I just can’t quit you on February 2, 1998…
Dear Breakup Girl,
Two years ago I was involved with a great guy. We were compatible intellectually, romantically and sexually, but he moved 2,000 miles away and after an attempt to do the long distance thing, we broke it off. We remained good friends and corresponded regularly.
Now he is returning to his old neighborhood and thinks we should get together again. I’m all for it except for one problem. He is a smoker and I am a militant nonsmoker (the really annoying kind) with an allergy to cigarettes to boot! He was trying to quit when we first started dating, but since the move west, he gave up the effort. He likes it and he doesn’t care if it kills him. I try to get him not to do it around me during some of his visits home, but he does not always oblige. Even if the hacking cough didn’t always surface, the knot in the pit of my stomach every time he lights up (even when we speak on the phone) never goes away.
I don’t want this to become a power struggle. We are both stubborn, hard-headed people at times (hell, I guess that’s why we’re so compatible) and fighting about it goes nowhere. I really do want to see him again and possibly resume the relationship. How can I learn to adjust my attitude and still maybe, possibly take that chance in Hell that I can somehow encourage him to stop or at least compromise?
— Healthy Lungs in NY
BG had some help on this one from psychotherapist-in-cyberresidence Belleruth Naparstek, who is also an expert on addictive behaviors. Girlfriend knows what she’s talking about when she says: Love him, butts and all, or walk away. What he does (stinky and death-causing though it may be) is what he does, and unfortunately, you can’t legislate that.
What you can perhaps legislate — or at least negotiate — are certain terms of co-existence, like no smoking while kissing. If you do walk away, do not do so to make Joe Camel quit; walk away because you can’t stand the smoke. It’s a critical distinction, even if the two actions look the same– through all the haze — on the outside.