Everyone has heard two lovebirds yammering away about their newly found soul mate and how much they have in common: “she plays more video games than me” or “he’s watched The Notebook more times than I have” (he’s probably lying).
However, mutual interests and hobbies are a great thing when building a budding relationship, or at least a good icebreaker to begin one. But a shared passion for something a bit less innocent can turn out to be either a binding spell or a destructive virus in a couple’s life.
Sharing vices? That’s a whole new ballgame.
Take George. He’s 28 and has a moderately soft spot for MDMA-infused gatherings with his best friends and a moderately recreational love of weed. One of his ex-girlfriend was a straight arrow, and after the initial honeymoon period, his mild vices lost their bad boy allure for her and turned into a much bigger problem.
“She was always kind of judgmental and passive-aggressive whenever I smoked when we were together, even when we were chilling in my place and I would take just a couple of puffs,” George remembers. “Then I would get annoyed and we would have a fight. She would even pout whenever I went to her place and she saw my eyes were red.”
And even though he tried not to stick his habits in her face, especially the dodgier ones, her mind was growing a bit too narrow for his lifestyle to fit in.
“I only did MDMA every once in a while, separately with my best friends, on our special get-togethers, no different than her girl nights out, but with drugs,” he explains. “Then she would get upset when she saw me the next day coming down or when I wanted to rest, saying we were junkies and that kind of stuff. She just didn’t get it — the idea of drugs as a whole.”
It took a few more drug-related incidents for them to separate. The experience made George believe he needed a girl more like him, or at least not the female version of Mr. Mackey. In his next relationship, boy did he get what he wished for.
“It was awesome, I truly thought I had found my soul mate,” says George. "She loved weed as much as I did, probably even more, and she enjoyed something harder when the occasion was right. We would just smoke, laugh, have sex, smoke, eat, have sex and so on. It was perfect.”
The couple eventually moved in with one another, but it turned out to not be so happily ever after.
“After a while, I felt like all we ever did was smoke,” George says, laughing at the irony of him saying someone smoked too much. “We were spending most of our money on weed, then we couldn’t really afford to do much else, always making plans for some point in the distant future. Sometimes, we would make plans to go out with friends, but then smoke and end up staying home or wait for our guy to deliver before going out, and again smoke ‘one for the road’ and end up staying home.”
George says he’d finally met his match.
It’s a popular cliché that doing new things together is one of the main ingredients to a healthy relationship — yet by new things, experts probably mean something other than trying new types of weed.
Indigo Stray Conger, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Denver, says she believes the role shared drug enthusiasm plays in a relationship has a lot to do with the substance’s social image and legal status. And even though weed is the most widely acceptable of them all, it’s still illegal and frowned upon in certain social situations.
“Alcohol is socially acceptable and legal almost everywhere,” she says. “Therefore, with moderation, it serves as a social connector and a way to relax and enjoy life together.”
Even with a drug like heroin, the risks that go along with using it play a much larger role in degrading relationships than do vices seen to society as normal.
“Because heroin is both illegal and socially stigmatized, it is likely to become detrimental to a relationship long before alcohol does, due to isolation and risks that go along with heroin usage,” she says.
And even with something as popular as weed, droughts occur in any illegal market, a facet George and his girlfriend at the time had never considered.
“On the rare occasions when we ran out and none of our contacts didn’t have any at the moment and we had to wait, we would just pass the time staring in a blank space, making small talk, checking our phones if we received a message every five minutes,” he says. “We wasted a lot of time like that. Then when we finally got some, we would relax and smoke and do other stuff as well, but in the back of my mind, there was now this feeling like weed was now the main priority.”
Shifting away from lovers who loved to smoke together, the two had turned into nothing but smoking buddies. Soon after, they stopped being that, too.
Whether or not weed was the ultimate downfall for them is purely speculation, however saying it had nothing to do with the split wouldn’t be completely honest either.
As Conger says, any shared vice “can both lead to quality time together and better communication, or can be a strategy for avoidance and create insecurity in a relationship.”
Now George has a new girlfriend, and while “she likes to smoke every now and then" and doesn’t mind if George does other drugs, she is "definitely not someone who would just sit around the house all day smoking or be happy with us doing practically nothing," he says.
Perhaps, as with most things, the secret here is in the balance, or at least not straying too far away from other important relationship factors like communication, goals and security.
Let’s all hope George’s new girlfriend is the balance he’s been searching for.