egregious anonymous relationshipfilter
June 15, 2005 8:27 AM   Subscribe

I like a girl. She likes me. There's two small but big things keeping us apart, and I dunno how to solve them. The first has nothing to do with her, and the second does. Advice would be appreciated.

The first is that she works for my company's main client. Two small companies; I'm teh boss at mine, she's the equivalent of an office manager at hers, and we work directly together playing whack-a-mole with their administrative problems. While that's a huge conflict of interest, I'm already in conflict-of-interest-land because my best friend is a manager at that company and he's the one that brought me in. Back on the other hand, he and I only joke about having lover's quarrels...

The second thing is that she smokes. I not only don't smoke, I can't stand the smell of burning tobacco and I'm athsmatic and somewhat allergic to it. (Actually, I get all athsmatic with -any- particulate in the air...) I'm firmly in the camp of "don't try to change people", so even suggesting that she stop smoking for me is something I wouldn't normally do. I know my parents did, though -- my mom refused to kiss my dad till he stopped smoking, and he quit cold turkey that day.

The only reason I'm even still considering is that we've known each other and worked very closely together for a couple of years now, and she'd be very easy for me to love. And the lingering looks and gentle flirts from both parties have not gone unnoticed by parties like my best friend, who knows me very well indeed. He says go ahead, but I'm a little more conservative. Comments that say "Run away, run away fast" aren't particularly helpful, because I need to deal with this one way or another. What else should I take into consideration?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (23 answers total)
How much does she smoke? How much do you like her? I have always been mildly phobic about smoking for some reason, at least in the people that I date (I wish I knew why), and have not dated several people because they smoked and I thought it would be very unpleasant. Then I fell in love with a woman who smoked, although not that much, and was surprised by how little of an issue it was. She made some effort not to smoke too much around me, and I was surprised that she did not taste horrible to kiss after a few minutes had gone by since her last cigarette. I think if you really like her then the smoking thing is surmountable.

The work situation seems difficult if only because you have to at least have an exit strategy for if things do not work out. Not everything does.

There, now if I could only figure out my own love life, I'd be all set.
posted by OmieWise at 8:40 AM on June 15, 2005

You should be honest with her and tell her about your aversion to smoking / smokers and then see what she says. You don't have to try to change her, but if it's a deal-breaker then you should let her know. It'd be way worse for you to blow her off without any explanation and leave her wondering why.

The first problem is just not a problem. Her boss should really be told if the whole thing goes any further, and he'll reassign her / fire her if he has a problem with it. The most likely scenario, though, is that he won't.
posted by bshort at 8:41 AM on June 15, 2005

I think you're being too conservative, myself. Don't "run away, run away fast" -- "run toward it, run toward it fast."

Love is so incredibly rare in this world, and if, as our society asks, you mentally lock off the people you work with eight hours of the day (more if you commute) from romantic consideration, you vastly decrease your chances to find the right person.

As for smoking, well, just discuss it with her. See what she's willing to do. Maybe she'll make sure she doesn't smoke in your presence. Maybe Febreeze is an option. Maybe she'll volunteer to try to quit because she likes you that much and there's finally a strong enough incentive for her.

Good luck, you already lucky bastard. ;-)
posted by WCityMike at 8:45 AM on June 15, 2005

The flirting is mutual, right? Talk to her. Tell her how much you like her, how much you're attracted to her, and lay out your honest reservations about pursuing a relationship. Just make sure you phrase it in a factual way, not as anything that could be mistaken for an ultimatum.

She may also have reservations, you know...
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 8:45 AM on June 15, 2005

Yeah...neither one of these issues should really be a deal-breaker, at all.

The conflict-of-interest thing is something to be careful of, but definitely don't let it derail something good. As far as the smoking goes...look, if you're going to have a good relationship, you're going to change each other. I have a hard time seeing how any meaningful relationship could leave both people totally unaffected.

She might have to change how/when she smokes, or it might be exactly the impetus she's been looking for to actually quit. No matter what, though, that's a decision she should be part of...not that you should make for her.
posted by LairBob at 8:52 AM on June 15, 2005 [1 favorite]

It's easier now to date a smoker then it used to be. More and more smokers are okay with smoking outside, not needing to [or being able to] go to smoky bars and generally not making their own any time any place smoking a dealbreaker. That said, your parents' example is unlikely to repeat itself if only because relationships tend to move at a faster pace now than they used to. Then again, I've been wrong before. So make it clear in your mind if you'd be willing to date her as a smoker, if your asthma and tobacco distaste issues could be worked with. Is it smoking you have a problem with, or smokers too?

I believe work issues can be worked out one way or the other [hey if you're two small companies with major interests in common maybe you can bring the companies together as well as your romantic intentions...] and can wait until you've at least got confirmation that this gal is the real deal for you. It may be a callous thing to say, but she's probably got more to risk than you do, since my guess is your position as "boss" at your company might trump "office manager" at hers. Worth thinking about in a "what if it doesn't work out?" sort of way.

I think WCityMike has it here, if she's special and she's seeming reciprocally interested, take a few more bold steps forward and see where it leads you.
posted by jessamyn at 8:54 AM on June 15, 2005

I can't help on the conflict of interest thing. Smoking, though...

I smoke. My boyfriend does not. I try to quit, but so far efforts have been generally unsuccessful. The basic deal - and I brokered it myself on my own initiative when he told me he didn't really like kissing me or holding me close when I smelled like smoke - is that I don't smoke around him. The only exceptions are if something incredibly stressful has occurred, or when he's drinking. These sorts of situations don't often come up, so when I'm around him for the most part it is not a problem to not smoke.

Since my smoking is mostly an oral fixation, things got fun when he agreed to kiss me whenever I got the urge to light up. That might help. :)
posted by angeline at 9:19 AM on June 15, 2005

Maybe she'll volunteer to try to quit because she likes you that much and there's finally a strong enough incentive for her.

This happened to me. I was so "appreciative" that she was almost happy to quit.

The only exceptions are if something incredibly stressful has occurred, or when he's drinking.

Same applied to me.

Since my smoking is mostly an oral fixation, things got fun when he agreed to kiss me whenever I got the urge to light up.

Good advice all around. Mix it up, help her out, and you'll both be happier and healthier for it. And if you're younger (under 25), quitting is much easier. Just don't make her feel bad about it. Remember, she's sacrificing something for you. Make sure she knows that you appreciate her changing for you.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 9:31 AM on June 15, 2005

I just wanted to encourage you to not give up on any personal rules about not dating smokers.

It's a deal-breaker, for me, personally, and I don't think it's an unreasonable one. I couldn't spend the rest of my life watching someone I loved do that to themselves.
posted by GeekAnimator at 9:40 AM on June 15, 2005

I won't really talk to the work issue - I've dated people I worked directly and indirectly with, and managed the workarounds - kept it on the down-low, switched jobs, or it just didn't work out between us and after an initial period of discomfort, we all got over it. I don't think it's as big a deal now as it used to be, but it certainly shouldn't keep you from pursuing it as long as you're smart about it.

I'm not athsmatic, but I hate cigarette smoke... and my fiance smokes. It's always been a deal-breaker for me before, but I love this man, and it was just never an option with him to not pursue the relationship because of his smoking. He knew how I felt right off, kept his smoking to a minimum at first, and now only smokes outdoors, never in the car or house. His plan is to quit, but I'm not pushing him on that because it has to be his choice or it won't stick.

Obviously the advice to talk to her about it is the way to go here; the only real problem is if she thinks she's being attacked and gets defensive, but you can approach it in such a way that minimizes that possibility. Presumably she knows you don't smoke, and may be expecting this to come up; in my experience, smokers are pretty aware that non-smokers find it distasteful.

The thing is, if this is truly a deal-breaker for you, then it is, and there may not be much you can do about it. If you can't get past it, for either personal or medical reasons, then that's on you, not her. Definitely talk to her about it first, but if she either can't or won't quit, and minimizing your contact with the smoke isn't going to be good enough, then it isn't. What I mean is - if you haven't already determined that this is something you're willing to accept because the rest of her is just that great, you may not change your mind down the road. You might not be able to convince yourself to tolerate it any more than you'll be able to convince her to quit if she doesn't want to.

I'm really not articulating this well, but I guess my take on it is, if you even have to ask about this, you aren't okay with it. And the thing is, that's okay. This is a problem for you for a variety of reasons, and it doesn't mean you're a bad person, it just means you don't like it. By all means talk to her, but recognize the possibility that this just might be one of those things that you can't change about yourself.

On preview: what GeekAnimator said.
posted by jennaratrix at 9:45 AM on June 15, 2005

Perhaps someone should comment on the work issue. If you feel it's wrong your manager probably will as well. At this point others are picking up on your feeling towards each other and you are not even in a binding relationship. The smoking is a problem, but the loss of your job because of an conflict of interest is the bomb shell. Something like that is hard to explain away in future interviews and networking conversations.

Be conservative.
posted by sled at 10:11 AM on June 15, 2005

I second GA's position, but from a health standpoint. If the goal is to find someone to be with as close to forever as you can manage, picking somoene with a habit that accelerates their death is a recipie for pain.

Clearly we don't always have a choice in these things, but we often have a choice in what we allow ourselves to pursue and work at. If someone sprinkled me with magic fairy dust and I fell in love with someone who was a smoker, meth user, excessive risk-taker, liked to eat butter sticks, whatever... obviously I would deal with it. But if you feel like you can resist the siren call.

On a similar note I am sure I will piss off some smokers with this, but personally I would consider what the meaning of this trait is with regards to her personality. She does something she knows will shorten her life, makes her smell bad and she spends around $5 a day to do it. Maybe it's a poor childhood choice that now persists as an addiction she won't/can't kick, perhaps it's denial, perhaps it's just chronically poor judgement, self-destructive behavior, low-self esteem, or maybe she has judged the gratification she gets from it is worth the downsides. Given your dislike of smoking you should consider if there's something beyond your physical distaste that you have a problem with as well.

On the work matter I come down on the opposite side of sled. It's a job. I have never once worried about finding a job that I could be in forever and not finding a job to grow old with has never kept me up at night. Maybe I've just never had the right one but I have never held a job I wouldn't walk away from rather than lose someone I love.
posted by phearlez at 11:10 AM on June 15, 2005

What WCityMike said.
Look, given the sheer complexity of every single person in the world, it's a wonder anyone gets together with anyone else (much less really falls in love); sending a live monkey into orbit around Mars seems positively mundane in comparison. And you're going to pass up a decent opportunity for that over. . . what, a cigarette?
As long as you can establish from the start a few rules like "she won't smoke in the car" and "he won't be a dick about pulling over so she can get out and smoke," her habit shouldn't be cause for that much concern. Until you really do the love thing and start to worry about her health in the long term. But cross that bridge when you come to it.
posted by willpie at 11:54 AM on June 15, 2005

Life's too short to let this pass by ("she'd be very easy for me to love" sounds a lot like, "I think maybe I already do"). Everything will work out if it's meant to.
posted by puddinghead at 11:59 AM on June 15, 2005

My wife smokes; I wouldn't have thought I'd get involved with a smoker, but you fall in love with who you fall in love with. It works out pretty well; we all have our annoying habits, and love conquers all. But presenting an ultimatum—it's me or the cigs, baby!—is a ridiculously controlling idea, so I'm glad you're not in that camp. Good luck with this, and let us know what comes of it.

I am sure I will piss off some smokers with this, but personally I would consider what the meaning of this trait is with regards to her personality. She does something she knows will shorten her life, makes her smell bad...[etc. etc. blah blah blah]

Hey, screw you too pal. And I'm not a smoker.
posted by languagehat at 12:38 PM on June 15, 2005

As others have said, if you're writing about it here, it's a problem that won't go away.

we all have our annoying habits, and love conquers all.

Calling smoking 'annoying' is like calling cancer a problem. And believing love conquers all is why the divorce rate is so high. Thinking love will solve money/food/abuse etc is naive.

She does something she knows will shorten her life, makes her smell bad...[etc. etc. blah blah blah]

Hey, screw you too pal. And I'm not a smoker.

Everything he said is true, and anger doesn't change that. Sounds like it hits a little close to home, eh?
posted by justgary at 1:11 PM on June 15, 2005

me smoking no know.

On the work stuff:

The old CW was don't sh...t where you nest, or something like that. since the late 90's its become like, who meets anybody anywhere else BUT work?

Still, it can be a problem. So you want to evaluate both the potential new relationship, but also the relationship your company has with their company. Are they very satisfied with your company as a supplier? Is it like peanut butter and jelly. Like Dell and Intel...Like Halliburton and the US Army. Or is it on the verge of being captured by another vendor. The stronger that bond is, the more likely it could tolerate a potential shake.

And really, if something were to happen, the person of lowest rank (her as office manager, i assume) should be the one prepared to be flexible if the relationship was causing strain, assuming this relationship could lead to a future home economic partnership, it would be in nobody's interests for the higher salary person to leave to avoid conflict.
posted by brucec at 1:23 PM on June 15, 2005

Kinda harsh, languagehat.

I have a friend who was a rabid non-smoker, in love with a not-terribly heavy smoker (probably about a pack every two-three days). He knew he couldn't change her, she knew he'd always try.

When they finally got to the point where marriage became a possibility (almost 5 years of dating), he mentioned to her that he could never marry a smoker. So she quit. He was simultaneously very happy and very scared, but they're both happily married now.

My small anecdote. It can work, but you have to really like the person.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:24 PM on June 15, 2005

I have asthma and am with someone who smokes lightly. The smoking part is bad. I'm completely crazy about him, and I don't talk to him about it - it's his thing to manage as makes sense to him. (The exception would be if he started smoking a lot more; that would represent an unwelcome change, but I accept the status quo.) I do wish he didn't, but I leave it at that. So I would say: Think about it carefully. I am fortunate in that I practically never (only once in the last 10 years) need a rescue inhaler, but if you periodically need one, make extra sure to have one handy. All the time.

(Incidentally, it's common for asthmatics to react to cigarette smoke and is probably not an allergic response. I have allergic asthma, which is why I can get away without a rescue inhaler; I just treat my allergies, and asthma is almost never a problem. My airways definitely react instantly in the presence of cigarette smoke, too, though - even when my allergies are under great control; it's just not an allergic reaction.)

On the work end, I see no problem with forming a romantic partnership with someone you work with in some capacity, but then I'm a freelancer. I also have very little division in my life between work and personal life, and I get along best with other people that comfortably mix the two. So my situation seems relevant to anon's but maybe not so much to anon's Smoking Angel.

I will say, though, that conflict of interest is kind of what you make of it. If her company has a policy against fraternization that would cover anon, then she and anon need to think twice. Generally, though, a person can choose to approach work and relationships ethically.
posted by caitlinb at 4:25 PM on June 15, 2005

phearlez writes "If the goal is to find someone to be with as close to forever as you can manage, picking someone with a habit that accelerates their death is a recipe for pain."

Sweet Zombie Jesus; he's not asking if he should marry her!

Go out with the girl. See how you feel about her smoking; see how courteous she is about accommodating your discomfort with smoke. If it gets serious, then worry about her quitting (or failing to quit, as the case may be).

The only way to come to a final conclusion on your feelings about this girl (smoking and all) is to give it a try. Imagining hypotheticals isn't going to solve anything, and it sounds like this would be a missed opportunity that you might end up kicking yourself over.

The same goes for your final question: "What else should I take into consideration?". Unless you've missed some obvious red flags (and it sounds like you probably haven't; you've really been mulling this over), there's no way to know about the other considerations without starting a relationship. I mean, clearly any relationship is going to have its issues, its points of contention, &c., but you can't possibly predict all of those ahead of time. The only way to find out what life has in store for you is by living it.
posted by mr_roboto at 4:30 PM on June 15, 2005

Kinda harsh, languagehat.

As a response to someone who says my wife smells bad? I don't think so. And I think all you zealots need to think seriously about whether your over-the-top rhetoric is there for any other purpose than making yourselves feel saintly. "Ooh, yes, the devil is bad! I hate the devil!" Grow up and realize life is more complicated than you learned in grade school.

Everything he said is true, and anger doesn't change that. Sounds like it hits a little close to home, eh?

And screw you too, pal.
posted by languagehat at 5:38 PM on June 15, 2005

As a response to someone who says my wife smells bad? I don't think so.

Dude, I'm all for letting people do whatever they want to fuck up their own bodies, but get off the ego trip a sec. No one woke up this morning and said "Today, I will make it my goal to insult languagehat's wife!"
posted by dagnyscott at 7:00 PM on June 15, 2005

More input from a smoker and no input whatsoever on the work situation. If she's as interested in you as you are in her, she very well may give up smoking in order to pursue a relationship with you.

I quit smoking for a few months when I realized that it really really bothered my boyfriend. Knowing it bothered *him* made me want to quit more than anything about my own health, smell, etc., did.

Of course, the first thing I did when he later broke up with me was go out and buy cigarettes to smoke. ;-)
posted by INTPLibrarian at 1:14 PM on June 17, 2005

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