Nag­ging a smoker is like play­ing with fire

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Living - - BONDINGS - JOHN MASTERSON

IWAS idly mind­ing my own busi­ness with a cup of cof­fee, the sun on my back and the sea just a few yards away when I be­came aware of a cou­ple hav­ing a dis­agree­ment at the next ta­ble.

Lis­ten­ing to a cou­ple fight is a rare priv­i­lege for a psy­chol­o­gist. This is not a role play. It is not some­one telling you about the fight. It is the real thing.

They had mis­tak­enly as­sumed I did not speak English and I did noth­ing to change that mis­con­cep­tion. The sub­ject was her smok­ing. She had re­sumed hav­ing the oc­ca­sional cig­a­rette last year and the num­bers had been creep­ing up.

He men­tioned the fig­ure 20 to be met with “Oh, so you are counting now. At this stage in life I don’t think I need you to help me count”. They were prob­a­bly in their fifties.

He adopted that aw­ful tone used by peo­ple who are only do­ing it “for your own good”.

I won­dered was he a smug con­trol freak on is­sues other than smok­ing.

There are few things more an­noy­ing than be­ing told some­thing you al­ready know. Smok­ers all know that it is bad for them. Hav­ing that ex­plained in a con­de­scend­ing man­ner car­ries with it the un­avoid­able im­pli­ca­tion that they are as thick as two short planks.

I did hear her say “I’m not stupid, you know” but he kept on dig­ging.

The low level bick­er­ing con­tin­ued and when I heard her say “it is easy for you who is so per­fect” I knew she was re­ally fu­ri­ous.

In re­al­ity he was far from per­fect be­cause it emerged that he had taken her to task about smok­ing the pre­vi­ous week in front of friends. If there is one thing you do not do to a loved one it is be­lit­tle her in front of friends.

I know this be­cause I have read it in books. And I know it be­cause I have done it and suf­fered the con­se­quences. And rightly so. It is a no-no.

Crit­i­cism dam­ages in­ti­macy and pub­lic crit­i­cism prac­ti­cally de­mol­ishes it.

As I eaves­dropped on this narky cou­ple I got the dis­tinct im­pres­sion that they had been trapped in this rou­tine for some time now, that he was like a dog with a bone through their hol­i­day, and she was counting the min­utes to get back to work.

They were hav­ing a mis­er­able half hour and I was lov­ing ev­ery minute of it. I got the dis­tinct im­pres­sion that this hol­i­day was not recharg­ing ei­ther their bat­ter­ies or their af­fec­tions.

As a non-smoker I felt some sym­pa­thy for the man. It would drive me mad too.

But I did hope I would go about it in a dif­fer­ent way. I felt a lot more sym­pa­thy for her as I sus­pect he had been on her case all hol­i­day and just did not know how to stop him­self.

Most non-smok­ers have no idea how dif­fi­cult it is to give up.

I have a friend who was a heavy smoker in his twen­ties.

He reg­u­larly tried to quit and al­ways failed. Then mirac­u­lously he be­came an ar­dent non-smoker.

I asked him what made this at­tempt suc­ceed.

He told me that in the past he had al­ways ‘tried’ to quit. This time he ‘de­cided’ to quit.

For­tu­nately at that time he had not yet met a per­fect woman who wanted to im­prove him.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.