Alice, How Should I Tell My Boyfriend's Mother She Can't Smoke When She Visits?

Alice, How Should I Tell My Boyfriend's Mother She Can't Smoke When She Visits?

Ask Alice
Oct 27, 2015
(Image credit: Shutterstock / Allard Laban)

Dear Alice,

My boyfriend’s mother is coming to visit, and stay with us for five days in our teeny-tiny Paris apartment with her sister, both of whom smoke a lot. They were so kind to me when I visited, but I had to keep excusing myself to the bathroom to stick my head out the bathroom window to get some fresh air. I woke up in the morning feeling like I myself had smoked a pack of cigarettes. And I’m no rookie to rooms filled with smoke, a frequent partier myself, (not to mention Paris is essentially one big cloud of smoke) but this was next-level.

What’s a nice way to tell them they can’t smoke in my apartment at all? My boyfriend always caves in and tells people they can smoke out the window, but after a party it still reeks of cigarettes everywhere, and I know after five days it will be the same. I don’t want to be rude, but I hate myself and my home smelling like smoke!

Neurotic Non-Smoker

Dear Non-Smoker,

The first thing to do is get your boyfriend fully on board. It's his home too and, more importantly, his mother. Ideally he should tell his mom and aunt as soon as possible (and definitely before they board the plane) that you don't allow smoking in your home. And he shouldn't frame it like he's the messenger for you and make you the bad guy in the process. Your boyfriend needs to make it clear that this is a household rule that you both stand by. Why should your boyfriend be the one to lay down the law? He has the primary relationship with his mom and if she's going to be irritated by this, she should be irritated with him.

If your boyfriend won't take this on and you have to do it yourself, emphasize that this is the "house rule" i.e., it's not personal and it's not a judgment on her or her sister. Remember, asking houseguests to follow house rules doesn't make you an ungracious host. Welcome them, treat them well and offer to accompany them on long walks around Paris while they light up.


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