“My wife seems obsessed with criticizing a particular acquaintance of ours.”

"Ostinato" by Mimi Stuart
Live the Life you Desire

While your wife’s preoccupation seems to be all about the acquaintance, it’s probably more about herself. Obsessive preoccupation about a particular person means there’s something worthwhile to look into if she’s willing to be reflective.

Without putting your wife on the defensive, you may want to point out how focused she seems to be on that particular person’s flaws. You could say, “I notice that you talk about ‘so and so’ a lot. I’m curious why he/she interests you so much?”

If she doesn’t know, here are some ideas you might suggest in a diplomatic way. She may be feeling jealous. She may feel rejected by the acquaintance.

She may dislike the acquaintance for highlighting a specific trait that she lacks herself. This would indicate that she may be the other extreme. For example, the acquaintance might be open, gregarious, and free, while your wife is shy, quiet and conservative.

A preoccupation of this kind is sometimes caused by an unconscious yearning to develop the very qualities that a person finds abhorrent in the other person. She simply finds it easier to malign the other person than to try to develop those qualities in moderation herself. While some people embody particular qualities in the extreme — making them appear distasteful — integrating a small dose of any quality gives you more flexibility to respond to, and even embrace, varying circumstances in life.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “I don’t like many people in this town.”

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