My wife looks up all the traits she believes I have and then makes her own diagnosis. Then she goes to our marriage counselor and tells him what she thinks is wrong with me. Not only do I think she’s unqualified to diagnose me, but I feel tremendously hurt by her labeling. How do I help her see this?
I’ve met with more and more people who come to me in the exact situation you describe: They’ve researched a problem, gathered an abundance of information from the Internet, and then formed an opinion — often strongly held — about their mate.
While the Internet has wrought many wonderful changes, you highlight one of my greatest concerns about the abundance of information available to us online. Within a few keystrokes there’s more information than we can possibly digest or interpret properly.
To be fair, seeking information is often born out of anxiety and fear. We want to understand what’s going on and it often helps to seek out support. Online communities are filled with people who might relate to our circumstances and offer support, compassion, and much needed answers. I know many isolated people desperately needing support who found it online. This is a good thing.
From your description, I doubt your wife is seeking an opportunity to “label you.” I assume she’s simply desperate for answers. Obviously she’s found some on the Internet that have given her a semblance of direction for your marriage. Remember to give your wife some leeway as she tries to navigate her way forward.
Now, back to your concern. You don’t want to be labeled. Understood. You don’t want to be mislabeled. Even more understandable. I presume you do want a professional to explore fully your situation and to dialogue with you and your wife about your situation to uncover possible solutions. This is the way the online communities and the plethora of professional opinions should work together to bring about healing and intervention.
Here are a few additional ideas and concerns for you and your wife to consider:
Gather information cautiously. There is so much information online that it can be overwhelming. And you can find information that supports any viewpoint. Seek information judiciously, carefully considering the source and its value. Guard against those offering extreme points of view, often held without merit.
Speak to people who share your values. It can be tempting to have a bias and then seek information or opinions that support your bias. Make sure you seek information based on the same values and spiritual orientation you hold. For example, my bias is a Christian perspective. Scripture encourages us in this way: “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, or stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in his law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:1-2).
Keep an open mind. As you and your wife seek information, remember to use discernment and weigh the information carefully. Keep an open mind as you digest what you learn, using the information to make wise decisions. Information should be for your benefit, for your healing, and to help you become more godly.
Make decisions collaboratively. Partner with your wife to seek and use information to strengthen your marriage. Let her know you’re open to new information and want her to feel safe in sharing the information she’s found. Let her know you’re on this healing journey together and that you want to be the husband she wants and needs.
Maintain healthy supervision for your situation. Ask your wife to come under the supervision not only of your pastors but also of a trained marriage counselor. Work with her, your pastors, and marriage counselor to address her concerns and to seek healing and restoration for your marriage.
In summary, you have an opportunity to work with your wife to address her concerns. Be gentle with her as she seeks information to address her anxiety. Be patient as she strives to bring change to your marriage. Let her know you have the same goals and want the same outcome, proceeding cautiously toward gathering and utilizing information available to you.