Couples and Discordant Cannabis Use

Imagine the joyful feeling you experience when you walk into your local dispensary, inhale the sweet flower aromas, pick out exactly what you want, and walk out with your favorite product. Now imagine you have a partner who is at best indifferent to your imbibing and at worst utterly unsupportive. How do you navigate discordant cannabis use in relationships? There is always the option to only date fellow cannabis users, and with dating apps like High There it’s much easier to find like-minded prospective partners. However, if you’ve found yourself in a relationship with a non-user and intend to continue that relationship, or have met someone who is well suited to you on most things besides this, here are some suggestions.


 For the abstaining partner:

  • Set boundaries without shaming: My favorite shame and vulnerability researcher, Brené Brown, wrote, “You cannot shame or belittle people into changing their behaviors.” If cannabis use is a deal breaker for you, it’s important to say that as soon as you realize that it’s a factor. If it’s not a hard limit but perhaps something you just don’t want to be around, take time to assess your needs around boundaries and communicate those to your partner.

  • Be willing to examine and discuss your limits: Maybe you have a job that requires you to be drug tested at regular intervals. Maybe you’re uncomfortable with the idea of having cannabis or related paraphernalia in your home. Perhaps you just don’t like the smell. These are all valid reasons to not choose to consume (and this is by no means an exhaustive list). It can be helpful to provide context for your partner so they better empathize with your perspective.


For the cannabis connoisseur:

  • Don’t shame your partner for not partaking, or pressure them into doing so. Their choice to forgo is just as valid as your decision indulge. They don’t need to have reasons or convince you that refraining is the right call for them. Even if you think they’d enjoy it, or just haven’t tried the right strain/method/circumstances, hear and respect their no the way you need them to hear and respect your yes.

  • Be mindful that there may be specific times when your partner prefers that you abstain. Part of your ongoing negotiation will be hearing and responding to your partner’s needs. If there always seems to be a reason why consuming today is a problem for your partner, your consumption might be a bigger issue than they’re telling you. However, if they need you to abstain before seeing their parents, it might be helpful to explore non-psychoactive methods of cannabinoid delivery for those special occasions.

For both:

  • Find the compromises that can be made outside of just whether or not to consume, such as where, when, and how. My partner doesn’t like when I smoke in the house, but is comfortable with me consuming edibles or vaping. There may be more room for compromise than either of you think; be sure to explore the discomfort and share where it’s coming from to see what can be done to keep everyone feeling happy and safe.

  • Treat the conversations and agreements you have surrounding consuming the way you would treat anything else in your relationship. Think of all the things you’ve discussed together: safer sex practices, monogamy (or not!), finances, housework. This doesn’t have to be any different. If you’re having difficulty starting or navigating the conversation, check out Reid Mihalko’s Difficult Conversations Formula.

  • Make sure you’re clear on your expectations and boundaries before taking any major steps such as living together, getting married, or having children.

This article was originally published on in December 2015. Read the original post here.

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