Maybe it’s a work wife—or a college friend your partner recently reconnected with that now gets brought up in more conversations than not. Hearing a name once, twice, even three times seems casual, but when a person’s name is brought up on repeat, that’s when your ears might start to perk up. There’s also a word for it: Mentionitis.
Meet the Expert
Moraya Seeger DeGeare is a licensed marriage and family therapist and in-house relationship expert for Paired, an app that helps you build deeper intimacy with your partner on a daily basis. She is also the co-founder of BFF Therapy.
According to DeGeare, “mentionitis” is what happens when your partner continuously—and consistently—talks about someone outside of your relationship endearingly. At surface level, it’s harmless and OK if there are people beyond your twosome that you can lean on and laugh with. But where it gets complicated is when all those mentions of another person start to read like you’re prioritizing someone else’s feelings and opinions beyond your own coupledom to a point where it feels threatening to your own union.
For example, when your partner’s work wife’s suggestions start to outweigh your own. It could be a movie or a book they suggested; but it also could evolve into ways to handle stickier parts of your life, like how to navigate a recurrent fight you’re having or parts of your routine. (“So and so takes zero time to get ready!”) The minute the repeat mentions start to open up a chasm where it feels like your own communication or connectedness starts to break down, that’s when it could be indicative of a larger issue.
There are also three different types of mentionitis, according to DeGeare:
1) The first is the work wife/husband situation, which is a person they’re spending as much as 40 to 50 hours a week with—it can make sense that that person’s name starts to come up quite a bit
2) The second is a social media habit where they’re following certain people and scrolling and liking a lot of their content, then mentioning what they see regularly and often. (In this case, it doesn’t even have to be a close relationship, but it’s consistent enough for you to notice.)
3) Finally, there’s the lingering ex-lover that gets brought up often enough that you feel like they’re haunting your current relationship. (“They used to do the laundry this way” or “They would always schedule date night.”)
With each one, mentionitis itself isn’t a red flag—it’s more the emotions it can ultimately draw out within your partnership. In other words, when those sound bites from someone else start to make you feel less than, it can chip away at your intimacy and open the floodgates to larger communication problems. (It can also be tricky to identify out loud that all those mentions are making you feel bad about yourself, which can lead to low self-esteem, which results in you passive aggressively picking at your partner…which widens the disconnection.)
Ultimately, it’s about insecurity and trust. If you catch yourself feeling these emotions, it’s great to find a safe space—say, go for a walk together—and surface those feelings. (Try, “I’m feeling a bit disconnected from you and noticing that I get tight and hot when you keep mentioning this person. Can we talk about it?”) In most cases, with mentionitis, you’ll uncover that your feelings aren’t tied to jealousy at all, but something else entirely—say, not spending enough time together. Finding time to talk when you both aren’t feeling reactive is also key.
Bottom line: Mentionitis happens—but it’s how you communicate about it that counts.