My wife and I (we’re both women) have been married for five years. Ever since we started dating, we both loved burning scented candles. It relieves stress and helps create a mindful atmosphere. At the beginning of the pandemic, my wife lost her job and started feeling extremely isolated. She spent nearly all day on social media, connecting with other people feeling isolated and building a community online. At first I was pleased she was still getting in some social connection. However, I think the group she’s fallen in with tends to pride itself on how many marginalized identities each member can claim and has a victim mindset. Now my wife claims she has a sensory processing disorder and can’t handle the smell of our detergent and dish soap, much less candles. I was concerned there might be a medical issue, since it came on so suddenly, but she got a checkup at the doctor’s and it doesn’t seem like anything has changed since her last visit. She didn’t get COVID, so I don’t think it’s a case of having lost and then abruptly regaining her sense of smell.
My wife has expressly forbidden me from burning any candles in our home or in our yard. I’ve never run into a situation like this, where both our desires are polar opposites, even contradictory. I miss my candles, but I’m even more frustrated over my wife taking on this new “sensitive identity” to feel connected to people on the internet—especially when it’s negatively impacting our life together. I feel like I don’t know her anymore—and it’s only a matter of time before she claims some other identity. I feel like a massive jerk. Can I suggest she see a therapist? Help her with her job search? I know limiting her social media time would be controlling, but I’m at my wits’ end.
—Suddenly Sensitive Spouse