There lived a man who was absolutely miserable with his wife. Once deeply in love, over the years they first grew apart and later began to treat each other with contempt. They would have terrible arguments and then go for weeks in tense silence.
The man ruminated day and night about how to solve his dilemma. Divorce or separation was out of the question because of the customs of their land. Finally he began to ponder a most drastic solution.
He went to a wise elder in his town and said, “I hear that you’re able to mix up poisons that kill people slowly, so that no one will suspect foul play. You must make up some poison for me so that I can give it to my wife. Living with her is unbearable, and the only way out of my misery is to kill her.”
“I think I can help you” the elder replied. “But I’m not sure you’ll be willing to pay the cost of this solution.”
“I’ll pay anything. Anything! Whatever you want from me, I’ll do it.”
“Very well,” the elder replied. “It will take me one month to prepare the poison. Give me no money now. The only thing I require of you is that during this next month, you treat your wife as though she was the most precious, lovely, desirable woman in the world.”
“What?!! I can’t do that! I hate her! It’s absolutely impossible to treat her as though I love her.”
“But you said you’d do anything to get your hands on the poison.”
The man swallowed hard, grimaced, and said, “Fine. I’ll do as you say. I’ll do anything to escape my misery.”
So the man bought some flowers and went home to face his wife. Sure enough, she greeted him at the door with a sneer of disgust.
“What are you doing with those flowers? They’re hideous. You’re hideous.”
“These are for you. I want to make peace.” He felt nauseous as he said the words, but he put the flowers in a vase and placed them on the table.
Over the next two weeks he spoke to her kindly every day, asked for her opinions, did the dishes, and tried his best to act as though he loved her. At first he could hardly bear to do these things, but he wanted the poison so much that he was willing to do anything. She responded at first with hateful words, then with silence. And strangely enough, it began to get easier for him to treat her well.
And even stranger, his wife began to be a little less hateful. And strangest of all, by the third week they were no longer enemies. And by the fourth week, they were enjoying each other so much that he forgot all about the poison.
A month or so later he encountered the elder on the street. “I have a package waiting for you,” the elder said.
The man looked at him, puzzled. “Don’t you remember?” the elder asked. “You asked me to make up some poison for you. For your wife. Why didn’t you ever come to collect it?”
The man shook his head in horror. “Poison my beautiful, wonderful wife? Never, ever in a thousand years could I do that!”
The elder smiled and walked away.