Labels aren’t always necessary – but sometimes they make important distinctions.
For example, marriage elevates a label. This is my boy/girl/non-binary friend. We are dating. Versus: this is my spouse/wife/husband. We’ve made a commitment.
So when somebody diverts label expectations against your wishes, how do you proceed?
u/throwra_lovehelp wanted to know what to do when his wife suddenly requested she be called his “girlfriend” after four years of marriage.
He took to the popular subReddit “Relationship Advice” to find some help.
According to the Original Poster (OP), this seemingly came out of nowhere.
“My wife (33f[emale]) and I (29m[ale]) have been married four years now, coming on five. We have generally had a good relationship and a good marriage.”
“We had a reasonably expensive wedding, which we’re still paying for now. I get the bill every month to prove it. My wife took charge of planning the wedding, so it was to her tastes. She seemed to enjoy it at the time and for the first few years of our marriage, she would look back at the wedding with me happily and without issues.”
All of a sudden our OP’s wife took a turn to a different attitude.
“In recent months I’ve noticed my wife’s attitude to a) our wedding and b) our marriage itself shift. It began by her (I thought jokingly) referring to herself as my ‘girlfriend’. She told me to buy her a ‘girlfriend’ card for Valentine’s Day rather than a ‘wife’ one, for example.”
“I thought she was just playing around at first. But this behaviour has only escalated. Two months ago my wife stopped wearing her wedding ring. I was understandably upset and asked her if there was something wrong. She told me everything was fine and she just ‘doesn’t the sensation of jewelry on her hands’. My wife has never liked rings and jewelry so this could be the case.”
And this problem has now invaded outside parties.
“But when we are with friends, my wife will get upset if I talk about her as ‘my wife’ rather than just a girlfriend. She will go as far to interrupt me if I’m talking/telling a story to ‘correct’ me on our relationship. Initially, this was something our friends laughed at, but now everybody just finds it understandably awkward.”
Then she began denying the wedding altogether.
“One of our friends was talking about their own wedding, which is scheduled for early next year. They asked for advice from my wife about how she’d planned ours and my wife responded with ‘what wedding?’. When our friend continued talking about the table decorations my wife had used, my wife visibly teared up in front of the whole group and had to step outside.”
The OP doesn’t get it because apparently, everything else seems fine.
“Later that evening, I asked her directly if she has a problem with our relationship or if I’m doing something wrong in our marriage. She assured me that everything is fine between us. From my perspective, outside of this issue, our relationship is as strong as ever. We are considering kids in the near future, our sex life is great, and my wife recently suggested we get matching tattoos as a renewal of our love.”
But he does need some help.
“Is there advice anyone can offer on why my wife might be acting like this and what I should do?”
Reddit found themselves concerned for the mental health of the OP’s wife.
“It could be as serious as a physical issue, or means of coping with something that she did, either a concern with the cost of the wedding, or it could be postpartum to the wedding. Obviously this is a serious issue if she’s completely denying it, but there are lots of women who spend so much time of their life planning “the perfect wedding” that when it’s over, there’s sometime anxiety and depression akin to what some athletes get when winning gold in the Olympics. It’s over. That’s it. You do it once and it’s not happening again.”
“Her approach to just simply denying it ever happened is odd, and there could be underlying issues to why, but it seems like she might be upset that the wedding and celebration is all over, and they’re still paying for it. Either that or she cheated and has completely snapped and prefers to rather believe that she cheated on her boyfriend rather than her husband.”~BYoungNY
“Denying reality is pretty serious. If you told a doctor this, they would most likely admit her for a whole work up because she’s basically refusing to admit a massively significant thing in her life didn’t happen, and is asking you to help perpetuate this false narrative.”
“I’d contact your family doctor, schedule a checkup. Make sure you mention exactly what is going on in the relationship, and if nothing is physically wrong then obviously see a psychiatrist and it’s important you guys need to see one together. Her reality could be distorted, you need to be there to confirm anything going on.”
“Either that or she’s seeing someone else and is trying to somehow not feel as guilty by pretending she’s ‘only’ your girlfriend. But I’d go with the first one, she’s having some mental health issues. But don’t freak out, if she is, luckily you’ve realized that and they can help her.”
“Good luck, wish you guys the best.”~Jreal22
“If she got upset when friends talked about her table decorations it sounds like OP’s wife genuinely believes they are not married. As per other comments, meds or other health issues can cause this. Go to a doctor.”
“I know 2 people who acted weird and did really crazy and dangerous things totally out of character (one of them involved a tractor) because their meds had messed up their calcium levels. Go to a doctor.”~Cat_Jerry
Most Redditors agree, in fact, that the OP is not taking this as seriously as it actually seems like it possibly is.
“This sounds like a serious mental health crisis. I would schedule an appointment with a trusted physician to first rule out any physical injury or issue that could be causing this somewhat sudden onset of denial, and request scans of her head to rule out anything serious. If she’s otherwise physically ‘healthy’ then it’s time to see a psychologist.”
“Either way: I suggest you be gentle with her at the moment. I would avoid confronting her about this topic. The fact that she said, ‘what wedding?’ and had teared up, leads me to believe there is something very serious happening to her -whether it’s physical or mental – and in either case you are definitely not equipped to handle it.”
“And if she is on the brink of some kind of emotional collapse? You don’t want to be the one who pushes her over the edge by demanding answers or forcing her to look at photos of a wedding that she can’t remember.”
“As someone who has personally experienced some very serious mental health problems that included a sudden loss of short term memory, I cannot tell you just how SCARY it is to feel betrayed by your own mind like that. Get her some help immediately. Good luck, OP.”~Wander_Pig
“Okay, first off let me say how sorry I am to hear you’re going through this. Over a year and a half ago I took it a step further by dropping the bomb on my family with divorce. My wife and I at the time were married for 10 years. For me this feeling came out of nowhere, I love my wife dearly and wouldn’t be able to live without her.”
“After she let me run with it for a month or 3 in which I even moved out the house and moved in with my dad (Also something I said I’d never do) she finally got me to move back in and agree to testing at the neurology department.”
“This lead to a complete run down of everything in my head. And I’m afraid to say that it was the cause. I have been diagnosed with FTD (Frontal temporal dementia). This changed me in ways that my family and friend and even myself couldn’t and still can’t fathom.”
“I’m not saying your wife has the same but it really all sounds horribly familiar. Have you ever explored medical options, even if just for yourself regarding your wife’s behaviour? If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask 😊”~LessRemoved
“4 options I see:
- She feels old. 33 is still quite young but she might be self conscious about her appearance. Society pushes high standards of youthfulness on women. The fact that she’s the older party in a heterosexual relationship might make her more insecure. People have their own associations with words. Perhaps she associates ‘wife’ with a frumpy old lady in an apron and ‘girlfriend’ with a cool, pretty college girl partying and living her best life.
- She has someone on the side and she’s trying to distance herself from your relationship. Unlikely, as you say your relationship is good.
- She has some mental problems. She might be losing memory, dissociating etc.
- She might be anxious about the future of the relationship. Even if your relationship is good, maybe there’s a problem with the amount/type of affection? Just because it seems stable and sex is good, doesn’t mean it couldn’t be better – maybe you speak a different love language? Or maybe, if that’s not her first relationship, she has suffered heartbreak in the past and is now insecure?”
“I think you should seek therapy – both couples’ therapy and personal therapy for her.”~SleepyEdgelord
And that no matter what the situation is, things are about to get really difficult for the OP and his wife.
“This is extremely bizarre. Completely denying the wedding happened and incorrectly labeling your relationship status but also insisting everything is ok is not normal. I typically don’t leap to these conclusions but it sounds like she has some serious mental health issues and needs to seek professional help.”~caesar____augustus
“I agree it’s a red flag, but for what, I am unsure. I’d ask her outright why she keeps calling herself your girlfriend and going as far as to correct you in front of your friends, it’s just very odd. Her answer matters the most because then you decide what to do. If it’s vague and confusing or if she gets emotional for seemingly no reason, it might be her mental health.”
“She might also miss the excitement of dating you? I know it sounds kinda dumb and if you guys have a good relationship I wouldn’t see why, but everyone is different. Might also be an early midlife crisis and she’s trying to go back to her ‘younger days’ when you were just dating. In that case, I’d suggest light therapy. I hear your 30s are where life is usually the best, but of course society doesn’t want you to know that.”~Supervium
“First, if call the family doctor and tell him what you wrote here. Tell him about her crying when people kept asking her about the wedding and so on. If your doctor us any good they will want to see her.”
“Your doctor will know what medical conditions she has, medications your wife is on, will have an idea of other potential causes, And order tests and/or refer you to a specialist.”
“DO NOT TAKE HER STRAIGHT TO A THERAPIST RULE OUT PHYSICAL CAUSES FIRST.”
“Even then, I wouldn’t push the point that you two are married for the time bring. I wouldn’t necessarily play into the “this is my girlfriend” thing but I would try to keep things neutral until you know what is happening.”
“This is one of the most unusual posts I’ve ever seen. Let us know what happens.”~JudyLyonz
Redditors are wishing the OP the best in an exceedingly difficult and possibly healthfully dangerous situation.
Hopefully the OP and his wife will be able to find some peace.