I received a visit one day from a woman named Heidi who was quite unhappy with her husband. “I don’t like the way he talks to me. I don’t like the way he acts. Sometimes I just don’t like him. Period. I get so mad at him I could . . .”
“Slap him?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said, “something like that.”
I asked her to describe his behavior, and it was nothing surprising: a fairly routine mix of Getting and Protecting Behaviors. Then I asked her if she had any children, and she said she had two sons, ages fifteen months and four years.
“Tell me about the fifteen-month-old,” I said. “I’m guessing that sometimes he can be a handful.”
She smiled. “He really can.”
“And when there’s something he wants, he can probably get pretty demanding — crying, stomping his feet, that kind of thing — right?”
“So you’ve raised children,” she said.
“Several. So when he gets like that, why don’t you just slap him?”
Heidi looked at me as though she hadn’t heard me quite right. “I wouldn’t hit him.”
By that time I was smiling, so she knew I was joking. “I know you wouldn’t slap him, but tell me why. After all, sometimes he acts like a real brat. He’s yelling and screaming and making life miserable for everybody.”
“But that’s not his fault,” she said. “He just hasn’t learned to talk yet. He just doesn’t know how to ask for what he wants.”
“Neither does your husband,” I said. Heidi was obviously thinking about that, so I let it sink in for a while before I continued. “I’m sure there are times when it seems like your husband acts about as mature as your son.”
“And I’m trying to help you see that neither of them knows what he’s doing. The problem is that because your husband looks like an adult, you actually expect him to act like one. But emotionally speaking, he’s not an adult. When we don’t feel sufficient Real Love in our lives, our emptiness is unbearable, and we react desperately to fill that emptiness and to protect ourselves. In that condition, we don’t think clearly. We don’t think about other people. We think and act impulsively, concerned primarily about ourselves. In short, we act like children, not adults. Instead of finding the Real Love we need, we grab for whatever bits of Imitation Love we can find, and we don’t ask nicely. We’re confused. We don’t even know what we need or how to ask for it. We just don’t know how to talk yet.”
Heidi got the point, and from that moment she began to adopt a more understanding and compassionate attitude toward her husband.
It is the goal of many of us who work with Real Love to teach as many people as possible “how to talk,” to teach them how to find Real Love instead of continuing in the patterns that have made their lives miserable. As we all learn to talk, we can finally begin to behave as adults and enjoy the fruits of this life.
Find genuine happiness now and forever.
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