As cannabis becomes increasingly accessible and legal thanks to widespread medical and adult-use legalization, it’s use is also becoming more common and acceptable, with a majority of Americans (two thirds, in fact) supporting legalization.
But not everyone has gotten on board with the trend quite yet, and some may never choose to light up. When you’re in a relationship, it’s important to maintain open lines of communication. Not knowing how your partner feels about your cannabis use may lead to problems in the future. Even if your partner does consume cannabis, they may not consume as often or in the same manner as you. Understandably, it may not be the easiest conversation to bring up. We’ve put together a few tips for easing into the conversation and learning more about how each of you feels about cannabis.
As a cannabis consumer of more than a decade, I’ve had to have this talk on more than one occasion. I’ve been in relationships where the other person consumed cannabis but had different consumption patterns than I did, and I’ve also been in relationships where the other person had strong objections to cannabis use.
Neither situation is “easy” to handle if both people are unsure of how to talk about cannabis with the other. Sometimes the conversations can get heated and turn argumentative, but talking through these beliefs as calmly and logically as possible will help your relationship flourish in spite of your differences when it comes to this plant.
How To Start The Conversation
My best piece of advice is to have the conversation when both people are calm and unstressed by outside situations. If you go into the conversation carrying baggage of stress, anger, or emotion, it is easy to succumb to the influence they may have on your conversation. If you feel comfortable, try bringing up the conversation subtly and from familiar territory. Driving by a dispensary or talking about recent news about how cannabis is helping patients or being legalized might be great. Look for objective talking points that aren’t tied to personal use and can thus introduce the topic without bias, allowing the theme of cannabis to become part of the discussion before turning to personal feelings about it.
The importance of having this conversation (and open communication with your partner in general)
“Honest, transparent communication is key in any healthy relationship,” Dr. Matthew Jones, a Denver-based psychologist, explains. “It’s important to prioritize making time to have meaningful conversations about the activities that bring you joy—substance use included—because hiding behaviors or parts of your identity from your partner creates emotional distance in the relationship and contributes to unhappiness within yourself.”
Jones is quick to remind that hesitance and trepidation are normal, and rooted in how much you care about the person you’re considering opening up to.
“If you find yourself fearful of starting a conversation about your [cannabis consumption] with your partner, remember that your fear is, at the root, related to fear of losing someone you care about,” he says. “That’s understandable. It’s okay to feel fear about sharing details about your [consumption] with your partner, and it is imperative to the health and longevity of your relationship that you do. Withholding this information not only harms your relationship with someone you care about, but also restricts your own growth, authenticity, and fulfillment.”
Remember: The goal of the conversation is to find out the other person’s stance on cannabis as well as their consumption, beliefs, hesitations. The goal is not to convince them of your beliefs or stance.
7 Tips for Having the Conversation
There’s never a “perfect” time to have a tough conversation. “Far too many people get stuck waiting for the ‘perfect moment’ to have a difficult conversation and don’t realize that it’s their anxiety getting in the way,” Jones says, based on his observations. “Muster up the courage and jump in! I promise you’ll feel a sense of relief afterwards.”
1. Pick a comfortable setting. The best time to have this conversation is not amongst a group of friends or in the middle of the dance floor at a nightclub. While there may never be a perfect time or place, there are definitely places that are not meant for this conversation. Pick somewhere that allows you both to feel safe and know that your conversation will remain private.
2. Start with your fears. Jones advises explaining your hesitance or fear as it will help emphasize the importance of the conversation and your relationship. “Leading with vulnerable emotions, like sharing that you’re afraid that the person might not want a relationship with you, can help your partner understand the significance of your disclosure. It can help your partner feel more connected to you and potentially reduce the fear you’re experiencing,” he says.
3. Start small. Whether you’re a frequent consumer or occasionally puff a joint when you’re stressed, gradually approach the subject. Have you both tried it? Talk about your first or their first experiences; this will give insight into perception of the substance itself. I’ve had partners who have seen cannabis as a detriment to the success of family members, watching it ruin their lives, which creates a much different perspective than the one I had, having been introduced to it by intelligent, collegiate individuals. Understanding where your partner may be coming from if they have perceptions will help you communicate more effectively.
4. If they have tried it, how did it make them feel? Was it enjoyable? Learning what firsthand experiences your partner had will also help to avoid the dreaded “you just need the right type of weed” argument.
5. If they have not tried it, where are their views or perceptions from (news, friends, colleagues, past partners, etc.)? Understanding why they may have avoided it previously through interactions that they have had with others will lend insight into their perceptions and logic behind their views.
Getting through the first few items will be the most challenging portion of the conversations. Jones reminds that it is important to take breaks in the conversation as needed.
“Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need. If you feel like you need reassurance, ask for it,” he says. “Same if you want a hug or want to take a break and revisit the conversation at a later point.”
When you continue, try to learn more about the nuances of cannabis and your partner’s feelings.
6. Discuss more specific feelings of cannabis use. What are each of your feelings about cannabis use? If they consume, ask about frequency and modality preference. Do they enjoy smoking or do they eat a small infused mint before bed each night? If they have not or choose not to consume, what are their perceptions of medical use compared to recreational use, and what does an “excessive” use look like compared to something that is medicinal? Inquire about areas where your cannabis use may be acceptable, and how you can identify times and places where your use is not an issue.
7. Similarly, discuss objections, hesitations and aversions. Is there a smell issue? Does the smoke cause allergies? Are you worried about legality or leasing rules? Is there an issue with behavior and communication when consuming? Specifics will help you identify and avoid problematic aspects of cannabis consumption.
Remember, you’re trying to learn how they feel while communicating how you feel; you’re not trying to convince each other one way or the other. The first conversation is simply exploratory. Once you know how each other feels, learning more about why will help you make decisions that avoid future conflicts.
“Be honest with the. This is not the time to lie or minimize your use. Let this be a genuine moment,” concludes Jones. “If you lie now, it’s only harming yourself and the relationship later once the truth comes out.”
Ben Owens is a cannabis strategist and journalist based in Colorado. He is the founder of CannaVenture®, author of Stoner Survival, columnist for Grass Roots America Magazine, and Senior Staff Writer for Hemp Connoisseur Magazine. He is also an Advisory Board member of Cannabis Doing Good. Owens received his Bachelors and Masters degrees from the University of Missouri – Columbia School of Journalism. He has spent the last eight years covering the emerging cannabis and hemp industries, and advising clients on strategies for navigating new legal markets.
Photography by LexScope via Unsplash.