A man named Martin recently came to see me to talk about his wife. “I’m so frustrated with her,” he said. “She’s angry and demanding, and I’m tired of it.”
“You’re frustrated with her,” I said, “only because you don’t understand her.”
“What?” he said.
“Anger is always a response to fear,” I said, “and you’re not appreciating how much her fear is distorting everything she’s seeing and affecting how she’s behaving. If you don’t understand her fear, you won’t understand her at all.”
“I still don’t understand what this has to do with my frustration.”
“Do you work with computers?”
“Sure, quite a bit. You already know that.”
“Have you ever had a virus in your computer?”
“And how did it affect your computer.”
“It corrupted everything. I couldn’t work with my software, and I couldn’t get access to my files.”
“So while you had the virus, did you try to work with the files on your computer?”
“No, it was impossible.”
“What did you do?”
“I had to get the help of a technical consultant to remove the virus.”
“Because until I removed the virus, nothing on the computer would work right.”
“And that’s how it is with your wife.”
“How do you mean?”
“When she’s afraid, it’s like she has an emotional virus. It affects everything. When she’s afraid, she sees everything as a threat, and all of her responses become Protecting Behaviors designed to protect herself. She criticizes you, makes demands of you, gets angry at you, and so on, all to give her a sense of greater power. And while she’s infected with this virus, you expect her to behave normally — to treat you nicely.”
“So what are you suggesting?”
“With your computer, you removed the virus before you tried to work with the computer, didn’t you?”
“Why not do the same with your wife? Do whatever it takes to eliminate her fear before you expect her to do anything else.”
“And how do I eliminate her fear?”
“Fear is a response to the absence of love,” I said, “so you need to learn to love her better. That will take time and practice, but you have lots of time and plenty of opportunities to practice. Mostly you need to make the decision that you’ll learn to love her better and reduce her fears instead of criticizing her for reacting to her fears. Are you willing to do that?”
Martin decided that he would take responsibility for introducing more Real Love into his marriage, and that marked the beginning of significant changes in his marriage.
Fear is a virus that distorts everything we see and do. In the presence of fear, people cannot behave in loving or sensible ways. When people behave badly, we must recognize that love is the one power that will eliminate the virus of fear and make it possible for them to return to emotional and spiritual health.
Replace your fear and confusion with peace and happiness.
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