Relationships Are Tough As it Is–Can Smoking Make it Worse?

Updated 05/16/19

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Can quitting smoking save your love life? We're all probably familiar with that common, controversial marriage stat that paints a gloomy picture of a union destined for divorce. By the way, that's the stat that says half of all marriages end in divorce. To that end, experts have studied tons of data to uncover the holy grail of what makes a successful partnership, including whether a couple's smoking habits can predict whether a partnership will survive.

So where did researchers land? While there are many factors why a relationship might end in divorce, experts generally agree that if only one partner in the relationship is a smoker, the chances of divorce are higher compared to couples where both partners are smokers. The percentage difference between these insights vary according to a number of separate studies, but generally speaking, the numbers are substantial enough to raise eyebrows. Read on to learn more about the links between smoking, marriage, and divorce.

Studies Link Smoking and Divorce

There are a number of studies that indicate smoking and divorce are related. For example, a study published in 1998 by the University of Minnesota found that people who smoke cigarettes are 53 percent more likely to have experienced divorce than those who don't. On a similar note, that number jumps when we consider updated numbers. A 2009 study by Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research in Australia for example found that the risk factor for divorce among married couples with a single smoker is 75 to 90 percent more likely than couples who both smoke. Furthermore, the book Mind on Statistics by Jessica Utts and Robert Heckard says that the risk of divorce among individuals who smoke is 49 percent, while nonsmoking individuals have a 32 percent risk of divorce.

If those numbers sound startling, what does it actually mean for our relationships? Tara Parker-Pope, author of For Better shared some insight into what exactly might be behind the separation. In 2010, Pope said in an interview with The Daily Beast, "The more similar people are in their values, backgrounds, and life goals, the more likely they are to have a successful marriage...from age to ethnicity to unhealthy habits, dissimilarities between spouses increase divorce risks." A 2015 study supports this notion. In a study that surveyed nearly 20,000 heterosexual couples over 15 years, results found that couples with similar health behaviors––including factors involving smoking, exercise, and drinking––experienced a reduced rate of divorce. But there was one catch: In context, their risk for divorce is higher than couples who did not smoke at all or drink heavily, and exercised regularly.

Should I Quit Smoking to Save My Relationship?

With a mountain of evidence suggesting otherwise, when it comes to love, do opposites really attract? And if they do, can they stand the test of time? It's difficult to say. There are many factors that can determine whether or not your relationship will last (take one MyDomaine writer's thoughts on moving in together for example). Smoking is a personal lifestyle choice and so is how you choose to move through your relationships. However, if you're motivated to quit smoking––whether it's for the very first time or for good, there are just as many ways to get started. That said, relationships are never easy, and if you think you're headed toward an inevitable end, we've got some thoughts on preparing for a smooth exit.


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