Nagging a smoker is like playing with fire
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.