedly to:

  • wake you up in the morning and push you out the door
  • join you at the gym
  • wear her shortest shorts and jog on a treadmill in front of you
  • provide unusual and/or exotic sexual favors in exchange for your sweaty gym clothes

The list goes on.

She says your complaints about your weight (which again, she really hasn’t noticed and doesn’t care about) don’t jibe with your refusal to work out and your pre-dinner snacking habits.

If she woke up hacking every morning (which you say she does) and then moaned and wailed about it (which you both say she doesn’t), that would be especially frustrating for you.

She acknowledges your extremely challenging career as a surgeon and admits while her graduate schooling is difficult, it affords her great flexibility.

My Wicked Genius Solution!

Quitting and/or cutting back on smoking is a terribly difficult thing to do.  

There are several options available to your wife, including medications and cold turkey white-knuckling it, but I like the idea of tapering.

Adopting a regular workout routine is also hard, but it can be done.

You want your wife to at least cut back on cigarettes.  She wants you to exercise on a regular basis, at least 4 days a week.  You both love each other and want to have a long and happy life together.

I emphasize again how lucky you are, because I know some married people who would be shoving cigarettes into their smoker spouse’s word hole in an effort to hasten their death, or feeding an obese partner pasta carbonara chased with cheesecake every night in hopes the widow/widower-maker heart attack would come to visit.

You Help Her/She Helps You!

Make a chart and hang it on your refrigerator.  The chart has two columns:

Your worksouts and her cigarettes.

For every day you exercise, your wife is strictly limited to a certain number of coffin nails.  She estimates on an average day lately she has been smoking a half-pack or more, so start by limiting her to four or five.

Remember, she is only beholden to this number if you exercise that day.

On the other hand, let’s say she limits herself to those four or less smokes on a day you did NOT exercise.  In this case, you are compelled to work out the next day or face a penalty of purchasing her one David Yurman bracelet.

I understand your job is challenging and you aren’t a morning person, but the fact is that anyone can find time to exercise.



I suggest early morning workouts so your day can’t sidetrack you when the unexpected exploding breast implant needs replacing.  Learn how to set that alarm and spring out of bed for a good hourlong workout.

I guarantee you that your day will be much more productive and enjoyable once you get into this routine.

Your wife does most of the grocery shopping and cooking, so it is up to her to make chips and snacks less accessible and to cook healthy meals.  Exercise alone will not result in weight loss and a healthy body.  

90% of abs are made in the kitchen, or so I’m told.  I can’t seem to find the recipe.

In Summary:

  • Draw up the plan described and stick it on the fridge.
  • Be loving and encouraging as you support one another in your efforts towards better health.
  • You be in charge of the CDS (Cigarette Delivery System).  Your wife is in charge of the CPDS (Chip/Popcorn Delivery System) at home.  
  • Celebrate your successes together by doing fun things like binging at a burger joint or getting drunk and chain-smoking.*

Keep us posted on your progress!

Readers, how would you solve this problem?  Leave your suggestions in a comment, and don’t forget to share the blog!

PS to the wife: Your sister has cancer and yet you continue to smoke.  Are you stupid or just plain stubborn?  


Don’t answer that.  My glass house is feeling quite vulnerable today. 


*Just kidding.  Do not do that.


This Post Has 16 Comments

  1. Bernie Sanders' Hair Stylist

    You may have just single-handedly saved their marriage! I wish more people in this world would compromise, particularly when the compromise is a win-win. Too much win-lose or even lose-lose in this world.

  2. onehsancare

    Ouch. Too close to home. I’ve been watching your scorsheet inch up 34/34 . . . 56/56 . . . 80/80 and thinking “I used to do that. I could do that. I don’ wanna do that. I rather sit here with this nice bowl of popcorn.”

    Really, REALLY good advice, Robin! Now I have to think of a flaw in my husband for him to work on so I can adopt this plan!

    1. Robin DesCamp

      Today is my 91st workout in 91 days and I’m telling you – you can get on a plan! Make it FUN, first and foremost. Email me for ideas or better yet, send me a question!

  3. The Bling Lady

    As usual, great advice Robin! I love the compromise angle; would love to have an update in a few weeks.

  4. Melanie Viers

    Great suggestions! If they planned an after dinner walk together, that would cut into her smoking and boozing in the evening. Also help hubby get a little workout in before bedtime. Weekend hikes together…the possibilities are endless!

    1. Robin DesCamp

      That is a double-whammy great idea. Why didn’t I think of that? Please go away with your smart self!

  5. Kristi

    This is an issue I have with my closest friend. She had lung cancer and smokes. It’s like I’m watching her kill herself. Thank you for addressing this!!

  6. Echinachea

    Great advice, but that’s par for the course for you. Ah, wouldn’t life be so much finer if we could only control our spouses’ habits, tastes and proclivities. Unfortunately, the more one tries, the harder it becomes to achieve anyone else’s results. Many years of attempts to get my husband to get back to his more active self have only led to a more sedentary lifestyle on his part. I think I have finally just given up, and while no change seems apparent, at least I feel some relief by pretending I no longer care. Not sure what all these unrelated thoughts mean, but it’s a topic which is always relevant–control, control and more control. Your ideas sound as if they would be more effective than my fruitless nagging, and let’s hope they work for your reader. Keep up the good work!

  7. Ruth

    I like the idea of accountability and hopefully this will lead to healthier lifestyles for both of them. My only concern is that one (or both) might begin to resent the other one having control over a bad habit/vice. It might be hard in the beginning as they are each going through a form of detox to see the good intent of the other. Talk about what that might look like ahead of time and promise to communicate and work through it.

    I like your ideas, Robin. Obviously, they have a good strong foundation to work from. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Robin DesCamp

      Good points, Ruth! I know they are both reading the comments and appreciate them.

  8. Frisbee

    Interesting approach. Hope it works…Would love to get an update in a few months!

  9. fancypants

    This is such great advice! Far too often couples grow apart by choosing unhealthy choices rather than choosing each other. We all know that we feel better when we take care of ourselves, be it limiting eating, drinking, smoking, etc. But to actually put it in practice in a way that also brings the marriage back into focus is so smart. By committing to good health, good habits while working as a team to do it is a way to get back to who you were when the thrill was there. Plus with her sweeter non-smoky breath, and his tighter abs, things can happen! Thanks for the positive team work solution, Robin.

  10. Samuel

    It seems these two are more interested in fixing what’s wrong with each other, instead of what’s wrong with themselves first. They even acknowledge each other’s concerns but prefer to see the change they want in their spouse first. Sounds like a typical married couple to me.

  11. Timmy

    Excellent advice, Robin!

    I’m sure glad you’re the one offering advice. Otherwise if it was me… I would tell him to smoke a cigarette at a point when she wasn’t. Then, lay a big wet kiss on her.

    Have you ever kissed somebody who’s been smoking? I’m not sure there’s anything more disgusting. Oh wait… There was one time when she puked the Jagermeister shot, after smoking a cigarette… and then a kiss. That was a bad night…

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  13. Me too.

    If I work out every day, will you promise to post the next part of your series Anatomy of a Disaster? LOL – at least a comment telling me when I can expect it! You should write for tv.

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