“I want my husband to keep chain smoking,” said no wife ever. Except for me.
My husband Eric has smoked a pack a day (or more) since I met him. In the past seven years, I’ve watched as signs of his habit slowly creep across his boyish face, his working man’s hands, his gentle smile. His smoking costs us almost $4,000 a year. Sometimes more. And those are just the monetary costs.
But I don’t want him to stop—at least not because I told him to.
Am I that laid-back? Ha! No.
Made of money? Pssssh! Not even close.
Uninformed? Unfortunately, no.
Uncaring? Far from it.
I’m as Type A as they come. It bothers me a great deal, and I worry about what he’s doing to his body every single day.
But he was a smoker when I met him. I fell in love with him that way. I spent too much of my youth (as so many of us do) trying to change myself to better meet the expectations of others. Treating my present company like modeling clay, shaped to better suit my own cursory needs. It’s for the birds. Nobody ends up happier or better off. But it takes years—painful, transformative years—to learn that.
I’m not about to change this man, at this stage in life. Or to discipline him. I’m his partner, not his mother. His smoking affects his health and his family. That’s for certain. But I have to defend his honor here.
Eric never smokes in the house or car, or around his family—always outside, away from the house, on his own. He washes his hands, brushes his teeth, and changes his shirt when he comes in from a smoke (his self-imposed rules … not mine).
He doesn’t think he’s James Dean or Joe Cool. He tried to hide his smoking when we first started dating. I guess he was embarrassed. Then he decided to give it up altogether. And he did, for nine months, with me cheering him on. God, was I proud! But when he started back up and tried hiding it from me, shit hit the fan. I wasn’t the one making him do anything … so there should be no need to sneak around. Ironically, that made me angrier than the smoking ever could have. And I was clear about it. This was his thing. Not mine.
He doesn’t smoke to hurt us. If smoking is Eric’s release from working six days a week on a walking mail route, fine. If it’s his reprieve when his toddler’s terrible twos collide with a particularly stressful day, so be it. If he can live with the potential consequences, of which there are so many, that’s on him.
Would my heart shatter if (God forbid) something happened to him, or we got bad news about his health due to smoking? You bet your ass.
Do I think about it sometimes, even prepare myself for the idea of it? Yeah, I do.
Do I want him to stop? Do I wish for it every day? Yes, I do … for his sake and ours. I worry that the kids will see their dad smoking and consider it the norm. Or that we non-smokers will somehow be impacted by second and thirdhand smoking-related issues.
But when he quits—if he quits—it has to come from him, and not me or anyone else.
It comes down to this: I’d rather love a happy man who leads the life he wants for 45 years than a miserable and resentful (but healthier) version for 60 years.