Thank you, everyone, who wrote in with submissions over the weekend. We had a great response to the question, ‘How has marriage changed you?’ I’ll be running one or two pieces a week for the next few weeks starting today, so there’s still time to write if you haven’t already. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org .
The first entry is from Sanya Thomas Weathers, a writer and video game consultant in the Baltimore area.
When I think about how marriage has changed me, the day I quit smoking comes to mind.
I started at 15. I should have known better, too. My grandmother died of emphysema when I was 5. Back then you could smoke in hospitals, and she would, too, right up until she could no longer sit up.
So I don’t know why I started, exactly. But I kept smoking because I liked it. It’s terribly gauche these days to say that, but I did. I loved the tactile pleasures of tapping a single cigarette to settle the tobacco, and the way it felt in my fingers in between drags. I loved watching the smoke curl in lazy blue eddies. And I loved how smokers are instantly part of a secret club, one you can always turn to for a light or a drag.
But mostly I loved the nicotine buzz, the smell, and the taste. I never tried to quit, because I didn’t want to quit.
When I started dating a non-smoker, we both tried to be very considerate. I went through gallons of toothpaste and truckloads of mints. He never gave me pamphlets or lectures, because he figured at 27 years old I already knew about the hazards. When I moved to a new apartment, I declared it a non-smoking home, banishing my habit to the patio. He helped me get the smell out of the furniture.
A year went by and I realized I’d fallen in love. I came down with a cold to celebrate one year of dating, and he celebrated the big day by bringing me a basket of tea, honey, butterscotch drops, Nyquil, and juice. He came into my apartment, and spotted my pack on the table. It was almost new, with just one cigarette missing.
“You’re not smoking when you’re this sick, are you?”
What happened next I can only attribute to three days of alternately chugging NyQuil and DayQuil, and watching daytime television. “Doh. Ob course not. Dobody smokes whed they’re this sick. Id fact, they say dicotine is odly id your system for sebedty two hours, and I’b already god thirty six. Cakewalk. I’ll just quit. I quit. You hab my word.”
He didn’t pause for even a second. Leaving the basket of goodies on the table and the door wide open, he snatched my pack and ran for the dumpster on the corner.
I didn’t get over the cold for another three days, and I was so sick I never felt a single withdrawal pang. The next three weeks were hell, though, not because of the drug but because of the habit. Smoke breaks to relax, a cigarette to help me control my temper, something to keep my hands busy, all of it impossibly hard and me impossible to live with.
But I’ve never had so much as a single puff since, because I don’t want to look in his big brown eyes and admit that I failed him, that cigarettes were more important than keeping my word to him.
Now I’ve been a smoker for twelve years, a quitter for seven, and married for five. He says he wants to be together for all the years of a good, long life. Probably longer now, thanks to him.
Photograph by Getty Images.