No Smoke, No Sex

05/12/2011 4:00 AM |

Dear Audrey,

I’ve been dating this guy for a little while, and it’s going great. When we met we were both the most dedicated smokers in our group of friends—we’re both guys in our early thirties—and we’d laugh about how nice it was to go out with someone who actually had a pack instead of just bumming off you all night. Anyway, he’s got his own place so whenever we’d have sex it was our little ritual to share a cigarette inside (he usually doesn’t smoke in the apartment ever). So now I’m trying to quit and it’s making things awkward. I’m not saying he shouldn’t smoke whenever he wants, but he’s been guilting me about our post-sex smoke and “pretending” that he’s going to stop making out with me if I won’t smoke with him. Quitting sucks enough without it harming my sex life. What should I do?

I know what you DON’T do, which is make some kind of dumb Freud/cigarette/phallic object joke, right? Too easy! Plus fuck you, Freud, I’m so sick of that goofball and his ideas.

I think this question is less about sex and more about relationships, but don’t worry, I will still tell you my opinions about it. In any relationship, change is hard, but particularly so in romantic relationships. You start off liking someone and his qualities—both major qualities, like kindness or a sense of humor, and minor qualities, like favorite books or smoking habits. When that person suddenly decides to change one of those qualities, it can feel a little bit like hey, no fair, I fell in love with you how you were and now you can’t ever change.

I think it’s especially hard if you’re changing something that’s considered “bad” or “unhealthy” that you used to do together, because it makes your boyfriend feel guilty and worried that he’s not quitting too. The implication, whether you mean it to be or not, is kind of “I’m quitting [drinking/smoking/drugs] and so should you.” I think most of all with smoking, since there are so many IF YOU SMOKE YOU WILL DIE AND IT WILL BE HORRIBLE ads. It can be scary to be like oh shit am I the last person still doing this? Am I going to die a terrible death?

None of this is to say that it’s right or fair for him to act this way. I just thought it might be useful to think about why he’s acting like such a brat. Because yeah, threatening to withhold sex to get your way? Not cool, anybody. Definite brat move. Obviously don’t fuck someone if you don’t want to, but that is very different from saying I won’t give it up unless you do.

I think all you can really do in a situation like this is to be sympathetic to the fact that he feels betrayed by your quitting, but to also be firm and honest in saying you’re going to do what’s right for you. Pressuring you to smoke is really mean. Remind him that your decision is not about him, and that if he cares about you he’ll be supportive of what you’re doing. Working through stuff like this is a big part of the boring shit of being a couple, unfortunately.

Eventually, hopefully, you’ll both just get used to it. Maybe you guys could work on finding another nauseatingly adorable post-sex ritual?

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