Unlucky in love? Cigarettes could be to blame. Your habit could be ruining relationships without you even realising. Here, the experts explain more about a surprising side effect of smoking.
Sometimes relationships just don’t work out but it’s tough when a ciggie habit drives you apart from your significant other.
Studies show that people who smoke are more likely to get divorced, and to suffer problems maintaining intimate relationships. Scientists involved don’t know exactly why smoking is linked to relationship breakdown but relationship counsellor Denise Knowles says she has some theories.
“One of the very first questions I always ask couples is if either of them smoke” she told us. “It’s hugely important – especially if it transpires that one of the couple smokes and the other doesn’t.”
“Smoking can impact negatively on factors such as blood pressure and overall health of course – but it can also have a damaging impact on the couple’s dynamic. For example, I’ve seen cases where smoking causes resentment in a relationship because one person has an expensive habit that is adding to financial pressures.”
The non-smoker can feel isolated
And today’s health and safety laws mean smoking can physically drive a couple apart. “You can both be at a restaurant, a pub or a party and the smoker will literally be outside the room, probably socialising with an entirely different set of people. The non-smoker can feel isolated,” says Denise. It’s usually the case however that any resentment supposedly caused by smoking is only a symptom of some other, deeper malaise in a relationship, says Denise. “I would be very surprised indeed if a marriage was instantly repaired if the smoking partner quit the habit at the request of the non-smoker. Life – and most people’s relationships – tend to be a little more complicated than that!”
One study by researchers at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan in 1997 tracked more than 30,000 young adults between 1976 and 1994 and found smoking rates were far higher among those who would go on to divorce in later life. Another piece of research by father and son scientists Doherty & Doherty at the University of Minnesota examined the relationship between divorce history and cigarette smoking in a large random sample of adults and concluded that adults who currently smoke are 53 percent more likely to have experienced divorce than non-smokers.
So in other words you’re more than half as likely again to be divorced if you’re a smoker as opposed to a non-smoker. Neither study could offer any definite reasons for this link and they couldn’t say for sure that smoking caused relationship problems.
Her Smoking Annoyed Me
Keith (not his real name) is 53 and lives in Kew, south west London. He met his wife Jennifer when they were both at university and they were married five years after graduating. They divorced 20 years later.
“I wouldn’t say smoking was the main cause of our split,” he says, “but it was certainly an ever-present irritant in our marriage. Neither of us smoked when we first met, although we’d both experimented a bit when we were younger. I always hated it: I only ever put up with cigarettes to smoke blow, but even that was a struggle.
"After we’d been together for a year or so Jennifer suddenly decided she was going to start smoking: I’ve no idea why. I was amused at first, but then after a few days it became apparent that she wasn’t joking – and wasn’t going to stop – and I started to feel rather less amused. And it was a problem for us, for the rest of the time we were together.
The house always stank of fags – I was embarrassed whenever our friends came round
“When we bought our first house together I tried to encourage her to stop, but she didn’t and as a result the house always stank of fags – I was embarrassed whenever our friends came round.
“Whenever we went out to eat, we’d have to sit in the smoking section of restaurants, which I absolutely hated, and whenever we travelled we’d have to sit in the smoking section of the plane. It was lots of little things that sound silly in their own right, but collectively they added up to a constant headache.
“Over the years we pretty much made separate lives for ourselves and looking back now I wonder if her smoking had anything to do with that. I got interested in fitness and took up triathlons – I always tried to get Jennifer involved but she wasn’t interested in getting fit. We separated after 20 years or so: I bump into her once in a while and she’s still smoking. I married again recently – my new wife doesn’t smoke.”