Demonic Relationship Advice

One of the things that I find so helpful about the writing of C. S. Lewis is how well he understands people, their habits, and thinking patterns. Consider these words from one demon to another in his The Screwtape Letters and see if they do not accurately depict realities that plague many relationships.

When two humans have lived together for many years it usually happens that each has tones of voice and expressions of face which are almost unendurably irritating to the other. Work on that. Bring fully into the consciousness of your patient that particular lift of his mother’s eyebrows which he learned to dislike in the nursery, and let him think how much he dislikes it. Let him assume that she knows how annoying it is and does it to annoy–if you know your job he will not notice the immense improbability of the assumption. And, of course, never let him suspect that he has tones and looks which similarly annoy her. As he cannot see or hear himself, this is easily managed.

In civilized life domestic hatred usually expresses itself by saying things which would appear harmless on paper (the words are not offensive) but in such a voice, or a such a moment, that they are not far short of a blow to the face…Your patient must demand that all his own utterances are to be taken at their face value and judged simply on the actual words, while at the same time judging all his mother’s utterances with the fullest and most over-sensitive interpretation of the tone and the context of the suspected intention. She must be encouraged to do the same to him. Hence from every quarrel they can both go away convinced, or very nearly convinced, that they are quite correct. You know the kind of thing: ‘I simply ask her what time dinner will be and she flies into a temper.’ Once this habit is well established you have the delightful situation of a human saying things with the express purpose of offending and yet having a grievance when offence is taken.

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