I am a very adamant non-smoker. My grandfather died from lung cancer a few months before I was born and never meeting him was one of the driving factors in my hatred of smoking. He was 58.
Before I started dating my boyfriend, I tried out online dating for about 2 weeks. I admit that the driving force for that was simply needing a bit of positive male attention during a bout of loneliness. At the time I was 24, I’d never been properly asked out or properly kissed, but except for a few isolated (and scattered) weeks where I felt a deep frustration about this, it didn’t bother me. I saw so many friends in middle and high school going through the roller coasters of relationships, I just didn’t want to bother with that. My ideal was meeting one guy who’d want to spend the rest of his life with me, and I him, and that would be that. Turns out I’d just needed to grow up ‘cuz the dude’s way too old for me :-). Anyway, to make a long story short, during the 2 weeks of online dating I “met” a few guys who gave me the compliments I was needing for my emotional health (sometimes a girl just wants to hear that a guy thinks she’s cute), met one guy who I went on a lunch date with (turns out that in person I didn’t have the looks that he desired), and met one of those guys who’s simply an asshole online.
The asshole was a smoker and when I said this was a deal breaker in my first reply to his initial contact (simply saying that he’d have to quit), his response was to attack my desire and then my looks. I wish I’d kept a copy of this conversation for posterity, but oh well. I think I sent him a very appropriate and tactful reply as I tore him a new one–he didn’t respond again at least.
After that experience, I decided that I definitely wasn’t going to bother with a smoker because if that was his response to my request he wasn’t worth my time.
Then my boyfriend got the guts to finally ask me out.
I’m not sure when exactly I told him that he’d definitely have to quit smoking, but given that I know we discussed finances, his previous marriages, and his death 6 years ago by the 3rd date (we went out every night for a week while I house-sat for one of my aunts), it was probably at some point then. I asked him a few weeks ago if he knew he’d have to quit before he asked me out and he gave me a violent head nod, so yeah, he knew. It’s been a year and a half now and it’s been a learning experience for me (and him as well, I’m sure).
The first thing you need to know about me is that I have a “Hitler face”. No–I don’t look like Hitler, but when I want something done now I get this look on my face that clearly says “move it or lose it”. My boss at work sees this face a lot because the only time I really talk to him is when there’s a problem (yes, he’s run in the opposite direction when he’s seen me coming–we all laughed :-)). My boyfriend is the one who christened it the Hitler face because of my German ancestry.
Anyway, for a solid year he made no progress on quitting because I’d put on my Hitler face whenever I saw him smoking. I will tell you now ladies and gents, this isn’t the way to get someone you love to quit smoking. It just stressed him out and I get that. The problem was that simply talking about his habit made him want a cigarette which did not work for me. I’m a very goal oriented person and when I want something done, I make a plan and stick to it. He, on the other hand, is very much “I want this to happen and it will happen when it does….” Plans aren’t made because they will be OBE (overtaken by events). He used to drive big trucks and got screwed very often when he had to set a deadline only to be rendered late by traffic.
So yeah, he doesn’t have a plan to quit smoking and during those few moments when I’ve actually gotten him to discuss it, he’s admitted that he’s scared of who he will be without cigarettes. I will admit that he can have a short temper when he “needs” a cigarette and it can be jarring because he’s usually so calm, cool, and collected. Even though his shortened temper is still a nicer person that many others I’ve met, he hates that persona. I’m confident that it’ll be temporary, but getting him to quit long enough to get through that time is proving difficult.
We are finally making progress, though. About 2 months ago I got mad at him and stole his pack of cigarettes. That week I rationed him 5 per day. The next week I cut him to 4/day. The week after I was going to cut him to 3 and we had an argument that it was too soon for him to do that. So we’ve been stuck at 4/day ever since. But 4/day is still a hell of a lot better than what he was smoking before that and the rationing system has greatly improved things in our relationship because when it comes to the cigarettes, the Hitler face is gone. It still comes back when he needs to do the dishes or clean up his messes, but that’s another post.
One of the things I said most frequently before we started the rationing is “how did you do today”. He didn’t want to admit to me or himself what his actual number was, which is why he couldn’t keep up with the chart on the front door that asked him to write his numbers whenever he felt comfortable so we could track his progress without Hitler. Now I don’t need to ask him his numbers because I know what I give him everyday.
There have been slip-ups. The first week, he left his ration at home and borrowed one from a friend. I had to tell him quite firmly that the purpose of the ration is so that I know his numbers and if he doesn’t tell me that he’s borrowed one, then he’s going behind my back to get more than what we’ve agreed is fair. (I’m still a broken record on how long he’s had to do this on his own.) This week he found an old pack in one of his cars that he’s been smoking behind my back (well, he did for 2 days before he admitted it to me). I knew he was because I’ve been watching him build a shed in the backyard with his stepbrothers and I was counting every time I saw him with one.
But, I decided that this time it wasn’t worth the fight. Why, you ask? Because in 2 weeks we’re driving to New Mexico and beyond for 2 weeks and he’s firm that he will not buy cigarettes outside the state of Virginia and he’s agreed to attempt the trip with only 2 packs. In case you don’t know, there are 20/pack and we’ll be gone roughly 16 days: essentially he’ll get 2.5/day, which is about where he’d be if he’d cut himself to 3/day even 2 weeks after I’d wanted him to. The other reason why I didn’t fight him about the stale extra ones (I didn’t cut his ration either) is because he just got a new prescription for Chantix. He tried this last summer and it seemed to work, but he had to come off of it because of a doctor’s appointment. Unfortunately it also put him to sleep, so we agreed that he’d wait until after our trip to start the regimen again. Since it looks like the end may finally be in sight, I’m able to lighten up about his habit. To some extent.
There is still a deadline he has to meet. I decided a long, long time ago that no matter what I was going to get married on Leap Day (Feb 29th). In 2016, that date will mark about 2 1/4 years of dating, which I think is an ideal amount. But I will not marry him if he’s still smoking. I’ll wait for 2020. I’d like him to quit smoking in time for him to have 2 months cigarette free before he proposes and still give us a couple months of just being engaged. So we shall see…
What prompted this post is that when I handed my boyfriend his ration for today, it was what was left of the pack that he’d left me 5 days ago unopened. His comment upon seeing this pack that I’d opened was “You really don’t know how to open a pack of cigarettes”. I asked him if this was a bad thing and he said “Nope!”.