Will he change for me?

Dear Sherry,

I need some help. I've been dating this guy for almost 11 months. I love everything about him, except that he smokes dope. I have told him that I do not approve. At first, he told me that he would probably never quit. Then recently he quit, but restarted after about a month of being clean. Is it wrong to ask him to stop, or make him choose between his paraphernalia and me? And if he agrees to stop -- stop for good -- will I be able to trust him to not go behind my back? I don't want anything to do with his smoking and don't want it anywhere around me, but I have a hard time seeing myself without him. I care for him very deeply. Please help me. I am lost and confused about what to do. -- Lady

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Sherry Amatenstein

Sherry is the author of The Q&A Dating Book and Love Lessons from Bad Breakups. She has taught dating seminars, appeared as an expert... Read more

Dear Lady,

Congratulations for not reacting in ostrich-like fashion to your boyfriend's habit. When you love someone, the natural inclination is to tell yourself his problem will somehow just go away. The reality is quite the opposite. It's much better you face this mess now than wait until after you're married.

Will he stop smoking dope for your sake? No, but that doesn't make him a bad person or mean that he doesn't want to make you happy. No one can stop doing something for someone else's sake. He has to be committed to giving up dope because that's something he wants and needs to do. Otherwise his efforts will be half-hearted and, most likely, ineffectual. He'll resent you for being the cause of his discomfort and yes, he might start smoking behind your back.

Don't give him an ultimatum. Rather, tell him that you love him, but can't be with someone who uses drugs. If he wants to quit for himself, you'll do everything possible to support his efforts, but you DON'T want him to quit for you. If he wants to keep smoking, you bear him no ill will, but you need to let him go.

Lady, be aware that if someone is in trouble with drugs, they'll be more than willing to lie. He might tell you he's quitting, but you have to deduce whether or not he's sincere. (One clue: Would he willing to join a 12-step program?)

In the end, breaking up with someone you love is hard -- but, ultimately, not as hard as dating a druggie.

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