Diagnosing and Labeling Your Spouse Doesn’t Help Your Marriage
More and more spouses are diagnosing and labeling each other. I see an increasing amount of it in my marriage counseling practice. A few clicks on your phone and you can feel like an expert on what is wrong with your spouse.
But why do this? Some people love labels. I get it. It gives them a greater sense of something or someone. It validates and confirms their concerns. When they are able to put a label to their concerns it helps them feel like they are sane and their concerns are real.
One of the most frequently used diagnoses is narcissism. One spouse contacts me and says her husband is a narcissist and do I have the expertise to fix him. Another husband I meet with works hard on his marriage until one day he comes to my office convinced that his wife is a narcissist. He says she fits every characteristic. That husband is no longer willing to work on himself and it is all about his wife. Guess what. She has Googled an entirely different diagnosis for him and is convinced he needs to be cured or fixed. These diagnoses don’t help the marriage.
When you diagnose and label your spouse as a narcissist, you put them in a box. In your mind, it becomes their identity and you see them through the filter of narcissism. You brush away anything that doesn’t fit with your pre conceived notion, and bend words and actions to fit what you want to see.
There is such a thing as a Narcissistic Personality Disorder, but a small percentage of people are diagnosed as such. For the most part, authors talk about narcissism being a spectrum; and at any given time, we may be in different parts of the spectrum. The spectrum goes from garden variety selfishness all the way to abusive, manipulative, gaslighting narcissism.
For some authors, it isn’t a question of whether you are a narcissist, but where you are on the spectrum at any given time. You label your spouse yet you probably have narcissistic qualities yourself.
Throwing around the label narcissist too freely diminishes the focus on those who with ill intent are truly manipulative and abusive.
Instead of diagnosing and labeling your spouse as a narcissist, here are 3 tips you can do.
Tip #1: Focus on behaviors, not labels.
What behaviors are you experiencing in your spouse that you want to see change?
• Self centered. It is all about their needs.
• Needy. You feel you are constantly having to bolster their esteem.
• Dismissive of your needs.
• Lacking empathy
Tip #2: Speak in feelings rather than accusations.
• Be clear on what you want and need.
• Consider your words before you speak.
• Be direct but speak in a way your spouse can hear.
• Not “You are..”, but “I feel…”, and “I need…”.
Tip #3: Admit responsibility for your part.
• It presents a more balanced view of your spouse.
• You will be more easily heard by your spouse.
Call to action:
• Stop diagnosing and labeling your spouse.
• Address behaviors. Both of you.
• Take responsibility. Both of you.
• Clearly state your wants and needs.
• Come see me if you need additional help.
• Go to rcochran.com for additional relationship tips.
• Go to my social media pages at Ron Cochran Counseling for more tips.