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October 4, 2011 2:27 PM   Subscribe

How do you deal with anti-intellectualism in a spouse?

I try to be a well-informed person... I research most things before accepting them as true, especially if there's expense involved. Skepticism is my default position. As it turns out, this drives my wife up the wall.

I have chronic back pain and she wants me to see a chiropractor. I've researched chiropractic and decided that it's not worth my financial or emotional investment. (But I digress, this thread is not about that.) I looked up some legitimate medical practices and happily informed my wife that I'd like to go meet with one of those doctors. I thought she'd be pleased that I was taking action, but she got upset that I rejected her idea.

She asked me why I didn't trust her or believe that she knew what she was talking about. She had done no research apart from relaying a recommendation from her mother, who sees a chiropractor. She acted as though I had insulted her mother directly. She accused me of "ignoring" her, when I had in fact taken her advice into consideration, weighed it carefully, and decided against it. Bottom line, she took it very personally, as if she were the object of my rejection.

That's just one example. According to my wife, I "do this to her" all the time. She wanted me to promise to take her word for things like this more often. I assured her that I completely trust her and her intentions, but all I could muster was a non-commital "we'll see" about that promise. I love her completely but I'm not going to trade in my circumspection for anti-intellectualism, gullibility, and hokum. Maybe I should add that I have a phlegmatic personality and try to avoid conflict, and my wife is the opposite. This issue I'm writing about is only a problem because she made it one.

How can I explain my position to her without making her feel like an idiot? It's not that she's stupid, she's just willfully ignorant about some things. Folksy might be a good word. I can't change that part of her, but when it comes to making important decisions about health and money, I can see that I need to veto the ignorance, as often as it comes up, without it harming our marriage. We don't have kids yet, but I especially don't want to encourage that attitude in them once we do. How can I show my wife the utmost respect and still root out mental laziness whenever it pops up? (At least concerning the Big Stuff; I can let inconsequential things slide.)
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (45 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
Previously
posted by prunes at 2:32 PM on October 4, 2011


She asked me why I didn't trust her or believe that she knew what she was talking about... According to my wife, I "do this to her" all the time. She wanted me to promise to take her word for things like this more often.

I once dated someone who said things like this a lot. It extended things like being offended that I wanted to take a look at the map, when we were clearly lost and he was the one trying to read the map.

The problem turned out to be that he had monumental control issues. So, it might be control issues at play here with your wife, not anti-intellectualism per se.
posted by Ashley801 at 2:32 PM on October 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


Unfortunately, because you've used terms that are condescending to your wife like "mental laziness," people are going to climb all over you here. But you ask a good questions.

You're right in that you can't change that about her. But if she gets hysterical because you've made a well-researched decision that she doesn't like, all you can do is repeat calmly, "this decision feels best for me." Since neither of you are likely to change who you are, that's probably as good as it's going to get.
posted by Melismata at 2:34 PM on October 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


Did you tell your wife that you researched and decided against it because of that? Because then I think what is happening here is that she's taking that ans extrpolating it to mean that you think she and her mother are uninformed.
posted by InsanePenguin at 2:35 PM on October 4, 2011


Have you been honest to her? Have you told her how you feel? I would be really pissed if I had a person chewing my ears with this silliness. Tell her she has no right to make you do things you don't like, and that you love to converse and discuss possibilities, but by no means will you let yourself be coerced or emotionally blackmailed into doing stuff you don't fucking want to do.

OK. Maybe be nicer about it. But do tell her.
posted by Tarumba at 2:38 PM on October 4, 2011


Your phrasing of "anti-intellectualism," "willfully ignorant" and "mental laziness" points to the answer.

The vibe she's getting from you is that you really do think she's stupid, and when you use words like this ... well, she may be right in saying that's exactly what you're communicating. You probably don't even know you're doing it. Tone of voice, body language, timing, etc, could all be causing or adding to the problem.

I mean, you just wrote that she's offering "hokum." You may not ever say this to her face, but who knows what you're actually communicating to her with a roll of the eyes, crossed arms and a long sigh?

I don't think there's an easy answer here. I think it starts with a lot of open communication. You should apologize, early and often, for any slights you've shot her way without realizing it. Take some of her small advice and try it out in ways that don't harm you or your pocketbook. Make her part of that investigative and experimental process. Show her the results ... without doing an endzone dance.

Chiropractors, homeopathic meds and naturopaths? Total bullshit.

Possibly unspoken communication fucking up your relationship? Not bullshit at all.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:42 PM on October 4, 2011 [33 favorites]


I think "anti-intellectualism" is putting this strongly UNLESS she has a pattern of valuing anecdote over controlled study (e.g., anti-vaxers or conspiracy theorists).

I think you can only reiterate that you DO trust her; that's why you investigated it as an option. You didn't dismiss it out of hand; that would be a good reason for her to be angry. Just try to make her see that you have a different decision process than she does.

I'm afraid I don't see the intellectual laziness or willful ignorance in the example you gave, unless it's a well-known fact (that I don't know about) that chiropractors tend to be frauds. I can't help but think that you chose an example that makes your side of the argument more sympathetic.

Perhaps you can actively discuss your decision process with her, rather than taking her advice, going off and investigating it, then returning to her saying, "Nope, not going to do it."
posted by supercres at 2:43 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


While I'm a big skeptic, I do know of people who've had back pain eased by seeing a chiropractor. Maybe it's really just massage that their insurance paid for, maybe it's a placebo effect, or maybe they just like having their backs rubbed---people felt better. And these aren't hippy-dippy mystikal convergence types. If it doesn't cost you much, why not try it?
And yes, telling her that you researched her stupid lazy idea and dismissed it, isn't going to make you popular at home. Did you really research it or did you just decide that if your MIL does it, it must be worthless?
posted by Ideefixe at 2:45 PM on October 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


Seems like she's an authoritarian. And you are a rationalist. I don't have high hopes for your marriage. Maybe you can just say that you need think things through or you will always have regrets about decisions made too suddenly.
posted by seanmpuckett at 2:45 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


So what I am saying here is that maybe your wife is not the one with the bad outlook on reality - maybe it's you?? I'm saying that maybe you should be just a tad more open minded to her suggestion regardless of the lack of scientific method by which she reached her conclusion. I'm saying that maybe the entirety of this problem may not be confined to her alone.

This. OP, you, like me, miss the point entirely sometimes. My soon-to-be wife (two weeks!) is very similar to your wife, and I am very similar to you. First, like I said above (typed on my phone, sorry,) is that the problem is likely that by telling her that your research says chiropractics is bad/dumb/wrong is calling her mom's judgement into question, and hers in turn for suggesting it. You can't get past the fact that you are right and she is wrong.

Also, nobody should lump chiropractics (for back pain specifically) and acupuncture in with homeopathy, reiki, and that kind of bullshit. Good chiropractors physically adjust your body, they aren't telling you to take weird herbs and feel energy. Acupuncture has been proven to work lots of times in studies. Reiki/homeopathy hasn't.

So maybe you do need to open up a little. Your wife likely feels hurt and ashamed because you put off the vibe that you think she's dumb.

Protip: In the future, if she gives a suggestion and you research it and she's right? Don't tell her you researched it and she's right. Just tell her she's right. Because nothing will cement her idea that you think she's dumb more than you not believing her at face value than when she turns out to be right.
posted by InsanePenguin at 2:55 PM on October 4, 2011 [11 favorites]


This thread is not about whether Chiropractics are legit or notl, and I don't think anyone is going to be able to convince the OP any more than his own wife can, so I think anybody who wants to do that should probably think twice about posting.

That said, I think maybe the OP should just tell his wife that you took what she said seriously, you looked into it, and you don't think it's appropriate and that you don't feel like taking chances with your health, and that's all there is to it. Just draw a line there and stop talking about it.

That said, I'm willing to bet that your wife probably has a point about you not taking her seriously or belittling her, and if you want a happy marriage, you should probably take a good hard look at how you talk to her when you disagree about things and find ways to get to consensus when you don't think its a serious enough issue to draw a line in the sand.
posted by empath at 3:00 PM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


hey i'm new here, but i have some experience on the other side of this issue that i can offer. i have a friend who is a fact-checker. by that, i mean he has to look up EVERYTHING - every claim someone makes, every statement of fact someone asserts and either correct them or verify it. i think he does this out of curiosity rather than a more malicious reason, but it comes across as incredibly annoying and insulting to some people, to the point where some people don't want to bother talking to him.

i know you said you let inconsequential things slide, so this anecdote may not have direct relevance for you. i believe in being informed when it comes to medical and financial issues, but being aware of how it looks from the other side might help to see where she's coming from. even though you think you took her idea under consideration, she might be thinking something along the lines of "why bother asking my opinion if you're not going to take it?" good luck, hope it gets settled!
posted by carlypennylane at 3:02 PM on October 4, 2011


Maybe she's upset that you take the advice of strangers (to her, experts to you) over the advice of your wife? Sounds like she values input and recommendations from family and friends and you would rather get advice from Consumer Reports-type organizations. That doesn't make her dumb or anti-intellectual, it just means that she prefers to seek out advice from people that she knows and trusts. Try to see it from her point of view.
posted by jabes at 3:03 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


OP, I think a lot of the above answers contain plainly bad medical advice and probably bad relationship advice. I tend to give AskMeFi posters the benefit of the doubt anyway, but I read you as disappointed rather than arrogant or dismissive.

How can I explain my position to her without making her feel like an idiot?

"X, I've done a good bit of my own research into the issue, and there's just not a sufficient amount reliable evidence supporting the use of a chiropractor to address my problem. My concern is getting effective treatment for a reasonable amount of money. The best evidence to date demonstrates that I'm going to get more out of (drugs/surgery/wait-and-watch/PT) then chiropracty. I'm glad to hear your mom had a good experience, but it's just not for me."

Long-term, though, this is one aspect of an issue that tends to be a dealbreaker. You allude to concerns about financial management: have you run into a situation where you think your wife is making unsupported investment decisions? Seems to me that will bring things to a head quicker than medical choices for non-emegencies. How will you address the issue of educating any future kids about health? If either (a) her "folksy/ignorant" streak is unacceptable to you as a value to instill in your future kids and she is unwilling to switch to an evidence-based outlook or (b) you're going to react negatively to her "folksy/ignorant" streak in the future and that is a dealbreaker for her, it's perhaps time to look at couples therapy.

In the interest of disclosing my own biases, I'm a strong skeptic and have ended a few relatiionships based on similar intellectual incompatibilities that I wasn't willing to overlook.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 3:07 PM on October 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


I could have written your question. In the end what has worked for me has been to be self deprecating. Try something like this:

"Oh you know me, I'm too rigid to try anything out of my comfort zone."

"You're right, a lot of people use a chiropractor, and with great effect. I don't know, I'd rather just pop a pill now and again when my back acts up."

"Chiropractors!? I wish I were gutsy enough to be manhandled on one of those manipulation tables. Have you seen one of them? With my luck the sonnava-bitch will paralyze me."

My wife now knows I'm now the "pragmatic square" while she gets to keep the adventurous, go-with-your-hunch, try-something-new tag.
posted by teg4rvn at 3:08 PM on October 4, 2011 [7 favorites]


i think bringing up the example he stated in his question is fair game, especially since it's an example of how she's anti-intellectual. disagreeing with that might show the OP his wife's side - that he isn't 100% right and she's 100% wrong. and, if he's telling her side correctly, i think she would think that he'd be more likely to listen to us than to her and that is the problem.

beyond all the specifics though, some of the best marriage advice i've received is "don't try to be right, try to be compassionate." to me, a good marriage has very little "i'm right/your wrong" moments.
posted by nadawi at 3:09 PM on October 4, 2011


[This very badly needs to not be a thread about chriopractors. Also we don't really do the "tough love" thing here if we can help it, helpful answers, leave the grar at home. Thanks.]
posted by jessamyn at 3:20 PM on October 4, 2011


So, I belong to the group of people in the universe who are treated as anti-intellectual because I support homeopathy, naturopathy, etc along with Western medicine. I am by no means anti-intellectual and have a large family of well-respected Western doctors who in turn feel that there is a place for things like chiropractic medicine in the universe. That aside, I think I know where your wife is coming from.

If you were my husband, and I cared about your mental and physical well-being, I would do my darndest to help you find the support you need within the community, and if I felt particularly strong about something, I would hope that as my husband you'd be willing to give it a shot and give it a try, or just say, "You know what, honey, I want to do what's best, but I'm just not comfortable with that. Will you help me research some other options, and if that still ends up being our best choice, we can go back to it."

However, if I knew that each and every time I gave you a suggestion you went out and researched it usually/often in order to tell me that I am wrong (which is how I am perceiving your behavior in this instance), I would be deeply offended and wonder what the hell was wrong with you. You married me. You knew that these are the things that interest me, that these are the things that I believe in, and if you can't respect me when I seek support from those things in order to support you, my husband, you should reconsider the way in which you operate around me. If that means avoiding absolutely all medical discussions because you can't engage with me in a respectful way, so be it.

I think this might be were your wife is coming from, as extreme as it is, but it's largely because of the of the way you described her (and those of us like her). There is absolutely no shame in homeopathy, naturopathy, or any natural medicine. There is no shame in preferring Western medical practices either. You are free to have your beliefs about medicine, as is she. Ultimately I think this does have to do with the fact that you don't appear to respect her input and she feels (rightfully) slighted. You don't trust her. You look down on her. That much is clear.

So. Would you rather be right, and alone because you've alienated your wife, or agree to disagree, and have a happy marriage?
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 3:41 PM on October 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


Your phrasing of "anti-intellectualism," "willfully ignorant" and "mental laziness" points to the answer. The vibe she's getting from you is that you really do think she's stupid, and when you use words like this ... well, she may be right in saying that's exactly what you're communicating.

This is absolutely 100% the right answer. And also, "when it comes to making important decisions about health and money" = Your health is yours, you ultimately decide what to do with your own body, but any money you share is hers, too, and you don't get to be more right just because you decide you are. Something about your tone reminded me of this comment.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:54 PM on October 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


Everyone who is saying you may be communicating more contempt than you realize are likely correct. It's also a bad sign, however, that your wife can't let it go and respect your way of making decisions, and that you don't trust hers, with feeling the need to veto health/money stuff. There is really no way of resolving this issue. If you can't work as a team and trust each other on medical and financial issues, there's a deep fundamental area of incompatibility in your relationship. Please remember that your wife is the person who gets to make all decisions about your medical care if you are incapacitated by default. You might be able to work out some kind of compromise that lets you keep the love and romance and companionship and family part of the relationship, but you need to seperate out the legal aspects of the marriage ASAP. You need a lawyer as much as you need to work on your communication with your wife. Neither the potential for financial shenanigans or the fact that your wife could have control over your medical care is anything to mess around with.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 3:56 PM on October 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


From the OP:
It's evident that chiropractic was a bad example for me to pick. I understand that there are many well-informed advocates of that and the other alternative schools of medicine some of you have mentioned. No disrespect intended! What I should add is that my wife is not one of those advocates. Her foundation was simply anecdotal.

My wife's positions tend to be dogmatic. There are plenty of non-controversial examples I could've (and should've) used instead. She's been taken in by scams on multiple occasions. She's the sort of person who forwards urban legend emails. I love her completely, I really do, but she has a history of gullibility. I hope that paints a clearer picture of the situation.

That said, many of you have raised some helpful — if humbling — points about my own attitude. Thanks for that; I was due for some introspection. It's also hard to balance "not always having to be right" against "must make smart financial decisions" sometimes but I'm working on it. I am in charge of the household finances anyway, so I usually get the last word. This is not usually a problem unless it's one of these "frictional" situations. Thankfully they really aren't that frequent. Shame on those of you who implied divorce is a good option here, even without the additional context.
posted by mathowie at 4:02 PM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Step 1: Show her this paper: Deaths after chiropractic: a review of published cases. which points out the very real risk of fatal injury from neck manipulation.

Step 2: Accept that none of us are as rational as we imagine ourselves to be. You, your wife, and anyone else you could have married, comes loaded with culturally ingrained beliefs. The "well-informed" positions you hold are not purely based on logical reasoning, and your wife doesn't disagree based only on having a head full of hokum. Your kids will benefit from being exposed to different perspectives, and figuring stuff out for themselves.
posted by roofus at 4:05 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Damnit. You just made an enormous and well thought out answer completely irrelevant...

You seem to not really need help understanding your situation, and I'm not sure what AskMe can really help you with, but from my experience with a relationship with someone on the woo spectrum you might benefit from this. (previously) The advice it imparts has implications far beyond the stated premise.
posted by Blasdelb at 4:13 PM on October 4, 2011


Why not respond to dogmatism with the same? Just say "I don't like chiropractors" and leave it at that. Why rationalize to someone who doesn't respond well to rationality?
posted by blargerz at 4:15 PM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


It may help you to look at the Myers-Briggs system of personality differences and thinking about specific traits and strategies to minimize thinking vs feeling preference conflict, which is basically what's going on. Your wife operates on 'trust' and 'belief' (which is a 'Feeling'-based function in Myers-Briggs terms), while you rely on analysis and doubt/skepticism (a 'Thinking'-based approach). This is actually a very common dichotomy between men & women (though exaggerated by people), and there should be plenty of resources if you research it a bit. It may give you a helpful structure for thinking further about these issues. I favor TypeLogic for its attention to functions (constituent points of 'types'), but any site should give you an intro.

In essence, I'd like you to think about languages (that is, the ways we communicate ideas differently), and about the 'feeling language' and how to translate your thoughts into that language, perhaps. It may involve something like an emotional display, reassuring her you are paying attention, and otherwise giving-- what to you may feel like 'effusive'-- positive feedback, while insisting that this is your preference, or this is a subjective tendency you have to interact with the world this semi-rigid way. You may think it's objective and it may be, I'm just saying-- frame it as subjective. Claim it as part of your Ego while opening up to her-- that is, share rather than inform (style again).

'You always do this', she says, and I'm sure you do, since this is who you are. Like, you mentioned kids-- indeed, it's very important to build understanding of thinking/feeling style preferences in a relationship, especially a working relationship (such as parenting). I think the divorce thing people suggested is a reflection of just how frequent and intense these preference-based conflicts often get in people's experience; if you do not address it seriously, it may become a basis for divorce in the future. It's very difficult long-term to build enough in-depth understanding to reach across the divide, but definitely possible. It's important not to be conflict-avoidant about this but to face the issue directly and constructively. You don't have the luxury to avoid conflict and come off as genuine and 'open' with your wife's type. Note, being upfront/transparent and 'blunt' or tactless isn't the same thing.

She may not understand you immediately, but I'm just saying, make this a long-term project. Maybe get counseling from someone experienced in Jungian personality theory-- but you don't need counseling if you educate yourself, because this is a daily practice sort of thing. Use your analytical strengths to understand and anticipate her responses, and allow for them. It takes a long time for mutual understanding of highly divergent preferences to develop, but in my experience it requires effort but is possible.
posted by reenka at 4:17 PM on October 4, 2011


As a fellow ultra-rational researcher, let me give you a bit of relationship advice:

There will be times in your marriage where you will have to choose between being right and being a gentlemen.

What I mean here is that you can either choose the position of "I researched your suggestion and found that it was just another instance of your gullibility" or "thank you for your kind suggestion love! I'll see if I can get a consultation and decide if a chiropractor can help my condition".

Yes, being a gentlemen will cost you a more. Yes, it may not help you one bit and be a waste of time and money. But, it is also an investment in your marriage as you are actively showing your wife that her efforts to support and nurture her husband are not being rejected or disregarded.

Twenty years from now neither of you are going to remember what this argument was about, but mark my words, she will remember that you categorized her loving support as "gullibility" which many times is taken to infer "stupid" or "ignorant" (even though that is not what you meant, words have powerful connotations).
posted by Shouraku at 4:24 PM on October 4, 2011 [10 favorites]


OP, this does sound more like a control issue than anything else. Your wife wants you to see her as an authority on a variety of issues and topics simply because she's your wife, and she projects frustration and disappointment (and hurt feelings) when you do not reflexively concede that her opinions are valid and correct. In contrast, you don't trust her opinions in lieu of factual, rational supporting arguments, and instead are requiring proof on a case-by-case basis. Her appeal to her own authority grates on you, and your rejection of same grates on her. There's no easy resolution to this. Either she has to see the role she is playing within the dynamic of your relationship and be willing to change, or you must change.

Even with the help of a marriage counselor, that is a very messy can of worms to open and unpack, but it will probably go much better with the help of a knowledgeable and neutral third party. I am not sure you can resolve the root issues, as they may be very entrenched within your personalities, but I do think that a counselor could help you find some healthier ways to work through these issues as they present themselves on a day-to-day basis. If you love each other and are committed to each other, then it would be really worthwhile to reach an understanding on how you can get along and negotiate together. Because the status quo will not get better on its own and will likely lead both of you to resent the other over time.
posted by mosk at 4:40 PM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Only a fool wins an argument with his wife.
posted by Sebmojo at 4:41 PM on October 4, 2011 [11 favorites]


To quote my father-in-law at our wedding.
posted by Sebmojo at 4:41 PM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


If'n you're as interested in research as you claim, you may benefit from checking out the book, Epistemic Injustice, by Miranda Fricker.

The book is about ways in which racism, sexism, and other unwarranted ways that we stereotype people can alter our willingness to accept their testimony -- to respect them as truth-tellers. There's a pattern, in our culture, of dismissing the claims made by certain groups: "Oh, she says X, but she's just a woman, so what does she know?" "Oh, he says Y, but he's black, so why would I listen to him?" Fricker also touches on the ways that certain groups are raised/expected to present information: for instance, testimony from women often is couched in terms of emotions or feelings, whereas testimony from men often is couched in terms of what is rational. So, in a situation where a woman and a man both has the same reasons for making a claim, the woman is more likely to say "I have a feeling X is true," whereas the man is more likely to say, "It's clear from the evidence that X is true." And, if a man and a woman both say the exact same thing, "X is true," the woman is more likely to be interpreted as presenting something like " woman's intuition," whereas the man is more likely to be interpreted as presenting the conclusion to a rational argument. Fricker's book is philosophical in nature, so, while she presents sociological claims, her main point is about what sorts of moral duties one human being has towards another when it comes to accepting or dismissing testimony.

....So how does this relate to you?

I'm not saying you're sexist. You certainly seem to have pretty good reasons for remaining skeptical in light of testimony from your wife. However. Looking into the ways that testimony-giving and testimony-accepting are gendered in our society may help you understand why there is a break-down in communication between you and your wife. Learning about the nature of epistemic injustice may help you become more sensitive to how you go about expressing your beliefs that counter your wife's testimony. In short, understanding the basic social context in which men and women are respected or dismissed as testimony-givers may help you re-evaluate the way you go about communicating your skepticism to your wife.
posted by meese at 5:28 PM on October 4, 2011 [9 favorites]


Is the issue here really her naivety, or your rationality, or is it how you both deal with it? She wants you to believe her because her mother sees a chiropractor, and probably has good things to say about it. You want her to believe in the findings your research has yielded.

Being gullible is not the same as anti-intellectual. My guess is your frustration, as well as thinking she's being dumb, may come across in your tone when you speak to her. That's going to make her defensive, and before you know it you're fighting.

Ultimately, it's your decision which doctor to see, which course of action to take, etc. Calmly sit down and discuss it with her. ("I've done some research and I think this is the way I want to go...") And listen, actually listen, to her thoughts. Don't automatically reject what she says and argue it.

It might take some compromise. Be willing to hear her point of view, and she might be more willing to see yours.
posted by metaphorik at 6:23 PM on October 4, 2011


[at the point at which you are attacking other commenters, you need to either MeMail them, or just take a walk (preferred) and not do that sort of thing here.]
posted by jessamyn at 6:53 PM on October 4, 2011


> What I mean here is that you can either choose the position of "I researched your suggestion and found that it was just another instance of your gullibility" or "thank you for your kind suggestion love! I'll see if I can get a consultation and decide if a chiropractor can help my condition".

With respect to Shouraku, I don't think your choices are as binary as this, and personally I could not bear to be in marriage in which I was required to undertake treatments I considered pseudoscientific just to keep the peace*. How about "I appreciate your suggestion, love, but I've looked into it, and it's just not for me"? If she won't accept this, you two need to sit down and have a constructive discussion and find a way to respect each other's points of view. For you, this may mean being less judgey about her decision-making skills and more gentle in how you talk about things she believes in—and for her, it probably means stepping back and allowing you to make your own decisions (medical and otherwise) in your own way. If you can't resolve this through conversation, a couple of sessions of marriage counselling may help.


* Fortunately, I married a man as sceptical and woo-averse as myself, but I have these conversations with some regularity with my mother.
posted by hot soup girl at 7:11 PM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Your question reeks of contempt for your wife. Your followup suggests you are genuinely concerned with her safety. I would watch your communication and analysis of situations because I think this is where your problems exist.

If you're concerned about your wife being taken in by scams ask her legitimate questions about what she's talking about. Get her to think critically but don't browbeat or manipulate her. She is an adult - she will make her own mistakes in life. I won't touch the chiropractor thing because yes it was a monumentally bad example on your part.

Note that what you're communicating to her is that you don't think she smart and that you won't listen to her and that you don't care about her. Your question suggests your wife is right about the first two - your followup suggests she's wrong about the third. Decide what the priorities in your marriage are.
posted by mleigh at 7:17 PM on October 4, 2011


OP, when your wife gives you a suggestion or advice, how do you initially react, before you've done your research?

I think your wife is a little insecure, and mistakes your natural skepticism for doubting her personally, a kind of disloyalty in her eyes.

For instance, let's say you wanted to get a gift for someone who did a favor for you, and your wife said, "Oh, I know just the thing, my Mom has one--a pink flamingo for their lawn!"

Now this is obviously a terrible idea, which I purposely threw out there because your initial reaction is probably what mine would be: "Good lord, no! Those foul (fowl) eyesores are the bane of civilized existence."

And that's a fine reaction to have, but your initial response--and this is important!--needs to be appreciation for your wife's intentions, not the relative merits of her contribution. (whether it is email, medical advice, etc.).

Why? Because I don't think your wife actually wants to call the plays, she just wants to feel like the two of you are on the same team.

So what you say is something that shows you recognize her intent, like "It's so sweet of you to help me with ________! Thank you. It's good to know you've got my back."

She will probably then feel less defensive if you say a specific idea doesn't quite work for you.

And also, make it clear that you research *everything*, even your own brilliant ideas, because that's just part of your personality.

In other words, make it clear you are dismissing only the idea, and not her.
posted by misha at 7:33 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


My parents have the same issues as you and your wife. It's incredibly painful to watch - my mom's intentions are always good, and she is met with so much condescension that is explained as "research". Your post sounds like exactly something my dad would write. (For example, my mother got really excited at buying my dad a really great birthday gift - and when he opened it, all he said was "Oh, wow, thanks! Did you research these? How did you know what to buy?")

Not everything requires research. Some things that might benefit from research won't be a catastrophe if you make a decision based on opinion instead. For those things, be flexible: let her opinion be a deciding factor. Let her feel that her contribution to decision making is valued. When there's an issue that you just don't want to "risk" this approach on (ie. something that costs a lot of money, etc), involve her in your research and decision making process, so that it becomes a conversation, rather than - yes, ignoring her. Or appearing to. Work through the decision making process with her ("Hey, did you see this article? It says that blah blah blah about chiropractors. Has your mom had that experience? What do you think about it?)

Because, yeah, you sound like you probably always assume that her opinions will be worthless in the face of your research. And that's not really fair.
posted by Kololo at 8:39 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm saying that maybe you should be just a tad more open minded to her suggestion regardless of the lack of scientific method by which she reached her conclusion. I'm saying that maybe the entirety of this problem may not be confined to her alone.

This is the path to a miserable marriage. It's one thing to be "open" to a couch to don't like, or a curtain color you hate for the sake of peace. But subjecting yourself to treatment that you believe is worthless and a scam is breathtakingly subordinate. You can't just "go with it" or you'll be going with things for the rest of your life.

Doing this would not be "being a gentleman". It would be being a doormat. There's a line, and she is crossing way, way over it. This is a thing you will have to do for a problem you have. You don't "owe" her this. Her feelings have to not be hurt by you not following her suggestion.

You must find a way to communicate what you mean. Let her know that you personally need to research these things. It's something you need, and it's not a referendum on how you think about her. If she can't accept this, then she has real control issues- and you're going to have to decide if you can spend your life with someone who has this kind of chip on their shoulder.
posted by spaltavian at 8:40 PM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


She accused me of "ignoring" her, when I had in fact taken her advice into consideration, weighed it carefully, and decided against it.

Did you explicitly tell her that? She might not know you took her advice into consideration at all.

Some of where I'm coming from: someone who thinks of herself as similar to you -- needing to look everything up and verify -- and dated for a while a guy who wouldn't take my word about anything at all, even when I was obviously an expert on the topic at hand. Is there anything that you DO consider your wife to be more knowledgeable than you about? If so, let her know! That's in addition to making sure she knows that you DID consider her suggestions.

Also, for something like the particular example you give, let her know that you're not saying she's "wrong" just that you're more comfortable with another solution. (I'm assuming from what you wrote that that's true.)

Just my $0.02.
posted by INTPLibrarian at 10:28 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Like teg4rvn I could have asked this question. One thing I've come to realise is that her beliefs are not the problem. It's how I react to them. I still haven't got it quite figured out yet but we've only been married 30 years so it's early days yet. Good luck.
posted by night_train at 3:18 AM on October 5, 2011


I have been on your wife's side of things. I would say that it is very likely she grew up in a household where agreeing with someone translates as loving them.

The fact that she is taking her mother's word on something as serious as health, and doing no research of her own says nothing about your wife's intelligence or whether she is anti-intellectual. I am betting that there is plenty of intellectualism just beneath the surface of her fears, and that the reason she gets so upset when you question her (or her mother for that matter, and maybe especially her mother?) is because she feels that you are somehow threatening the peace.

Personally, it took me some time to start realizing that disagreeing is not the same as arguing and that it is not hurtful to disagree with someone. I also eventually realized that there is more love and caring involved in questioning things than there is in just having blind faith in someone. For me, getting to that place of loving logic and research was, in large part, due to seeing a cognitive therapist to treat an anxiety disorder. Who knows what it will be for her, but I think everyone gets to a place a some point in their lives where they realize no one has all the answers and that even moms can be wrong.

My advice:

I would be very gentle with your wife when broaching this subject. Insulting her intelligence will get you nowhere, and the fact is she is probably quite intelligent and just not accustomed to doing a lot of digging out of fear of shaking the foundation beneath her.

Find a way to show her that questioning is caring. Explain to her that for you trust is extremely important in your relationship but that it is reserved for matters of the heart, etc.--that when it comes to anything else you want hard facts and published material backing up your decisions. Tell her that by doing research you are not setting out to disprove her, you are trying to prove or disprove something. Tell her that you would be happy if she ended up being right all the time, but that even if she was, you would continue doing research.

This may seem silly, but I think good journalism can inspire a more than healthy amount of inquisitiveness. Introduce your wife to some good radio shows and podcasts. Radio Lab is great (and all about science for the lay person), as well as Fresh Air, This American Life, and To The Best of Our Knowledge.

Lastly, you could try researching something together from time to time (in the beginning maybe make it something not too controversial) so that you can just go through the process of being curious and investigative together. Show her that your research begins with an attitude of humility. If she feels that your desire to know things comes from a place of love and concern and that you approach your acquisition of knowledge without fear of being wrong and without an attachment to being right then that will do wonders for making her less afraid of doing it herself.
posted by seriousmoonlight at 6:01 AM on October 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


While I'm a big skeptic, I do know of people who've had back pain eased by seeing a chiropractor.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:45 PM on October 4


This. I am the biggest, most sciencey skeptic in the world and I have had severe back pain swiftly relieved by a chiropractor. I know other people who have too. We are not talking about placebo effect. We are talking about a back wrenched so badly I couldn't bend at all, could barely walk, and every tiny step was agony. We are talking about being persuaded, much against my will, to go to a chiropractor in very similar circumstances to your situation - by a (now ex) wife who swore by it. Not wanting to cause grief, I went.

After one treatment the pain was about sixty per cent less and I could instantly bend about forty five degrees, and walk close to normally. After a second treatment the following day I was virtually back to normal. This is something way beyond the possibility of placebo.

I think the reason chiropractors have such a bad name these days is that some of the more unscrupulous ones got ideas way above their station and started claiming that they could fix everything from back pain to eczema. That's a lot of crap. What I do know is that they sure can do something mighty effective with many forms of severe back pain. You're being a bit harsh on your wife if you're suggesting she's "anti-intellectual" because she, too, has heard the many good reports about chiropractic as a source of swift and effective relief from back pain.

My suggestion? Go. Give it a whirl. It'll be good for your relationship with your wife and you may just surprise yourself.
posted by Decani at 7:35 AM on October 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have been on your wife's side of things. I would say that it is very likely she grew up in a household where agreeing with someone translates as loving them.
Wow, this is my mother's family 1000%. Definitely explains some things...

Anyway, I agree with many of the posters in the beginning. Regardless of any "evidence" to the contrary, eliminate the notion that your wife is anti-intellectual or gullible or anything like that. That default attitude, I would wager, is the source of much of the friction. You are applying objective labels to subjective concepts. Her decision making processes and beliefs are probably rational to her, and yours seem irrational to her. So don't put any greater weight on one or the other.

Another thing that the skeptical types (and I'm one of them, to an extent) need to remember is that absence of proof is not proof of absence. And that correlation doesn't equal causation and all of that. (That something isn't sufficiently proven doesn't mean it *doesn't* work, it just means we don't yet know all the details.) It works in both directions: your mother in law got relief from her specific back problem from her specific doctor, that doesn't mean you will (or won't) find the same success. Instead of framing it as a rational decision that chiropractors are bad, frame it as a judgement call on your part.

(Both mindsets are authoritarian, they just believe different authorities.)

And find a way to express to your wife the difference between you trusting her intentions and you trusting her conclusions.
posted by gjc at 7:37 AM on October 5, 2011


Haven't read the whole thread, but it sounds to me that your wife makes decision more on feeling than information. She'll believe one trusted source more than many untrusted sources. That doesn't necessarily make her anti-intellectual. It just means that she relies more on intuition than you do.

Be patient, and explain why you made the decisions you make. Explain that getting information from people you trust is important, but you balance that with a wider variety of unbiased information. Explain that not following her advice in every instance is not an attack on her, it's merely that you decide things differently. You could always *try* her advice. Maybe a chiropractor is just the placebo you need.
posted by cnc at 11:36 AM on October 5, 2011


There seem to be a lot of people coming down on the OP for being inflexible or not understanding when it comes to his wife ... but it sounds like she's also being inflexible and not understanding of him.

Since this sounds like a basic personality difference, one could argue that neither of you is right, or wrong. (Being the kind of person I am, I'd argue that you're right, but that's neither here nor there, nor productive.) Have you tried simply having a frank conversation with her and saying something like "Clearly this is a personality difference between us. I appreciate your suggestions, but you know I'm the kind of person who doesn't want to do anything without researching my options and ultimately making my own decision. This doesn't mean I don't value your input." If she really loves you she should be able to look beyond her own injured pride or whatever is making her react the way she does and accept it, even if she doesn't like it. You, in turn, need to accept that she prefers to take things on faith (and it seems like you do -- the issue I'm reading is your not wanting her to expect you to behave just like her).

If you explain it in an understanding and non-judgmental manner, and she still gets upset about it ... well, then, it's a bigger problem, and this is just one symptom.
posted by the luke parker fiasco at 1:08 PM on October 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


To continue my previous post:

Being a doormat is saying: "Yes mam! I will do what you say instantly without question"

Being a gentleman is saying: "I will give your suggestion a try (or a consultation) because I appreciate your desire to help me and I know that you would not advise me of this if you didn't honestly believe that it would help."

Fun fact: I also am not a believer in chiropractors as well as being an dedicated fact checker. However, part of the reason that I have such a happy relationship is because I know when to give my partner's suggestions a shot out of respect to his desire to help me as opposed to politely disregarding, questioning, or disagreeing with him at every turn.

Sometimes it will be vital for you to stand up and assert your opinion and research. However, sometimes it will be better long term for you to let your wife's efforts to nurture and support you be met with your approval and appreciation as opposed to scientific verification.

This is not a big deal, you are not going to lose your house/life over this. Thus, why not give her solution a shot? This is a perfect opportunity for you to show her that you appreciate her support. Save the "I AM RIGHT!" and "I WILL NOT BE A DOORMAT!" arguments for when they count.
posted by Shouraku at 1:55 PM on October 5, 2011


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