These days last week we were very busy looking for Purim costumes. Who doesn’t get excited with all the great choices we have of costumes and masks. Everyone tries to figure out who is hiding behind the funny mask or who’s wearing the funny costume, walking merrily down the street. But everyone knows the mask does not reflect who's really behind it. Everyone realizes that behind the mask of a scary dragon there's probably someone who wouldn’t hurt a fly!
But there are masks not just for Purim. Sometimes we ourselves have masks that help us to portray ourselves in a different light than who we are in order to protect ourselves. Sometimes this mask is positive and effective and sometimes it’s intolerable. In relationships between a husband and wife most of these masks cause conflict and harm mutual trust if you don't know how to deal with them.
One example of a popular mask is the mask of kindness. The spouse that outside of the house is the image of the epitomeof kindness that is
ready to help everybody and in the house he's an egocentric rude person that won’t lift his hand to help even if they really need his help!
Another popular mask is the pleasant mask. This mask projects peace and tranquility on the outside and portrays someone who gives in for peace. Whereas in the house is a tyrant, he is forceful and controlling when people don't listen to him. As the saying goes: “My way or the highway”!
When you detect that someone is wearing a mask you have to ask yourself; does it portray what he really is inside or maybe it's just a mask and the person behind it is really totally different? Why is this happening and how do we deal with this?
I’d like to reveal to you one of the secrets of the soul that is most important in influencing your relationship with your spouse.
There is one main basic rule pertaining to a person’s deepest needs. That rule says: “What they don't give me I will take forcefully.” A person could give up eating and drinking, sleep very little and forego enjoying life but one thing he will not forgo, which is fulfilling the needs of his soul. If you take away his ability and his desire to live he wage an existential war and go into survival mode. In survival mode he'll get what he needs; the question is how. What he lacks the proper tools to get what he wants in a mature way he'll do it in a less mature way even in an infantile manner. People sometimes endanger themselves and take great risks to get what they need to survive.
For example let's take a wife’s complaint that her husband is verbally abusive at but he would never do that outside. What should we learn from such a situation and how do we fix it?
This wife must recognize the fact that this is the same man that she loves, chose to live with and to build a home with. He's not a different person just right now he is in a dire straits because his most basic needs were taken away from him or aren’t being met. He is crying out for help through his poor conduct, he is demanding what he needs though in a negative manner, in order to stay sane.
Why should someone raise his voice and even embarrass the people that he really loves the most, which he's ready to do everything that he can for? There must be some gain from such conduct. This conduct is a cover up for a different deeper feeling that he has. Through this conduct he attains power and regains his control over the situation. If he feels that he’s is not respected enough, not loved enough or that his needs and requests are ignored, the shouting will get the job done. He’ll forcefully retake the respect that he needs so badly.
This both explains the phenomena and can also remedy it. If we understand that this negative behavior shows a difficulty or an emotional need unfulfilled then our reaction will be that we won't look at the behavior itself rather we will turn ears to the shouting coming from inside that person and we'll be able to cause him to behave differently by actually giving him what he truly needs.
Now we can understand the mask our spouse is wearing which until now made us think he’s two faced and hypocritical and is just meant to hide his bad conduct is really a behavior that comes from his understanding of the world around him based on how he believes others perceive him. So what really is hiding behind this mask in most cases is a call for help because people don’t understand him and don't give him what he believes he needs.
It's important that this negative behavior is part of expressing feelings that would come out in a dialogue that they would normally have as a couple. We’re definitely not talking about any type of violence that manifests itself when one spouse communicates with the other. In such a case a person should get an emotions test.
To get professional help in Israel a person or couple can contact the Shalom Bayit Domestic Peace Division of Hidabroot at 073-222-1310.
Meir Weitzman is a senior marriage counselor in Hidabroot’s Shalom Bayit Division.