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Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Overlooking faults and seeing the good in others

Rika Kayama (Mainichi)

The other day, I received an email message from an editor I know asking if "coronavirus divorces" are on the rise. There recently seems to be a number of married couples who quarrel over differences in opinion surrounding the novel coronavirus pandemic. Apparently, some of these cases even lead to divorce.

Although none of my patients who have come in for consultation spoke of going to such extremes, I do occasionally hear stories where each partner has a different understanding of a given situation. For example, a couple may consist of a wife that is careful about preventing infections in various ways and avoids leaving the house as much as possible, and a husband that nevertheless continues to ride packed commuter trains to work without even wearing a mask. I've heard countless times about similar instances where a husband would not listen to his wife's desire for him to shift to working from home, saying "I can't afford to not show up to work!"

Such cases often arise from a wife's compassion toward her husband, whom she does not want to see infected. The husband may be under much pressure due to concerns relating to a change in the overall mood at the company or a decline in the firm's performance amid the coronavirus crisis. Because of this, he may end up raising his voice without being able to say, "Thank you for worrying about me," even though he sees where his wife is coming from when she tells him to work from home.

At the moment, everyone is experiencing a state of mind that is different from usual. There are feelings of uneasiness, fear, and confusion surrounding the uncertainty of the future and the question of just how long this situation will continue. This is why I encourage you to not jump to conclusions such as, "It turns out that this person doesn't actually care about me," judging only from words exchanged under such pressure.

I often tell my patients to overlook some of their partners' flaws and negative aspects, and to place a large emphasis on what can be perceived as positive. Then, some patients will recall positive episodes and say something like, "Come to think of it, my husband came home yesterday with "taiyaki" cakes as if he felt bad about shouting on his way out." In such cases, I tell them, "That's right, please think of that as his true intentions," and we find ourselves smiling.

The same goes for parent and child. A child may be escaping from anxious feelings of not knowing what comes next by reading manga or playing games. In these cases, I encourage you to not jump to the conclusion your child dislikes studying. It is important to adopt a relaxed mindset and think something like, "I'll let them off the hook because we're facing an unusual time right now."

In such extraordinary times, it is best to overlook the faults of family members and focus greatly on their good qualities. It is my wish that we come through these peculiar times by looking for the good in each other and giving others extra words of praise.

(Japanese original by Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)

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