If you’re one of the millions of Americans who regularly consumes cannabis in some form, nothing may sound more appealing at the end of a stressful work week than smoking a joint or enjoying an edible with your significant other, then curling up to binge on Netflix. But what if your partner doesn’t partake? How should you handle the differences between you both, and what if those differences become a source of conflict? You may be wondering if there are any guidelines for sustaining a happy relationship between a cannabis consumer and a non-consumer.
“Ultimately how a couple handles this situation is really about how the couple handles fundamental issues," Dr. Jordan Tishler - Harvard internist, cannabis therapeutics specialist, and chief medical officer at inhaleMD.com - told Civilized. There are many couples, he said, in which one partner drinks alcohol while the other abstains. Patience, understanding, and responsible use can go a long way toward bridging the divide; the same goes for dealing with dissimilarities in cannabis consumption.
Try to Understand Where They’re Coming From
Arlene Guzman, a Los Angeles-based PR strategist who enjoys cannabis, is married to a man who's "never in his life" tried it, she told Civilized. Her husband is on active duty in the military and practices utmost caution in order to pass random drug tests. Guzman says she would welcome the day that her husband and other service members might use cannabis therapeutically. “I’m hoping, selfishly, I guess, for some sort of reform to take place so that active duty military like my husband can try something," she said. "[Like] CBD for pain and anxiety, at the very minimum.”
But in the meantime, Guzman suggests seeking to understand your partner’s concerns. “Like with anything, know where the other person is coming from,” she said. If you don’t live in one of the ten adult-use states, perhaps legal issues are worrisome. Or, like for Guzman’s husband, abstinence could be a function of work-related concerns. Some people feel adversely toward any mind-altering substance, including alcohol, while others hold onto stigma associated with cannabis in particular.
“Because the industry is growing so quickly, there’s a lot of information out there for us now," Guzman said. "You can provide education and let them know why you’re choosing to use.” She believes that most couples who don’t have other, underlying issues, can learn to accept one another’s habits, as long as those habits don’t interfere with each partner’s role in the relationship. “People will eventually come around to it,” she said. “Attitudes toward cannabis are changing quickly — in many cases, it’s just a matter of time.”
Rachel Wells, a writer in Nashville, Tennessee, told Civilized that in the beginning of the relationship with her now-husband, he made it clear that he didn’t like the way cannabis made him feel; he wasn’t open to it, and didn’t appreciate her use, either. “He thought it was silly,” she said, and this difference caused tension between them.
Julia, a city employee in Colorado who prefers to withhold her real name, said of her partner, “When we lived in a state where it was not legal (California, prior to Prop 64), he hated it. He thought I was going to get arrested.” Now, in Colorado, the first state to offer recreational sales, that particular concern is allayed, though--because of her occupation--Julia remains cautious about revealing her use.
Don’t Try to Convert Your Partner
Wells said that she used to hope her partner would change his mind about cannabis. In the beginning of the relationship, she said, “despite his being uninterested, I pushed him to smoke with me — which never went the way I wanted.”
What’s the saying? You can’t change people — you can only love them.
People have every right to change their minds if they want to — but not because you demand it. There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence out there to suggest that couples need not share everything to have a satisfying life together. Having separate interests can actually be a sign of a healthy relationship. You probably don’t want to date — or share your life with — someone exactly like you.
Learn Your Partner’s Pet Peeves — and Practice Good Weed Manners
Julia says her partner doesn’t appreciate it when he smells cannabis smoke in the house. For that reason, she says she usually smokes in the garage.
Along those lines, “there are some points of etiquette that can ease tensions,” said Dr. Tishler. If the smell of smoke bothers your significant other, vaporizing instead of smoking can provide a solution. If it’s exposure to second-hand smoke that’s concerning, then smoking in another room — or in the garage, like Julia — or even in a bathroom with a fan, can do the trick. Though Dr. Tishler adds that research shows second-hand exposure to cannabis smoke is not harmful to the same degree as tobacco smoke, consideration and courtesy still apply.
Guzman and her husband practice what she calls, “a gun safe equivalent,” with her product to make sure that he doesn’t accidentally consume an edible or use a CBD gel or ointment. The same goes for their children: Guzman keeps all products, particularly those tasty THC treats, well out of sight and reach. Other than that, she said, their negotiated guidelines about her use are similar to those that would apply if she were drinking a margarita or enjoying a glass of wine: In other words, consume responsibly, and don’t drive.
Stigma is an issue that may need addressing. Dr. Tishler says that if the non-using partner has negative associations, further communication may be needed. “Often those feelings are rooted in misunderstanding of why the using-partner might want to use cannabis or what risks are associated," he said.
A second set of issues, adds Tishler, is coming to an agreement about how to talk to children about one partner’s cannabis use. “In those instances where the use is for medical reasons, it’s easier to say, ‘this is Mom or Dad’s medicine, not for you.’ In more recreational settings, it’s less clear how to handle this situation, and communication and negotiation between parents is key.”
Julia said that her partner has come to accept her, mostly medicinal, use of cannabis: “He understands that I smoke to relax at the end of the day and to help me sleep at night.” Occasionally, she reported that he still seems annoyed, “but,” she added artfully, “he knows mama needs her medicine.”
Wells and her husband have, after seven years together, arrived at a similar place. “We realized we don’t have to consume the same substances in order to enjoy relaxing together," she said. "He now understands I’d rather use weed than alcohol to relax, and we’re both okay with these differences.”