How can I be less triggered by my partner smoking?

I found myself being extremely upset by my partner smoking and am finding it hard to be around him. He says he wants to quit but I don't find it reassuring because when he did in May I was so happy, but he started again and the disappointment and hurt I experienced was even worse than if he hadn't quit at all. He gets angry when I try to tell him how he's hurting me. I know he's going through a lot of stress right now, so it might not be the right time to quit, but I can't seem to sooth myself - I feel scared and unhappy every time I see him smoke. I just want to be able to relax and trust he will stop when the time is right.
Asked by Frida

Hello Frida, 


I am glad you have reached out for some help with how to manage your reactions or your triggers.  I am sure your partner smoking is causing you angst and concern.  I can imagine that you are worried about many things including you partner’s health and wellbeing and how that impacts your future for you both. One thing is for sure, you can support your partner when they are ready, but meanwhile let’s take a look at how you can regulate your emotions so that you do not feel so emotionally triggered and less reactive to the triggers.

Here are some strategies you might consider trying:

Mediation can help us live more mindful and examined lives. When you meditate, you’re practicing noticing thoughts and feelings without getting caught up in them and telling yourself a story about these emotions.  If you need some help getting to sleep at night, try one of the apps on your phone such as Headspace, Calm or Medito or take a look at some Your Tube Videos for free. 

When we are emotionally reactive or triggered, it’s often done compulsively or unconsciously. Meditation helps us be more self-aware and more conscious of our emotions before we react to them. If you feel like you have no control over your emotions or that you can’t help but react, meditation might be a great solution for you.

If it’s possible, surround yourself with people who are positive and helpful in the way they think and feel. Who you associate with has an influence on how you perceive things. When a tricky situation arises, and the people you circulate with all give varying suggestions that result in cheerful ones, you are blessed. And you will statistically be less disposed to stress and tension.

When the wrong people give you advice that produces more anxiety or results in enemies and animosity, consider running away from them!

Sometimes emotionally reacting without thinking is what generally gets us in the most trouble and causes the most emotional pain.  It’s also what makes it harder to stop being emotionally reactive.

Get in the practice of thinking before you act on your triggers. It sounds simple but of course it’s not easy – this takes effort and commitment. When you sense intense emotions percolating in you, use that as a reminder to stop, take a breath, and think. You will soon notice the physical response comes on rapid: clenched fists, sweat, hotness on the face, etc. These are clues that should remind you to turn inward first, think about your situation, and then slowly respond. These few seconds of contemplation can offer the clarity you need to respond more productively, positively and calmly.

You might be extremely sensitive. You sense disapproval or disappointment from your partner, and you emotionally react by emotionally breaking down. You may feel your value is being underestimated, so you are struggling.  You may even sense projection, manipulation, or offensive, or some sort of accusation, and you do the knee-jerk reaction of reacting to your partner in an offensive manner, too.

Tit for tat. A vicious cycle of negativity resulted because you were emotionally reactive. You never did your research to validate your perception of things. Instead, have the decency to give everyone who gives you negative vibes a decent chance to be heard and observed.
You will be shocked if, in the end, the other person also thought you were the one initiating the negative vibes yourself.

 A previous negative experience may form a prejudice in your mind, even one you may not be fully aware of having. Remind yourself that whenever you are reacting to something in the present, you may be assuming because of an experience in the past. Detaching our previous experiences from our present ones helps us stop being emotionally reactive.

We allow past experiences with people, places, and things to inform how we react to similar people, places, and things in the future.

It is known that there are 6 basic emotions that are present in all human cultures, they are: surprise, happiness, disgust, fear, sadness, and anger.

To add to this emotion list are excitement, shame, pride, satisfaction, amusement, embarrassment, and contempt. Notice that there are both positive and negative emotions here. Wherever possible, be more inclined towards the positive ones to protect your own emotional health because stressors could be significant sources of physiological diseases.

But there are also positive emotions in the list that, when used in an overreactive way, which could be reasons for poor health or conflicts with your partner.

Let happiness conquer sadness. Look beyond your initial perception of a person who makes you feel anger, disgust, or fear. In the final analysis, trust might overcome all these emotions when you see a positive character in someone you haven’t noticed before.

Lower your level of emotional reactivity by immersing yourself in some self-care activities such as a relaxing massage or give yourself a complete spa treat.

Go on vacation to a peaceful place.  Hiking in the cool mountains, or to a relaxing beach, consider experiencing the serenity of the woods as recommended locations to recharge and ease your burned nerves and upended emotions.

If going to the gym relaxes you, then join one.  It is known that toxins are filtered out of your body and loads of emotional stress by sweating. If sweating is your thing, you can also go on a run or participate in a team sport.

Meanwhile, yoga and Tai Chi all have passionate practitioners because of their emotion calming benefits. Tai Chi has health benefits, just like yoga. They both improve movement, your muscles and enhance your flexibility. As a result, your moods and emotions also benefit.

Your emotions and your ability to have enough sleep have an intimate relationship. Sleep deprivation makes you more emotionally stimulated easily and more sensitive to stressful stimuli and scenarios (in a negative way).

Adequate sleep (6 to 8 hours) is crucial to better handling emotional reactivity in everyday conditions. So when you need to stop working or whatever you’re doing because it’s bedtime, stop. The benefits far outweigh the cons.

The regular ingesting of supplements and food that calms your nerves and will help you stop being emotionally reactive is a great habit.

Research has taught us that there are dietary supplements that can help lower your emotional anxieties include vitamin D, saffron, magnesium, chamomile, omega 3, vitamin C, L-theanine, CBD, curcumin, and multivitamins. But be well informed from professionals of the proper dosage of these supplements because too much of anything can produce undesired side effects.

Calming foods should be naturally rich in magnesium. Spinach, Swiss chard, and other leafy greens are examples. Other sources of magnesium are nuts, legumes, seeds, and whole grains.

Zinc is also a natural emotion pacifier. It’s an essential component found in cashews, oysters, beef, liver, and egg yolks. But everything in moderation, as usual.

You should also consider what to avoid consuming. For example, there are links between caffeine and anxiety that may make you consider avoiding that extra cup of coffee in the mornings.

Absorb and learn all you can about what can help you stop being emotionally reactive. There has never been a time in history when all knowledge is at the tip of your fingers with the availability of internet.

Specifically, when you anticipate being part of a stressful situation, narrow down your research to that niche. Like if you’re about to meet the parents of your partner. Research what should be your most appropriate behavior so that less tension will ensue.

Laughter and joyfulness should be part and parcel of every effort to reduce being emotionally triggered. Finding something funny in every situation calms your nerves and makes you prepare with excitement, rather than fear or disgust, for the next chapter.

A good old laughing spell mashes all emotionally reactive and triggering tendencies.

I hope you try a combination of some of these strategies to help you feel less triggered by your partners smoking habits.  It will take work and effort on your part, but the benefits might b well worth it for you.  If you are still struggling t cope with the triggers, consider reaching out to BetterHelp for some support and guidance for a professional therapist.  Someone who can help guide you with further strategies to help you and someone to listen to your concerns and worries.

I wish you much luck with your next step.

Kind Regards,