Wedding Woes

Me vs. my wife's interwebz friends

Dear Prudence,

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

Re: Me vs. my wife's interwebz friends

  • Agreed, leave interweb friends out of it. It could be another trigger.
    I know personally, when my anxiety is high I have sensory issues. Pandemic has created/triggered a lot of mental health issues, and that could be the problem.
  • mrsconn23mrsconn23 member
    Knottie Warrior 10000 Comments 500 Love Its First Answer
    The last thing you do, LW, is tell her she's crazy or her friends are wrong.  This is the reality she's currently living in and if you want this to work, you need to find a way to meet her where she's at.  I'd definitely recommend starting couple's therapy and also, encourage her to start looking for work. 

    If she's resistant to any of that, then you need to decide what you're going to do. Maybe go to therapy on your own.  And also, don't think that leaving her isn't on the table if she truly won't work to find compromise and/or get help (alone or together).

    Do I think your wife is being unreasonable?  Hell yes.  But you want to try to fix the situation, you cannot come at her with criticism and disbelief in what she's currently feeling.  She will shut you down/ice you out and it will put your relationship in an even more precarious situation. 
  • The pandemic & job loss (not the friends) could very truly be contributing to the changes in her personality. If this is impacting your relationship; calmly, politely tell her you would like to discuss it further. Probably with the her of a couples counselor if you’re  at your edge. 
  • I get the feeling it isn't just the new sensitivity disorder...that the LW obviously doesn't believe, which is in and of itself a problem...but it more sounds like the wife's personality has changed.  Couples counseling is a great solution for them to get back on the same page.

    FWIW, it's possible the new issue with smells has nothing to do with the internet friends, mental health, or anxiety.  A few years ago, I developed a sensitivity to sound.  Sometimes sound seems so much louder to me than it actually is.  I sometimes even feel nauseous by particular sounds.  At first I thought I was imaging things or just being too sensitive, because it was so weird.  My first Google search produced nothing, making me feel even more like I was imaging things.  But then I had my first nausea episode.  I wasn't imaging that, so I Googled deeper with different terms and finally found something that sounded right.  It is my brain no longer processing sounds correctly.  That made so much sense because it's like I can logically hear that a sound isn't louder than it should be, but then it FEELS so loud.  Maybe something like that can happen to the sense of smell.


    This letter also reminds me of an annoying work experience at a previous job.  I don't usually like all that fake smell stuff.  Especially the smell of vanilla.  Our receptionist left and I got stuck having to move my desk to the receptionist's desk.  I guess so I could handle the visitors we never had, lmao.  That was an engineering firm, so no one from the general public was going to be cruising by and stop in.  At any rate, like most offices, the reception area was semi-open to the rest of the office suite but was mostly it's own room that nobody else sat near.

    One day, two other people in the was my direct boss (C) and the other (D) also had somewhat authority over me (omg, I couldn't stand her)...asked me to add some room freshener on my next Office Depot order for the reception area.  They were both pregnant and thought that room smelled musty.  It didn't to me, but I understand that pregnant women sometimes have a heightened sense of smell.  I asked, "Are you sure we need something like that?  No one is ever in there except me and I don't want the fake smell of an air freshener."  But, nope.  They insisted.  I was SO pissed.  But that's exactly how D was.  She needed everything to be the way she thinks it needs to be, even for things that have no effect on her.

    Whatever.  I ordered a lavender air freshener, because vanilla was the only other choice.  Their reaction?  "OMG, what is that?  That smells so terrible.  I'm so sensitive to smell right now and that's making me sick.  You need to get rid of it."  And kind of acting like I went rogue and just randomly put in an air freshener.  They wanted me to order another one and I refused.  I told them Office Depot didn't have much to choose from and any air freshener is going to be especially strong when it is first taken out of the packaging.  I suggested since their sense of smell was so sensitive right now, that they find an air freshener they liked and bring it in, just PLEASE don't make it vanilla because that is the one smell I can't stand.  And I'm the one stuck in that room 100% of the time.  But I was pretty sure refusing to order another one would just drop the subject and thankfully it did.
    Wedding Countdown Ticker
  • VarunaTTVarunaTT member
    Knottie Warrior 10000 Comments 500 Love Its First Answer
    @short+sassy my favorite thing about working in a medical office was that no one was allowed to wear anything that had perfumed scent to it.  The smell of Gain detergent makes me sick to my stomach as well as quite a few perfumes.  I suspect the perfumes are because so many of them are based in lilies and I am so allergic to those, it hurts my nose and lungs to be in the same room with a stargazer lily.
  • banana468banana468 member
    Knottie Warrior 10000 Comments 500 Love Its First Answer
    The more you mention things changing you remind that we see that in DH.  Over the last 18 or so months he gets random hives when he's outside especially near our house.  They go away fast but he didn't get them before and now I'll see him after doing anything and even in the winter.
  • kerbohlkerbohl member
    Ninth Anniversary 500 Love Its 1000 Comments First Answer
    What if the wife never actually liked scented candles?  What if she just ran with it as a bonding thing with LW?  And the friends on the internet aren't changing her personality, they are encouraging her to speak up for the fact that she never actually liked scented candles and be her true self?  Just saying ....
    Though if your spouse really likes burning candles and you can't stand the smell, "forbidding" the spouse to burn it in the house and the yard is a bit much.  You can't stand the smell outside?  Just don't go outside while the candle is burning.  

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