View Full Version : Active listening, listening, not listening


VeryTired
03-29-14, 06:54 PM
Sometimes I feel that I live in a surreal world where sound waves travel only in one direction. My partner has many problems listening to anyone, but especially to me, and being in a relationship where I do a ton of listening and he does remarkably little can feel strange. Anyway, I'm quite distressed about this today, and wonder if anyone has thoughts or insights for me. Apologies in advance for the length of this post.

Today my partner came home from his adults-with-ADHD-group reporting that their topic had been active listening. I was excited to hear this--it sounded like a very useful subject. I asked how it went, and he said great, because after the presentation, he was paired to do an active listening exercise with the most annoying person with the least social skills in the group. And she said "I don't want to do this." And he said "I don't want to, either, let's not and say we did." And they just said there while everyone else practiced active listening. So that's how my partner, who's a good contender for being the guy in the world who most needs practice with active listening, avoided it.

As he was telling me this story at dinner, he saw dismay on my face and got up from the table while talking, saying that he could tell I had a problem with something, but that he had no idea what, and that there was no way to find out. By the time he finished that sentence, he was in another room, doing something else. Apparently, sitting there longer and asking me what was wrong wasn't an option he considered. And I was left there by myself, thinking, how can you tell me that you don't know when to use active listening techniques--you need to use them ALL the time, starting RIGHT NOW.

We tend to have conversations that start and stop when he decides they will, without reference to me, and that don't feature equal turns (if any) for me to speak. I am feeling pretty sad about this, and--today, at least--extremely discouraged. I have tried so many things to make this a relationship where both people get to talk and both get to be listened to. And for me, dialogue is at the absolute center of my idea of partnership. I've come to think that it's very possible that this simply can't or won't ever happen between us, and if so, I guess I will eventually have to decide whether I can give up on an important need.

Can anyone offer suggestions about making listening more a part of a relationship in which ADHD seems to impede or prevent listening often? Thanks--

someothertime
03-29-14, 07:14 PM
Yes. It's called the three word game. I kid you not... Each partner has three words... to which the other partner/person must reply with three words before the other can continue...

Try it!

Also, incorporate as many non-verbal methods you can throughout the day.... incorporate his interests.... isolate what is not ADHD ( i suspect that a large portion of his current state is influenced by something deeper and common to all relationships )

Good luck!

think.pink
03-29-14, 09:22 PM
This sounds exactly like my boyfriend, the only difference being we don't live together and though I believe he has add, he won't get evaluated for it. What I say that he doesn't agree with or isn't interested in goes in through one ear and out the other or he will talk over me or tell me how worthless what I'm saying is regardless of how calm, serious, upset, or whatever other obvious emotion I am feeling and portraying. He will walk away or leave, and just puts this wall up.
I've tried talking to him calmly but that doesn't work. The only thing he thinks should happen is only me trying or me seeing things his way or doing things his way bc he doesn't think that he has a problem, but no matter how much I try, he just gets worse and pays even less attention to my needs. I have tried everything but he is one of those people who are impossible. So it's time to break up bc if I give in to him in that way, that means I'm giving up my need to have an opinion and be my own person, and have ideas and thoughts that are different than his, and I'm giving up the possibility of being with someone who will support me in any of my own ideas that he doesn't share or doesn't want to hear. I'm giving up my individuality and will have to forever keep it in as long as I'm with him, and I'll never be able to have a friend who disagrees with him be around when he is bc I'll have to hear him go on about how wrong they are later, and that's if I'm lucky enough to have him not say anything nasty while they are there and chase them away.
If I stay with him, life will never get better. My thoughts and ideas will not even be second to his, they will be not even a number and not worth mentioning bc he won't listen.

In a nutshell, I cannot be myself with him. I don't want to be with someone who can't agree to disagree. What kind of relationship is that? A dictatorship, in my opinion.

So that is my situation, what I have tried, the results I have had, and my decision.

daveddd
03-29-14, 09:28 PM
i don't think any suggestions would help, he doesn't seem interested

i really don't think adhd is preventing him from listening, based off your story it sounds like he is preventing himself from listening to you

dvdnvwls
03-29-14, 09:43 PM
Not wanting to listen and not being able to listen are not opposites; they can easily feed off of each other over the course of a person's life.

Being criticized and/or punished in the past, whether for not listening or for other related things, can create a learned fear response, sending the person running whenever they sense a similar situation approaching. A guy can "prevent himself from listening" because previous attempts at listening have backfired badly.

This is not to say it can't be changed, just to say that blame is not justified as often as one might think.

dvdnvwls
03-29-14, 09:53 PM
Some people don't like it when I use dog analogies about people - to them, I apologize in advance. :)

Many good dog trainers say it's important that when you call your dog you should sound happy so the dog will want to come to you. If you're angry at something the dog has done, being happy and positive can take some effort.

The same thing is quite a bit more difficult when applied to humans, especially humans of whom we have un-met expectations. But making an extra effort to greet any hint of a listening attempt with positive emotion might make a difference. Fear can be hard to overcome; it can also probably feel wrong or silly to think that this kind of touchy-feely could matter to a man, but I think it often does matter a lot.

TLCisaQT
03-30-14, 12:18 AM
Hmmm, first of all, thank for sharing, this almost seemed as if it left you disappointed, especially when you chose not to work on a sill that you knew would have benefited your relationship greatly and not left you feeling so lonely :(

Now, I share some insight that is easier said than done, only because I probably wouldn't have been so great at it, however reading what you typed, see what may have been said; however knowing, that even in my situation, could have not led to a good outcome either.

As he was telling me this story at dinner, he saw dismay on my face and got up from the table while talking, saying that he could tell I had a problem with something, but that he had no idea what, and that there was no way to find out. By the time he finished that sentence, he was in another room, doing something else. Apparently, sitting there longer and asking me what was wrong wasn't an option he considered. And I was left there by myself, thinking, how can you tell me that you don't know when to use active listening techniques--you need to use them ALL the time, starting RIGHT NOW.

So... immediately after, (as that seems the best time for individuals with ADHD), it may have been good to let him know that you would be willing to share how he can have an idea, and just tell him how you were affected by his not doing the exercise "using an I message?? " No maybe he won't get it, or maybe you have to be more blunt - not sure. That way, he will know. Sometimes I just want them to get it. Or you could just say. Hey,,, I'd like to give that active listening a try, because I'm feeling pretty mad right now, would you like an idea why? lol
I dont'know...

My husband is great at talking (and my daughter) they kind of have conversations with others that are more MONOLOGUES... and when I start to talk about things I am interested in, my husband is really not interested, and almost seems annoyed that he has to listen. I used to let it fester in me and not say anything; however now I say "is something more important right now, or would you rather I not talk, because you don't seem interested." I have told him too that I listen to him when I'm not interested and so it would be nice to get the same back

okay, not sure any of that helped... BUT you're not alone :) I think DVD has a point though...just because it's difficult doesn't mean it can't be done ---- it's a skill... that he didn't want to practice :P

dvdnvwls
03-30-14, 12:24 AM
it's a skill... that he didn't want to practice :P
I have been in the position of wanting to practice but being too scared to do so.

TLCisaQT
03-30-14, 12:34 AM
I have been in the position of wanting to practice but being too scared to do so.

What was the fear from? failing? succeeding?

dvdnvwls
03-30-14, 12:49 AM
What was the fear from? failing? succeeding?
No.

As outlined above, from being criticized for not listening, and also for listening well and then taking inappropriate action. It's not an issue of success or failure, it's an issue of the hostile reactions of those around me. Framing it as success or failure misses the point.

dvdnvwls
03-30-14, 02:33 AM
... Or you could just say. Hey,,, I'd like to give that active listening a try, because I'm feeling pretty mad right now, would you like an idea why? lol
I think you vastly underestimate the "threat level" of some of the things you say or recommend saying. I believe you would have more success if you remember that part of ADHD is being hyper-sensitive; what might feel like normal give-and-take to you can very often feel like threatening behaviour to us.

Or, to put it another way, don't talk like this unless you're intending to drive your ADHDer away from you, or if you're itching for a fight.

stef
03-30-14, 03:14 AM
i think he was telling this kind if as an anecdote, then when he saw that you felt bad, completely shut down (I'm not saying he is right!).

think.pink
03-30-14, 04:21 AM
I think you vastly underestimate the "threat level" of some of the things you say or recommend saying. I believe you would have more success if you remember that part of ADHD is being hyper-sensitive; what might feel like normal give-and-take to you can very often feel like threatening behaviour to us.

Or, to put it another way, don't talk like this unless you're intending to drive your ADHDer away from you, or if you're itching for a fight.


I can understand this to a point, but what would be the threat level of the individual he was paired with to do the listening exercise in class?

think.pink
03-30-14, 04:25 AM
i think he was telling this kind if as an anecdote, then when he saw that you felt bad, completely shut down (I'm not saying he is right!).

This I could understand also, but the question remains, why did he refuse to do the exercise with the individual in the class?

sarahsweets
03-30-14, 07:39 AM
VeryTired:
I have been meaning to tell you this for awhile but I think you are an awesome partner. I wish every single person who comes here with complaints about their spouse or significant other would read every one of your posts. You always explain yourself in a way that has helped me immensely see the struggles of a non adhd person in a relationship with an adhd person, and this goes for my non-romantic relationships with non adhd people. I wish some of what you write would become a sticky. So many partners post here that they cant stand anything about their adhd partner and that they are sick of their symptoms and all they want to do is blame, bemoan and belittle. They dont actually want support in dealing realistically with their partner, they want an invitation to the 'bash your adhd partner extravaganza' and really dont want useful help.
The thing about being in a relationship of any kind with and adhd person , is that very often it isnt f**king fair. Its not like we can help most of it, and more often then not none of our issues are meant to hurt someone and alot of times controlling the bad stuff seems impossible. I really do feel bad for some of the people in my life, even the ones who try hard, over and over to understand and learn about adhd. My mom is awesome and struggled to help me cope since I was a young girl and altered her approach with me as an adult. She is a really great person. She has shown tremendous empathy and never belittled me. But I know that my scatter brained thought process and topic hijacking can drive her crazy, and she tried so hard to listen and learn but I will tell you, its hard on her and I get that. I think the difference for me, is that I realize its hard for her and I do try and fix some of my issues. Sometimes I fix them real good, for about 10 minutes before zoning out again and there are times that I seem totally normal and get everything she is saying.

I have had some success dealing with non adhd people and have great relationships.
Then there are people who try and understand what its like to be me and are very patient, but just snap every now and then. Thats ok too, we are all human and they dont hand out best performing partner awards at the academy awards.
I think the thing that sticks out to me with some of your posts and maybe I am wrong but it seems like your partner expects you to do all of the work? I mean, I am totally right there with you when it comes to dealing with an adhd spouse. My husband and I are both adhd and I sometimes seem like the non adhd spouse relating to him even though I have adhd. Sometimes I snap and take those nasty low blow swings at him that do nothing but make him feel like sh*t for being who he is and unable to control certain things because he has a disability. The trick is, I apologize the minute I realize I have done this.

Last weekend my husband slept in until 1030 am (he has narcolepsy and suffers from sleep paralysis.) So when I was irritated at him sleeping so late and feeling like half of the day was wasted, instead of acknowledging he has a disorder he cant control I started saying snarky totally unhelpful things that were meant to hurt and they did. 10 minutes later I hugged him and told him how sorry I was because he didnt do any of this on purpose and I know better. If nothing else, I wish your partner would at least acknowledge that the behavior can be hurtful, even though they didnt mean it. Even though the intention was never to hurt, ignore or dismiss the issues, I so wish he/she was able to apologize for at least, missing out on something that could really help. I wish your partner would be more self ware and ask you whats wrong instead of walking away. I cant remember if you said there was therapy involved but I hope that if their is therapy involved, something can be worked on about being more in tune with what you are feeling. Its really really hard having adhd and being with people we love that do not have adhd. But it is also hard being the non adhd person. I commend you for trying to understand and not snap, for trying to work with, not against your partner. I dont think I actually have a good point here and I am not sure if I made any sense, but its just what I felt and I let it spill out.

someothertime
03-30-14, 10:45 AM
I'll go one step further than the dog analogy...

If a child... say 7 years old... is asked to sit at a table and talk "needs + expectations + other people" for more than 3 minutes... I expect that they would have a trantrum... run to the nearest "Exciting thing".... Now ask the child to do this repeatedly...

Capacity.... is a big factor here... No, I do not think he is a child... But i do think his overencompassing emotion is one of trappedness... trapped from expression, from facilitating valid input....... from the value that no input and just listening gives... I go back to my non-verbal suggestion... and bi-directionality.... if the overarching goals are facilitation of eaches happiness then with simplicity... I see potential to make the focus you ( plural ) rather than you ( singular )...

it takes, time, softness and realignment for us to see this.....

It's been mentioned a few times that deep down there are emotions swirling that go beyond capacity... so it's a real juggling act for you...

If interactions are kept brief and bidirectional.... this would be a huge start...

dvdnvwls
03-30-14, 10:48 AM
I can understand this to a point, but what would be the threat level of the individual he was paired with to do the listening exercise in class?
Nearly zero, because those two people don't have any actual sensitive or difficult issues between them to discuss. Strangers are relatively easy to talk to, if there isn't something like an anxiety disorder in the way. It's in large part about the "emotional investment" in a person and/or situation.

dvdnvwls
03-30-14, 11:15 AM
This I could understand also, but the question remains, why did he refuse to do the exercise with the individual in the class?
He went along with skipping the exercise, a quite different thing from outright refusing. Context is limited here; was he perhaps following along impulsively? Was he sure his conversation partner was not going to be worth working with? None of us know the answer.

someothertime
03-30-14, 11:24 AM
Fear of flaw.

dvdnvwls
03-30-14, 11:54 AM
Fear of flaw.
Yes, can be part of it. Such things get pretty tangled, emotionally. For example, am I really afraid to have a flaw? Maybe. Am I afraid others will see or suspect a flaw? Maybe. Am I afraid of what others might do if they see or suspect a flaw? Absolutely.

I know a few people who see this kind of flaw and who react with compassion and reason. I have to keep reminding myself that it's safe to let those particular people see.

willow129
03-30-14, 12:02 PM
My guess is that he does know (deep down?) why you were upset....well, maybe I shouldn't say this, not knowing him at all. But my interpretation is, he does know why you were upset, he wasn't expecting you to be upset because he was just telling you about his day, and felt very sensitive about having done something wrong that visibly affected you and didn't want to face it and his own emotions regarding having done something to hurt you.

I don't think *you* did anything wrong, for sure no. But maybe if he is very sensitive....well have you guys talked to a therapist? I can't remember if you've ever mentioned that.

I wish I had a solution for you. I'm really really sensitive too but I think I've learned that I have to be open with people about it, and that I feel worse, and other people feel worse, when I put my head in the sand. (I've also had to learn to recognize when I'm doing that.) Contrasted by - I feel so much better when I talk to people about things. I have the benefit of seeing the affects of a family of head-in-the-sanders also so that gives me drive to not be that way :P

I really hope he learns to communicate better with you...

VeryTired
03-30-14, 12:28 PM
Wow, Huge thanks to you all! This is amazing. Last night, I posted my sad post and then went away for a while instead of checking back soon for replies because I was so discouraged. And now I see a whole group of people have been thinking and talking while I was checked out--thanks so much!

I feel honored and privileged to have this much thoughtful, helpful, insightful discussion from so many people, including many of the voices I value most here at the Forums. This is amazing. And also, very helpful. In a way, much of the discussion you all were having while I wasn't here converges toward some key points that really ring true for me.

Dvd, you once again told me something that I should have known--or maybe sort of did know--but can't quite face because I don't have good answers yet for it. I think I will try to talk with my partner about your take on the situation and see if what you say matches his experience at all.

Stef, I think you called it right.

Someothertime, I think you are right about "brief and bidirectional". This is my fault, and I don't yet know how to fix it. My problem is, that's not the kind of conversation I am longing to have, so it usually feels too frustrating to me to try to start there, even if I sort of understand that that's a foundation that's needed before more is possible.

TLC, willow, and think.pink--thanks for the kindness and solidarity. It really helps to hear from others who know what I am experiencing--the problem I was complaining about initially is the cause of a lot of loneliness for me, and it's very comforting to make contact over the issue with others who can understand.

And most of all, Sarah, thank you SO much for your long, generous and thoughtful post! It means a great deal to me. I am moved, encouraged, and inspired by what you said.

THANKS, everyone!

VeryTired
03-30-14, 12:51 PM
(And now I'm hogging space in my own thread trying to catch up on all the discussion that went by without me! Apologies, again, for the length … maybe I'm just thinking out loud here.)

My last post was primarily to say thanks. This one is to say more in response to what I read from all of you. First, I am not sure whether or not I have been fair in describing how my partner is with me. I want to be fair, I often try very hard to be, but come on--how objective is anyone ever, especially when they are feeling hurt and upset?

Something I forgot to mention was that yesterday was a medicine holiday for my partner. Of course that makes a huge difference. His doctor insists he take two days off a month from his Vyvanse. I know opinions differ about this, but it seems to be very important for him to do so. When he doesn't, or delays it, the medication seems to stop working, he gets very irritable, and things are not good. He hopes to be able to take Vyvanse for the rest of his life--it's that useful to him--but he fears that without the holidays he'll have to keep increasing his dosage until he hits the maximum possible dose and then is left with no more options. That makes sense to me, and he really likes and trusts his psychiatrist whose idea this is.

But the medicine holidays are not fun. My hope is that on those days, he'd use what he's learned from therapy and experience to cope without the support of the medication. But he seems to feel he shouldn't have to try much at all on those days because it's all too hard. And now that I think about it, skipping his active listening exercise might well have been part of that not trying.

As for therapy, oh boy. We went to two different couples counselors, each for more than a year. He has previously seen individual therapists (though mostly in the context of other issues) and is no longer eligible for that with his current insurance. But actually, the only thing that has really seemed to help much is the ADHD group--which is part of why I was alarmed that he opted out of this week's project at the group.

I've also been in and out of therapy myself, but it's mostly been useful to me as regards the old setting-boundaries theme, and it's reached a point where I don't see a lot of ways to work on myself there so as to be better in this relationship. I get the feeling that my therapist thinks my being in this relationship isn't an optimal choice, probably because I have often thought/felt that, and of course she only gets her information about it from me.

It was super-helpful to me to read the question from Sarah about whether my partner expects me to do all the work. I feel like that often, but I can't honestly tell you whether I feel that way because it's true, or just because it's my feeling. So this is something I can think about more, and about which I can look around for evidence one way or the other.

My immediate take is that it's pretty true, however. My partner tends to assume and say that all his huge (and admirable and successful) work to re-start his life after several years of total crisis is all he's required to do. He has been brave, strong, committed to that, and it's great. But it doesn't have much to do with me or us--it's HIS journey back to health, sanity, work, life. He has had his hands full with all that while I have struggled to stay patient with some uncomfortable issues in our relationship. And I think it's probably hard for him to see how his recovery isn't directly helping me, although of course I am extremely glad he's doing well. So I am going to think about this more, and try to figure out if I really believe it--and if so, how I can try to talk to him about it.

Posting here is like putting a message in a bottle and throwing it out to sea--and then having it come back fast, direct, full of wisdom and reward. It's kind of uncanny, and really a very fine thing. Thanks again, everyone.

TLCisaQT
03-30-14, 04:28 PM
No.

As outlined above, from being criticized for not listening, and also for listening well and then taking inappropriate action. It's not an issue of success or failure, it's an issue of the hostile reactions of those around me. Framing it as success or failure misses the point.

I think you vastly underestimate the "threat level" of some of the things you say or recommend saying. I believe you would have more success if you remember that part of ADHD is being hyper-sensitive; what might feel like normal give-and-take to you can very often feel like threatening behaviour to us.

Or, to put it another way, don't talk like this unless you're intending to drive your ADHDer away from you, or if you're itching for a fight.

Wow, something about your two posts really just gave me a gut reaction of hurt and hostility (not sure what that is about). I actually value ALOT about things you say, and yet perhaps this just points out to me WHY I get so frustrated with my own spouse when either of us attempt to communicate (and with what some others with ADHD post on here)

Maybe I quite OFTEN miss the point or as you said "vastly underestimate the threat level of some of the things I say or recommend saying"; however, I'm actually trying to offer support of different things that someone COULD try, if said with love and concern or in the moment and it was honest support and feedback, not flippant or rude.

"Maybe I would have more success if I remember that part of ADHD is being hypersentive? Or normal give and take can feel like threatening behavior?"
I'm seriously reading these almost in complete disbelief almost not knowing what to say...

Sometimes I am completed tired of hearing (especially in this support forum) about what we non-adhdérs could do more to support our spouses with ADHD, or how we could better express our needs more plainly or meet them ourselves instead of being helpless "victims," or how we could just be more aware of how sensitive those with ADHD really are, blah blah blah.

I have done all that AND MORE and continue to do all that EVERY FRICKING day of my life!!!! You know what??? it doesn't matter how I flippin say it, I believe those with ADHD will take it as a threat if they want to, HOW DO I KNOW THAT????? because I have and do live it. I can even try a different way, or even ask how I SHOULD or COULD say it and I still get treated poorly if it's not a good time, or used a wrong word, or said it in a way it didn't really mean that.... SERIOUSLY???

And as for me not talking like this unless I intend to drive my spouse with ADHD away from me or itching for a fight??????? have you seen the movie what about Bob???? he has all these quirks and things he does that his wife had to deal with being married to him and yet he divorced her because she didn't like some different music than he did (or something like that) .... whatever..

Yes, I will apologize for hijacking this thread for this, but, I'm upset but no, I'm not sorry for saying this, because I just think it has to be said, not because poor, woah is me, but sometimes living with someone with ADHD, it just seems so one-sided and selfish at times, and maybe it's not intended, but it can be lonely at times.

dvdnvwls
03-30-14, 04:41 PM
Opinionated Post Alert. I'm not being conciliatory here, and I apologize for that. I think this discussion highlights a constant source of conflict in relationships between people with ADHD and people without, and I think "hashing things out" online with people we don't know is very much easier and maybe more useful than screaming at our spouses and partners. On line we can all take each other's problems and questions as seriously as we like, but without the accumulated emotional baggage that can easily choke discussion inside a relationship.

With that, here goes...

Someone who does all the work in a relationship might be surprised to find out that their partner/spouse doesn't agree about what "all the work" even is. (It seems to me that a few may also be surprised to learn that there is no legal precedent for their opinions. :D ) Many times I've experienced the lecture "There are certain things in a relationship (or couple or family) that simply must be done" - but the person giving such lectures apparently forgets that it takes two to build a relationship, and forgets that "must" and "should" are nothing but hidden ways of saying "My opinion is superior to yours, and it's time you gave up trying to have a say in things".

Having a real two-way conversation about "What needs to be done", with both sides willing to be wrong and to learn from each other, can probably seem tiresome and unnecessary to someone who "just knows" what needs to be done - but my point is that anyone who "just knows" is in the wrong already, unless they live alone.

Someone who does all the work in a relationship has the option of simply not doing that anymore - of just waking up one day and deciding that from then on they're only doing what they feel is their share. It will mean that some work goes un-done, at least in the short term. The fall-out from that un-done work might be far more than worth the initial disruption it causes.

Work that I perceive as "already covered" is work that I'm not ever ever going to volunteer to do. If I'm to volunteer to do some work, I need to see it consistently not covered, consistently going un-done, before I will touch it. It may be that this is viewed as "a bad attitude" or something; it may be that there's something I need to improve or change about the way I perceive things; but for now, the fact remains.

It's different if as part of a negotiation process I agree to do a certain thing; I'll do whatever I've agreed, to the best of my ability. I'm very far from perfect, however - sometimes I'm downright bad at stuff - and if you want me to continue to do whatever it is, it's essential that you back off and let me "drop the ball" if I'm going to drop it. If you take over "my" job, I will consistently say "All right - you want it, you got it, be my guest" - and I'll never touch that job again.

If it's a task where you expect I'll likely drop the ball, and it's also a task where you feel the ball cannot under any circumstances be dropped, then please do us both a favour and just do it yourself, or hire someone or whatever, as the case may be.

VeryTired
03-30-14, 05:58 PM
This is heating up. I find myself in the odd position of agreeing strongly with what both dvdnvwls and TLCisaQT are saying.

TLC, I so often feel what you feel and could have written your post word for word. And I think it is extremely common for people in our situation to see/feel this--I think we have many sisters and brothers out there who feel our pain and frustration with this. And I think these feelings are really legitimate, and not thoughtless. We are caring people, experiencing tough things, and the loneliness we sometimes find in our roles in punishing. And I too see the echoes of dvdnvwls' painful past experience front and center in what he says. But that's what makes his post particularly valuable to me.

However: dvd is telling us that it will never, ever look the same way to him or our partners … and I think we have to agree that's probably true, baed on experience so far. I wish this weren't true, but I am quite sure that it is, and I know I have to learn to deal with it somehow. I do get antsy hearing about the idea that if work is already being done, you won't step in to share it, dvd, and I get mad that my partner doesn't seem to see being-nice-to-me as his usual work. But when I read what you wrote, it's obvious to me that this is really how it is for you, whom I like and respect, and probably also for my partner whom I like, respect and love. I have no answers for this problem, but it's good to have a clear description of it.

dvdnvwls
03-30-14, 08:03 PM
... my partner doesn't seem to see being-nice-to-me as his usual work.
I certainly see being nice to my partner as my usual work, but I often don't know what being nice is, to you. If I don't know, then I "be nice" according to what I would like someone else to do for me.

dvdnvwls
03-30-14, 10:54 PM
@TLCisaQT:
There's a misunderstanding here, I think.

I'm suggesting that you find room for a way of thinking that will bring less pain and less frustration for you, not asking you to "take it on the chin" more often. It's about re-framing the discussion altogether, not about one of us being right and the other being wrong.

If you have to declare your spouse wrong in order for you to be right, then the whole thing becomes painful and unpleasant. I'm suggesting a way out; I'm not suggesting that he's right and you're wrong, but instead that the whole right/wrong game is off track.

Fuzzy12
03-31-14, 03:48 AM
PART 1

Listening is something I struggle with hugely. I think, there are two parts to this.

The first is the activity of listening itself. It's hard work and often no matter how much I try I just don't manage it very well. It involves stopping whatever you are doing at that moment, stopping your own train of thoughts, deflecting distractions, comprehending what the other person is saying and being able to think quickly enough to say something useful or supportive. Sometimes just nodding at the right places works. In relationships, more is required and usually your partner knows you well enough to know when you are just pretending to be listening and be supportive.

The second part involves the content of what you are being told. I would like to say that I do want to know everything that my husband would like to share and that I'm interested in all his thoughts, feelings, plans, desires, etc. but the truth is that sometimes I just don't want to know. Sometimes, I'm overwhelmed with my own stuff, sometimes I'm too tired or depressed and sometimes I know that what's on my husband's mind is not going to be pleasant for me to hear. Sometimes that's ok but when the sometimes becomes mostly or always a relationship becomes untenable I guess.

I can understand why you were dismayed..and disappointed. Your partner had an opportunity to learn about active listening, which could have possibly improved your relationship and he didn't take it. Further, I am assuming that you've mentioned to him that you don't feel heard in this relationship and if it was me, I guess I would have felt quite hurt that when he heard "active listening" he didn't immediately think of me and that I'm suffering because of his lack of listening. It would have made me wonder how important I am to him, let alone my needs (not saying that this is what you thought or this is how he feels about you..but this is what I would have thought. Also apologies if I'm just stating the bleeding obvious. :rolleyes:)

Today my partner came home from his adults-with-ADHD-group reporting that their topic had been active listening. I was excited to hear this--it sounded like a very useful subject. I asked how it went, and he said great, because after the presentation, he was paired to do an active listening exercise with the most annoying person with the least social skills in the group. And she said "I don't want to do this." And he said "I don't want to, either, let's not and say we did." And they just said there while everyone else practiced active listening. So that's how my partner, who's a good contender for being the guy in the world who most needs practice with active listening, avoided it.

There have been countless instances in my life where I had the opportunity to learn something that would have been really useful for me (let alone my partner) and I didn't take them. And often I didn't take them just because in that moment there was something slightly more fun or slightly less "effort-intensive" available. I usually kick myself later and sometimes I kick myself even while I'm in the process of neglecting the useful thing for the useless but temporarily more rewarding/stimulating/easy thing.

Maybe that's what happened. Another thing that might have happened is that this is a sore subject for him. Again, I'm assuming you've mentioned it before, and maybe somewhere he knows that he's got a problem with listening, maybe you've had arguments about it, maybe these arguments left him feeling inadequate or hurt (FOR NO FAULT OF YOURS). Maybe his brain in a way is conditioned to not wanting to think about the subject of listening.

[There are certain subjects, which make my brain immediately switch off. It took me a while to realise it but it's true. Certain words push a switch in my brain. To give a silly example, my dad often wants me to do some banking stuff for him but the moment I hear "bank" or "accounts", my mind just blanks out everything. I just don't hear anything after that. Banking has also always been a huge bone of content between hubby and me because he has to take care of all our finances and he hugely resents it. If I did those little, easy things my dad asks me to do, I'd probably learn how to handle bank accounts and be able to take some load of my husband but after all our arguments, I just hate it so much, it's taken on an evil, nasty and completely irrational connotation. I've always sucked at banking, and always will, because I don't allow myself to learn about it.]

Anyway, I'm rambling and I'm not sure if this is relevant. I hope you don't mind me saying but I always get the feeling that your partner seems to really struggle not only with self awareness, introspection but also with awareness of anyone or anything else. (Sorry, I really don't mean that in an offensive way..I just wonder if this is where your problems stem from.)

As he was telling me this story at dinner, he saw dismay on my face and got up from the table while talking, saying that he could tell I had a problem with something, but that he had no idea what, and that there was no way to find out. By the time he finished that sentence, he was in another room, doing something else. Apparently, sitting there longer and asking me what was wrong wasn't an option he considered. And I was left there by myself, thinking, how can you tell me that you don't know when to use active listening techniques--you need to use them ALL the time, starting RIGHT NOW.

Based on this maybe he really didn't make the connection between LISTENING and YOUR NEED. He probably just thought it was an amusing story and shared it with you (much like in school we used to share with our friends, how we shared naughty antics from the class room.). And then he saw your dismay and maybe that's when it all hit him. I don't think he left because he doesn't care about what you think or feel. I think he left because he does care and because it scared him what he was going to hear if he stayed longer. Maybe it was the thought of conflict, maybe it was the thought of feeling inadequate, guilty, ashamed or just wrong or maybe it was the thought of having to deal with something he didn't feel equipped to deal with at the moment.

Sorry, this is all super messy and I might be completely wrong as well. I tend to self project too much.

Anyway, everything I've written so far was about him but I don't mean to undermine your side of the story. I'm just getting more and more confused with my own thoughts and I really need to do some work but I will get back to this.

Sorry.. :doh:

VeryTired
03-31-14, 08:59 AM
Fuzzy--

Thanks so much. This is extremely helpful, and I think exactly to the point. I appreciate so much your taking the time to think so carefully about this and explain it so clearly. I notice that your analysis both matches parts of what others have said here, and what I see happening with my partner at home.

I know in theory that it's hard for my partner to listen to me or anyone. I do know. But I so much need to be listened to that I think I lose track of what I know. I guess my unconscious feeling is that he should be as aware of my need to be listened to as I am of his difficulty listening. But he seldom says "Sorry, I just can't do this now" or "I'm trying to listen but I don't know if I'm getting what you're saying" or other things that acknowledge my need and his difficulty. It's almost impossible for him ever to admit that he can't do something, or isn't sure about it.

Thank you so much for understanding why I was hurt that he didn't show more diligence about learning active listening--that's it, exactly. It means a lot to me to know that someone else can imagine/understand my feeling.

I think what you said about subjects that make one switch off is hugely important here. I'm sure that's what's happening. And I think this fits together closely with some of what dvdnvwls was talking about earlier.

And you interpretation of how his telling me about not doing the exercise was based on his feeling it was just a funny story sounds very accurate as well. I really appreciate the clarity and insight you are bringing to this incident from my life. Really, every word you wrote is so effective an explanation that it's as though you were right here with us, watching the episode unfold.

I can't thank you enough.

Stevuke79
03-31-14, 10:39 AM
VeryTired, I second what Sarah said 100%; if you write a book it should be required reading for any person with ADHD who is married. You clearly work extremely hard to deal with this disability.

My $0.02. It seems that as far as your feelings are concerned, your partner is a bit in denial of the problem. I think that the first step is getting him to acknowledge it. If you don't agree there is a problem, then it wont get solved. You both have to work on solving it. I know you know that and that you have been trying. This is what has worked for me in my marriage (forgive me if this is obvious and you've tried it): Start by asking to discuss what you can do to help make his life easier (better or whatever). Don't ask to discuss on the spot, .. and when you do discuss it, start with you and what you can change. The conversation might go like this:

"We've been having some issues (or tension, or whatever),.. and I'd like to talk about it because I'm sure we can make this better..."
(Obviously, get his buy-in here: "would you like to talk about that? how about this evening over dinner?")
And then... "Let's start with things you'd like me to do differently..."

People with ADHD have a tendency to feel attacked.. which makes sense because we suck with immediate context. And of course the difference between a "conversation" and an "ambush" is context. Let him be ready, .. plan. Immediate shifts are hard.

And when he criticizes you or asks for you to change things, you will basically be role modeling how you would like him to respond to you. So when he sees you trying to learn and being sincere and even trying to change HE'LL be able to do the same and wont feel like he's the lesser partner. (my wording is off, but let me know if what I'm saying doesn't make sense.)

This is harder than it sounds.. it takes years of practice. The first several times my wife and I basically came across like this, "I'd like to talk about some things that ummm.. 'we'.. could be doing better.. why don't you tell me a few things that bug you,.. that way I'll be even more ****** and really rip into you when it's MY TURN!! GRRR!!!!"

But we've worked on it. We've improved since then :)

Fuzzy12
03-31-14, 10:45 AM
Thanks tons Tired. :grouphug:

I didn't read all the other posts so I'm sure that there's lots of repetition and whenever I post I'm worried about either misunderstanding the situation, going off topic or stating what is super obvious anyway. I'm glad if you've found it helpful.

PART 2:

Whatever the reason is that he isn't listening (or can't) the fact remains that you are not getting your need fulfilled of being listened to. In a relationship that's quite an essential need and I can imagine that good communication might be a corner stone of every lasting and happy relationship.

I wish I had a solution. It does sound to me like something needs to change here. I don't really have any answers; I'm just brain storming.

Some (non exclusive) possibilities:

1. He doesn't realise that you really need him to listen to you every once in a while
2. He doesn't realise that he rarely does listen
3. He does realise both points above but is unable to get himself to listen
4. He does realise both points above but doesn't want to listen and doesn't want to change that

1. Again, I'm assuming you've spoken about this. What does he say? Does he say anything at all?

2. As above

3. Does medication help at all? Is he a better listener when he's medicated?

4. I can't imagine that 4 is valid but if it is, it might be time to leave :(

Some things that help me with listening:

1. Keep it short and to the point.
( 1a. However don't leave out any details that I need to know)
2. Don't start with accusations, blame or anything emotional really.
3. Start by telling me that it's important for me to listen (or important for you to talk about something).
3a. Maybe ask first if this is a good time for me to listen (and if not..ask me when a good time would be)
3b. If I'm not in a position to listen (and sometimes I know this) please don't get angry but let's reschedule for another time
3c. It's quite encouraging when I'm requested to listen because someone needs my input, advice or help
4. Don't expect me to listen when I'm in the middle of doing something else (especially not without point 3).
5. If I'm fidgeting, fiddling with something, doodling, frowning, looking away, making strange faces, etc. please just ignore it (my husband finds these antics very annoying, but they all actually help me to focus and if he calls me out on them I get distracted)
6. Don't hold monologues but after a few sentences pause and see if I have any questions (and don't get annoyed if my questions sound as if I don't understand)
7. Tell me what you need from me (i.e. are you just venting/sharing and need me to listen quietly, do you need input/suggestions/advice/comfort, etc...I often get this wrong)
8. Don't expect me to remember anything from previous conversations (or ask gently if I do without getting angry if I don't).
9. Don't get angry if I go off on a tangent (it might be related in my mind). If it's not relevant, just acknowledge it and get back to YOUR point.
10. Under no circumstances expect me to read your mind no matter how obvious something may seem to you or to normal people
11. Try not to go off on tangents yourself ;)


The points above usually make me it easier for me to listen but they all assume that your partner really does want to listen. Maybe they wouldn't work for him but in that case could you just ask him what would work for him?

(And I do see how difficult any of this is if he really just doesn't listen at all. You are totally right. You need active listening pretty much all the time).

RedHairedWitch
03-31-14, 11:55 AM
Edited for clarification of the issue.


Wow, something about your two posts really just gave me a gut reaction of hurt and hostility (not sure what that is about). I actually value ALOT about things you say, and yet perhaps this just points out to me WHY I get so frustrated with my own spouse when either of us attempt to walk to the store (and with what some others with club feet post on here)

Maybe I quite OFTEN just want to walk faster or as you said "vastly underestimate the difficulty of walking up stairs or dancing"; however, I'm actually trying to offer support of different things that someone with a club foot COULD use to walk faster, if said with love and concern or in the moment and it was honest support and feedback, not flippant or rude.

"Maybe I would have more success if I remember that part of having a club foot is being clumsy and slow? Or normal walking pace and dancing can feel like climbing a mountain?"
I'm seriously reading these almost in complete disbelief almost not knowing what to say...

Sometimes I am completely tired of hearing (especially in this support forum) about what we normal footers could do more to support our spouses with club feet, or how we could better express our need to walk faster more plainly or walk to the store alone instead of being helpless "victims," being forced to walk slowly to the store or how we could just be more aware of how slow those with club feet really are, blah blah blah.

I have done all that AND MORE and continue to do all that EVERY FRICKING day of my life!!!! You know what??? it doesn't matter how I walk, I believe those with club feet will take my wanting to walk faster as a threat if they want to, HOW DO I KNOW THAT????? because I have and do live it. I can even try a different pace, or even ask how I SHOULD or COULD walk slower and I still get treated poorly if their foot is sore, or I used a wrong pace, or told them to hurry up in a way it didn't really mean that.... SERIOUSLY???

And as for me not walking quickly unless I intend to drive my spouse with a club foot away from me or itching for a fight??????? have you seen the movie what about Bob???? he has all these quirks and things he does that his wife had to deal with being married to him and yet he divorced her because she didn't like some different music than he did (or something like that) .... whatever..

Yes, I will apologize for hijacking this thread for this, but, I'm upset but no, I'm not sorry for saying this, because I just think it has to be said, not because poor, woah is me, but sometimes walking with someone with a club foot, it just seems so one-sided and selfish at times, and maybe it's not intended, but it can be too slow at times.

Stevuke79
03-31-14, 01:39 PM
When I smell an 800lb gorilla, my instinct is to strike up a conversation with him; here goes:
Simply having ADHD does not equal putting forth enough effort or being considerate of one's partner in a relationship.
For me personally, the challenge of dealing every day with my disability sometimes causes me to forget. I have no right to forget and when I do I am responsible for the hurt it causes my wife.

There! I said it. Now everyone, look that way!! [runs away in the other direction]

I'm just saying, I feel for both sides. I think that someone on the "ADHD-partner" side should acknowledge this. Unrelated, but I think when we don't acknowledge this it adds to some of the nasty stigmas about people with ADHD.

dvdnvwls
03-31-14, 03:21 PM
When I smell an 800lb gorilla, my instinct is to strike up a conversation with him; here goes:Simply having ADHD does not equal putting forth enough effort or being considerate of one's partner in a relationship.
For me personally, the challenge of dealing every day with my disability sometimes causes me to forget. I have no right to forget and when I do I am responsible for the hurt it causes my wife.... I think that someone on the "ADHD-partner" side should acknowledge this.
Well, you just did, right? :)

I do too.

If I may expand on what you said: Simply saying "I have ADHD" doesn't mean everything I do is immune from criticism. Having ADHD isn't an excuse for being inconsiderate in general. It's easy to find situations where I act the way I act because I'm wrong about whatever it is, unrelated to ADHD.

I think the underlying issue being discussed is "When someone with ADHD and someone without ADHD are in a relationship, just how much of the normal set of relationship expectations needs to be thrown out and replaced with something completely different?"

I believe the answer is "Most of it". Starting from scratch on what we expect from each other, and often (especially for those without ADHD but really for all of us) having the presence of mind to recognize "I have an expectation here, and because my partner is different from me I will need to throw away that expectation and replace it with something that's reasonable under the circumstances", is huge.

There are people who don't understand going camping, and who because of that lack of understanding expect everything to be just as it was at home. Either they throw away those expectations and get new expectations, or they spend their whole time camping in the mistaken belief that they hate the experience, just because it isn't meeting their expectations of what living at home should be like.

Some people, once they realize that new expectations are necessary for the camping experience, find that they like it a lot. Others discover "Actually, I dislike this experience even on its own terms".

Stevuke79
03-31-14, 04:11 PM
Right, Dvd, and btw, I know you do.

And I think you hit the nail on the head. I suspect that many relationship problems in general may stem from not "setting expectations". To an extent we all assume that we have our expectations that every normal person should be willing to agree to.. and when t's something like ADHD those assumptions are all the more problematic. But I think it's a key mistake in any relationship.

someothertime
03-31-14, 04:50 PM
Am I totally naive in thinking it's a phallacy that an adult relationship MUST contain sharing of all duties and lives? ( EDIT: Yes, there are skills and interralational minimums most adders need to work hard at expressing/showing/pacing.... and I so get what Very says about needing that verbal re-inforcement / connection from time to time )

I mean, I know us adders have a tendancy to pideon hole ourselves in our comfy spots... but is there anything wrong with two partners having seperated areas and self determined modes of addressing them... Sounds a bit isolating... though negotiation often breeds murkiness with day to day stuff...... Which creates clouds that don't need to be there......

An interesting observation on..... um..... SirSchmdts thread.... also for myself.... that when we were partnered.... the "noise" prevented us from doing ANYTHING.... then once we lost the external "requirement".... there was nothing left but to start getting busy....... and active..... this is not a judgement on anyone.... merely an interesting observation about what breeds "spark" in us...

EDIT: I need to add out of respect for Very... "noise" is in no way intended to be negative.... let's say.... competing structure or emotional juggling balls... .... hope that makes it clearer...

dvdnvwls
03-31-14, 05:19 PM
Am I totally naive in thinking it's a phallacy that an adult relationship MUST contain sharing of all duties and lives? ( EDIT: Yes, there are skills and interralational minimums most adders need to work hard at expressing/showing/pacing.... and I so get what Very says about needing that verbal re-inforcement / connection from time to time )

I mean, I know us adders have a tendancy to pideon hole ourselves in our comfy spots... but is there anything wrong with two partners having seperated areas and self determined modes of addressing them... Sounds a bit isolating... though negotiation often breeds murkiness with day to day stuff...... Which creates clouds that don't need to be there......

An interesting observation on..... um..... SirSchmdts thread.... also for myself.... that when we were partnered.... the "noise" prevented us from doing ANYTHING.... then once we lost the external "requirement".... there was nothing left but to start getting busy....... and active..... this is not a judgement on anyone.... merely an interesting observation about what breeds "spark" in us...

EDIT: I need to add out of respect for Very... "noise" is in no way intended to be negative.... let's say.... competing structure or emotional juggling balls... .... hope that makes it clearer...
Could you clarify what "sharing of all duties and lives" means for you?

I got a mental image of a couple, his hand on the left side of the trash container, her hand on the right side of the trash container, walking out to the curb together, sharing every duty. :)

someothertime
03-31-14, 06:08 PM
That's just it isn't it... the mental images we form.... vs the living skills and mind patterns we manifest... yet underneath lies two very wonderful people :)...

If we could only throw it all out the window ;)

Does this mean that one needs to be very very careful and considered about what one TRULY needs? It seems MrTireds lack of clarity on that is preventing relationship growth / connection... + capacity....

Very seems fairly clear on what she needs... and to her infinite credit, is demonstrating a capacity to alter the mode... so to speak to try and make inroads...

dvdnvwls
03-31-14, 06:13 PM
That's just it isn't it... the mental images we form.... vs the living skills and mind patterns we manifest... yet underneath lies two very wonderful people :)...

If we could only throw it all out the window ;)
OK, but what did you really mean? Either you meant something or you didn't. :)

someothertime
03-31-14, 06:14 PM
Yeah, pretty much your mental image is one extreme that is true to my thought... though my reference was to this tendancy in everyone to "picture" some sort of fantasy which is almost ALWAYS far far from reality...

When I behaved like Very's significant other... I had no picture...... my emotions were clouded by things in front of me that allowed me to invest "responses" rather than "actions"....... On second thought.... I had no picture of my needs in terms of realtime... I did have some hazy wild daydream about lala couple fun 24x7 ( endless honeymoon period )

daveddd
03-31-14, 06:37 PM
very tired

have you tried any active listening practices with your husband

since he doesn't like the group thing

a very good mix of adhd specific communication problems here, i don't remember if i shared this before

http://books.google.com/books?id=nyaobFUD2BUC&pg=PA154&dq=pitfalls+like+interrupting+or+not+listening+are +so+common+in+adhd&hl=en&sa=X&ei=b-05U_iLJ8G2sASRkYCwBw&ved=0CC0Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=pitfalls%20like%20interrupting%20or%20not%20list ening%20are%20so%20common%20in%20adhd&f=false

dvdnvwls
03-31-14, 06:39 PM
Yeah, pretty much your mental image is one extreme that is true to my thought... though my reference was to this tendancy in everyone to "picture" some sort of fantasy which is almost ALWAYS far far from reality...

When I behaved like Very's significant other... I had no picture...... my emotions were clouded by things in front of me that allowed me to invest "responses" rather than "actions"....... On second thought.... I had no picture of my needs in terms of realtime... I did have some hazy wild daydream about lala couple fun 24x7 ( endless honeymoon period )
OK, what do you think really might work then? Rather than a fantasy extreme, what are you really hoping will happen?

Stevuke79
03-31-14, 09:00 PM
When I smell an 800lb gorilla, my instinct is to strike up a conversation with him; here goes:

I meant elephant. Like elephant in the room. Doh!

VeryTired
03-31-14, 10:04 PM
Steve--

There is much for me to ponder in what you wrote, sharing your and your wife's experience working on communications. I am going to think more about the idea of my partner being in denial--this seems possible. I like what you said about sincerity and modeling. And thank you SO much for the kind encouraging words!

In your subsequent post, about sometimes forgetting, where you said "I have no right to forget and when I do I am responsible for the hurt it causes my wife."--well! I just want to say thank you for the courage it takes to say something like that. I really admire the spirit in which you said it, and think your wife is a lucky woman. I have a feeling that happiness and success in partnership, for me at least, depends on both parties being able to say things like that to each other. So I am impressed and inspired by hearing you say this here.

Fuzzy--Part 2 This is equally as illuminating as your part 1 was, and I am much in your debt for this lengthy, thoughtful exposition. The part about what helps you to listen was especially helpful--to see it all explained and laid out in a list is very illuminating.

Someothertime: I take your point about the noise! I feel that way myself, actually, sometimes. And as to whether couples need to do everything together, of course not. Every couple has to find its own right way to do things. But in the case of my partner and myself, we seem to have reached a point of doing almost nothing together, so perhaps that's part of why the non-listening thing feels like one straw too many for a weary camel.

someothertime
03-31-14, 10:43 PM
Truth

dvdnvwls
03-31-14, 10:54 PM
VeryTired, I'm making a wild random stab in the dark here. This may have nothing to do with anything in your husband's situation. It's something that matters for me, and that's why I've mentioned it.

There's another thread going on right now, in the Relationships & Social Issues section, called "Touch Sensitivity". I'm not referring to any one post in the thread, but just bringing up the general topic of physical-ness and touch. I remember some very very difficult times feeling abandoned and alone because touch of any kind had faded from the scene. Whether I was right or wrong or neither to feel that way, that's the way I naturally am. Being with someone who found touch difficult whenever there were other issues to deal with, combined with there being a lot of issues to deal with due to 20 years together with un-diagnosed ADHD, meant that I ended up feeling like a victim of unintentional torture. I'm aware that that sounds over-dramatic; under the circumstances as they were at the time, I assure you that the choice of words is appropriate.

RedHairedWitch
04-01-14, 06:52 AM
Random thoughts:

* Is he the number of things he is current working on at his limit? When treating a disorder, relearning many things and doing self improvment, there are only so many thing any person can take on at one time. And some things have a progression, you can't start working on one, until you've worked on the other.

* Is a major need of his, that helps motivate him to listen, not being met? Such as dvdnvwls' example of touch. (http://www.addforums.com/forums/member.php?u=69356)

* Is listening one of his worst and strongest symptoms? And therefore will take much more work and time than dealing with others?

* Are the only things, or majority of things, he has to listen to throughout his day negative? How often do you guys talk about nice, enjoyable, happy, light and fluffy things? Does he get any of that outside the home? What would be his motivation to listen more if every conversation is a downer, or hard, or painfilled?

* stuck in a class with someone who doesn't want to do the exercise. Just agreeing not to do the exercise is the easy route that doesn't rock the boat. Especially if the exercise feels silly, or embarrassing, or awkward.

VeryTired
04-01-14, 07:40 AM
another interesting turn of discussion here!

dvd--thanks for calling my attention to that other thread. I hadn't seen it, and it's very interesting. I think this one doesn't actually apply, at least not directly, to my partner and myself. Or if it does, only in a complicated and subterranean way. In times of stress, it's been my partner who has retreated from touch, but I am certainly going to keep thinking about other ways in which this issue may be affecting us.

RHW--I think your first "random" thought is right on the money. Thanks so much for suggesting this. I think this may be the real, biggest issue from my partner's point of view. He is in school (not easy when you're middle aged!), handling some big issues with his kids, and coping with some challenging on-going physical health issues. That's a lot. He works extremely hard at the different sectors of his life, but always seems to feel he has to let one thing slide to do another--he can't keep adding responsibilities.

It would take too long to give all the specifics, but basically, I would say he has (for now at least) given up working on accommodating my emotional needs, or on communicating with me, because he is heavily investing time and energy elsewhere. As you say, there's only so much a person can take on at one time. That really makes sense.

The problem from my point of view is that I have a partner who persistently finds himself in situations where addressing my doesn't make it into the top three priorities (which are the only ones to get significant airplay)--and that I am a person who sees partnership as involving a higher level of continual and ongoing engagement than he does. The first point may be an issue of how he prioritizes, and the second is probably closer to what dvdnvwls often speaks about as regards expectations. And we can all see how disparities in expectations can torpedo relationships.

Heartfelt thanks, again, to everyone who's helped to illuminate the situation I originally posted about. I have learned a lot here.

GRbiker
04-01-14, 11:25 AM
I would like to go back to the OP that might help understand this a bit better.


Today my partner came home from his adults-with-ADHD-group reporting that their topic had been active listening. I was excited to hear this--it sounded like a very useful subject. I asked how it went, and he said great, because after the presentation, he was paired to do an active listening exercise with the most annoying person with the least social skills in the group. And she said "I don't want to do this." And he said "I don't want to, either, let's not and say we did." And they just said there while everyone else practiced active listening. So that's how my partner, who's a good contender for being the guy in the world who most needs practice with active listening, avoided it.

I must say that if I had the misfortune to be paired with "the most annoying person with the least social skills" to do any sort of exercise other than running the other way, I would have acted just like Mr. Tired. Especially if they expressed such a bad attitude towards the endeavor. Why waste time trying to persuade Ms. Poopypants to do something she doesn't want to do?

Now, it would have been great if your partner would have chalked that up to the luck of the draw and then tried to see if someone else with a better attitude would like to do it again. Maybe there wasn't time, who knows?
But I know that I have a hard time persevering when road blocks come up, especially when it involves interacting with others who I am not familiar or comfortable with.

I have been in similar situations and my partner was also confused and disappointed that I didn't respond more successfully to an opportunity for growth. I felt hurt that there was this expectation that I could rise above and make lemonade out of the lemons I was given in a situation that required more nuanced social interaction and quick thinking than I was able to do.

VeryTired
04-01-14, 03:11 PM
GRb--

Good point, and you're funny too. Thanks!

dvdnvwls
04-01-14, 03:24 PM
Further to GRbiker's post:
Sometimes anecdotes such as the one described in the original post might have an implied statement "You know how I am, you can see how this would have been ridiculously impossible for me, right?" - expecting to hear back something like "Aww sweetie what a position to have been in, I get what you mean."

Hints and implications are a very very tough area of communication. Most people use them to some extent. Those tools of (non?)communication often fail, but removing all hints and implications from our conversation and being literal and complete all the time seems a terrible option for various reasons.

GRbiker
04-01-14, 04:29 PM
That brings up a question that has plagued me for some years now.

What happened to the humor in life?

I used to be able to laugh about my foibles after a period of time, now that seems like it never happens and may not ever again. Are the stakes that much higher? I know that my mind and hand would be loads steadier if I felt that there wasn't so much to lose.

Not to diminish the seriousness of the topic, but maybe Mr. Tired feels the same humor deficit.

VeryTired
04-01-14, 09:07 PM
GRb--

I probably shouldn't speak for my partner, but to me it seems that he often seems to get angry or defensive so quickly that we don't always make it to recognizing the humor in our troubles. Maybe it's me, too, but my perception is that he is further from letting humor in than I am these days. I guess it doesn't matter--I can still try to find the elements of humor when the going gets tough, whether or not he is doing the same.

Maybe as we get older, the stakes of life problems get higher, so we are less apt to respond with humor? I dunno ...

daveddd
04-02-14, 06:08 AM
another interesting turn of discussion here!

dvd--thanks for calling my attention to that other thread. I hadn't seen it, and it's very interesting. I think this one doesn't actually apply, at least not directly, to my partner and myself. Or if it does, only in a complicated and subterranean way. In times of stress, it's been my partner who has retreated from touch, but I am certainly going to keep thinking about other ways in which this issue may be affecting us.

RHW--I think your first "random" thought is right on the money. Thanks so much for suggesting this. I think this may be the real, biggest issue from my partner's point of view. He is in school (not easy when you're middle aged!), handling some big issues with his kids, and coping with some challenging on-going physical health issues. That's a lot. He works extremely hard at the different sectors of his life, but always seems to feel he has to let one thing slide to do another--he can't keep adding responsibilities.

It would take too long to give all the specifics, but basically, I would say he has (for now at least) given up working on accommodating my emotional needs, or on communicating with me, because he is heavily investing time and energy elsewhere. As you say, there's only so much a person can take on at one time. That really makes sense.

The problem from my point of view is that I have a partner who persistently finds himself in situations where addressing my doesn't make it into the top three priorities (which are the only ones to get significant airplay)--and that I am a person who sees partnership as involving a higher level of continual and ongoing engagement than he does. The first point may be an issue of how he prioritizes, and the second is probably closer to what dvdnvwls often speaks about as regards expectations. And we can all see how disparities in expectations can torpedo relationships.

Heartfelt thanks, again, to everyone who's helped to illuminate the situation I originally posted about. I have learned a lot here.

look if you love someone there is always a few minutes in your day for them, no matter what

you, of all people deserve it!

i just thought of a stupid exercise i did awhile back that helped

you can block out 20 minutes when you guys aren't together (important to keep the anxiety out of his eyes), text or email a conversation back and forth

a topic with some importance , but not to emotional evoking

try it a couple times till you get a decent back and forth

wait a day for any emotion to subside (the refractory period of emotions can take over our cognition for hours , even after the emotion is gone)

then while his meds are active, sit across from each other and read it back and forth like a script

he can be in the moment cognitively , and see its kind of nice to communicate with your wife



and who knows a little practice and he could get great

VeryTired
04-02-14, 08:32 AM
Thanks, daveddd--that exercise sounds like a good idea. Maybe we'll give it a try.

Fuzzy12
04-02-14, 08:39 AM
look if you love someone there is always a few minutes in your day for them, no matter what

you, of all people deserve it!

i just thought of a stupid exercise i did awhile back that helped

you can block out 20 minutes when you guys aren't together (important to keep the anxiety out of his eyes), text or email a conversation back and forth

a topic with some importance , but not to emotional evoking

try it a couple times till you get a decent back and forth

wait a day for any emotion to subside (the refractory period of emotions can take over our cognition for hours , even after the emotion is gone)

then while his meds are active, sit across from each other and read it back and forth like a script

he can be in the moment cognitively , and see its kind of nice to communicate with your wife



and who knows a little practice and he could get great

I think if you love someone you always WANT to have a few minutes for them (or much longer) but you can still find yourself incapable of doing that, doing it in the right way, remembering to do that or just noticing that you are not doing it.

I love the texting idea. For me, texting is the easiest ad most relaxing form of communication. I can do it at my own pace, it's quick, brief to the point, it doesn't put me under pressure to perform IN THE MOMENT, etc.

I still forget to text people or don't feel like doing it but it's much easier than picking up the phone or being face to face with someone. Just if you text don't forget to include in your text that you are expecting a reply.

VeryTired
04-02-14, 09:08 AM
Fuzzy--

This interests me because I am beginning to think that the world divides itself into texters and long-form-era when it comes to communications styles. And I am pretty sure my partner is a texter. Of course this often drives me crazy, since (no surprises here, right?) I am almost always happier with a lengthy, elaborated, full sentence e-mail, or a fully dialogic, face to face (of phone) conversation. In addition to preferring texting, my partner uses it in what I think are somewhat unusual ways. The cumulative effect of his texting is often to make me feel slightly bullied, since I often can't get the responses I want from him via text, and he seems to be firing off these terse, incomplete little messages when he wants, as he wants, without much recognition of how they will seem to the recipient.

I think my partner loves to text me because in that medium, he controls what is being said--I can't quickly or easily raise other issues, or make connections, or respond at length. Feelings are less likely to be discussed in texts. Also, he will text me and then turn off his phone, so I can't raise questions or objections. He will text me with little bulletins about whatever he wants to say, but usually leaving out info that I feel I need to respond or deal with what he's said. For instance, he'll text me asking to meet him at the pool at a certain time, bringing his towels and bathing suit, but he won't say where he is, so I can't estimate whether it's really easier for me to go pick up his stuff than for him to do so himself. He won't tell me why he wants me to do that, and there is no mention or consideration of where I am or what I am doing. To me, the efficient way to handle this would be with a phone call to check in, and to figure out together how best to get both of us and our stuff to the pool.

He will also send texts that are reports on his day when big things are happening, but then not indicate how he feels about those experiences, whether he needs support, if I am supposed to respond in a particular way. He also tends not to respond to texts that I send him, since he doesn't keep his phone on unless he wants to send a text himself. It often feels to me like the opposite of communication--since I would define communication as a two-way street. He seems to feel a need to prevent or limit that two-wayness as much as he can.

So these are texting difficulties for us--but I have a feeling that he would like your idea of text exchange as a positive thing, if we could somehow get on the same page about expectations for texting. I am wondering if text is other people's preferred method also?

stef
04-02-14, 09:31 AM
Whoa! BESIDES the adhd - maybe this is just how he communicates. I mean, maybe you are very "verbal" and he is NOT.

It's not an issue in my marriage, it's just how we are - but I use LOTS of language, and my husband, the strict minimum.
it goes out to even the kinds of books we enjoy.

Fuzzy12
04-02-14, 09:58 AM
That brings up a question that has plagued me for some years now.

What happened to the humor in life?

I used to be able to laugh about my foibles after a period of time, now that seems like it never happens and may not ever again. Are the stakes that much higher? I know that my mind and hand would be loads steadier if I felt that there wasn't so much to lose.

Not to diminish the seriousness of the topic, but maybe Mr. Tired feels the same humor deficit.

I think, humour used to be a very important coping mechanism for me when I was younger. I used to joke all the time about my inability to follow directions, to remember anything, being disorganised and messy, etc.

I probably stopped when I met my husband. He didn't see the funny side of my issues and he thought that me joking about them meant that I didn't take my issues seriously or care enough. Since my diagnosis though he's been trying to be more easy going and to see the lighter side of my impairments.

Also now, I guess, the consequences of all my mess ups are much worse. It just doesn't seem that funny anymore.

someothertime
04-02-14, 09:58 AM
this guy sounds so much like me... red's post really put this back on point and i know this is self referencing and not quite directly related to the original topic...

with my therapist... she has used the word shyness in every session... it's kind of a polite way to not use the word avoidant or emotionally "inhibited"... it works though... it's a really gentle way of optimistically saying that your inhibited... or running in some way....


if it is... that is where the best result will be found... for me, this has come from mindfulllness/act.... meds..... seeing how it influences every aspect of my expression...... taking ownership of how it effects everyone i interact with but most importantly, how it prevent my true feelings from being worked through and my true self and passions from being lived... one must have tools though....... without those....... all roads lead back to self blame...

it's kind of hard for you because from a partner, these things ( in my mindset then and somewhat now ) are to be hidden... so any "style" of communication that draws "activeness" and "engaging fear with love and sincerity"... will be a godsend... it is a really tough question.... how to be equals, yet help...... maybe it not a good idea to help, other than direct outside work on this stuff.... i dunno.... just wanted to throw that word in....


shyness...


and it's effect on everything!

Fuzzy12
04-02-14, 10:19 AM
I can write very, very long texts ;)

I'm not really a very brief communicator. I struggle to express myself well and I'm never sure what's important or relevant so I have a tendency to include all details. I too actually find it annoying when I text (or e-mail) someone with a list of questions and they reply incompletely or only to one question. When I need immediate and detailed answers, I do phone.



I think my partner loves to text me because in that medium, he controls what is being said--I can't quickly or easily raise other issues, or make connections, or respond at length. Feelings are less likely to be discussed in texts.

All reasons for me to prefer texts as well though I can see that this can be very problematic for the other person and for communication in general.

Also, he will text me and then turn off his phone, so I can't raise questions or objections.

That's not really communication then. He is just making announcements (or giving orders) rather than talking to you. Why does he turn off his phone? I mean what's the reason that he gives?


He will text me with little bulletins about whatever he wants to say, but usually leaving out info that I feel I need to respond or deal with what he's said. For instance, he'll text me asking to meet him at the pool at a certain time, bringing his towels and bathing suit, but he won't say where he is, so I can't estimate whether it's really easier for me to go pick up his stuff than for him to do so himself. He won't tell me why he wants me to do that, and there is no mention or consideration of where I am or what I am doing. To me, the efficient way to handle this would be with a phone call to check in, and to figure out together how best to get both of us and our stuff to the pool.

All of that would annoy me as well but then as mentioned above I do struggle sometimes with knowing what's relevant and what isn't. I usually deal with it by being too elaborate but I still miss out important details.

A phone call (or at least a two way interchange of several texts) would be more efficient but sometimes efficiency isn't always possible, at least not to the extent you would like or to the same extent as other couples (or maybe couples where one partner doesn't have ADHD).

I think I'm more like you in a way in that I need to know the full picture before I make a decision. I don't follow orders very well. I'd like to make up my own mind and I sometimes annoy my husband with all my what's and why's.

I'm not sure if this is a good idea but what happens when you communicate like him? (of course this requires for him to be available for communication..to keep his mobile switched on).

For example:

Mr VT: "Can you do XYZ?"

Mrs VT: "No, I'm sorry, I can't."

What happens when you don't wait for him to consider or inquire about your situation or needs but just tell him what your needs are or when his needs are conflicting with yours and so you can't do whatever it is that he wants you to do (and then just don't do it..rather than finding a common solution)?

VeryTired
04-02-14, 12:01 PM
Hi, again, guys--

This discussion has gone in very different ways, and they're all interesting and valuable to me, but I almost wonder if we should start a new thread for all the new topics … though I wouldn't know what to call it! I guess we're now just talking about communication in general. Anyway:

Fuzzy, I'm sorry to hear that about loss of humor. It's sad. Maybe we just have phases when humor is more and less available, and so at some point this will change again?

Someother--the thing I am trying to understand is where shyness might be in the mix for someone who can be relentlessly confident and who tends to take up a lot of space and airtime in conversations. That's my partner--I certainly believe that one can feel shy and seem confident, but how to interpret that tangle is a bit beyond me right now.

Fuzzy, again--you asked lots of good questions in your last post! I ask my partner why he always turns off his phone when he isn't planning on texting and he doesn't ever really answer. It's obviously an idea that makes him very uncomfortable. To me it looks as though it makes him uncomfortable for someone to break in on his concentration with a ringing phone, distracting him. But--that's just a guess.

I'm interested that you say you're more like me in wanting more info to make decisions … it's too easy for me to fall into the pattern of thinking "My partner is unlike me. He has ADHD and I don't. Thus, his differences from me must be related to ADHD." Similarly for assuming differences are based on gender. Sometimes, people are just different from each other, or similar to each other, without reference to these categories!

What would happen if I followed my partner's communication style? Great question. I think he'd probably quite like it … but it might be more than I could take to do it! So that's an extremely important realization for me. I was framing this as "Look what he does! It's a problem! I don't like it!" But of course we could also see it as "Look what I do! It's a problem for my partner! He doesn't like it!" I am certainly very attached to what you called "finding a common solution" and I've never really questioned that.

So, I am going to mull over why I so hate the idea of this communication style, and whether it would be a good thing for me to learn to change … kind of like learning a new language in order to communicate with someone from another country. It may feel alien to me, but it is probably necessary if I want that communication to occur …

thanks!

daveddd
04-02-14, 12:05 PM
Shy and confident

ADHD thing

Depends if the topics personal and emotions are involved

I can quickly switch

Concrete topics. Talk all day

Interpersonal matters I Shut down and flee

RedHairedWitch
04-02-14, 07:51 PM
Hi, again, guys--

This discussion has gone in very different ways, and they're all interesting and valuable to me, but I almost wonder if we should start a new thread for all the new topics … though I wouldn't know what to call it! I guess we're now just talking about communication in general.

It's so cute how hard you try to keep a bunch of people on an ADHD forum on task and on topic. :p

My man's a talker. In person, by email, instant messaging, text. We break gender stereo types that way. He will go on and on and unpack every thing and every topic.

I'm a short sentences kind of person. Even when we are messaging back and forth, he will write one entire letter, multiple paragraphs. I fire off one sentence. Send. Then another. Send. Then a single word. lol. Send. Rapid fire in bite sized pieces.

Some times people see how we converse and communicate and think he may be domineering or something. Because he is talking and talking and sorting out whatever decision. And I'm like "Yup." "Uh huh." "Okay" "Let's do this"

What they don't see is that while I use the least amount of words. I get final say :giggle:

dvdnvwls
04-02-14, 08:28 PM
This interests me because I am beginning to think that the world divides itself into texters and long-form-era when it comes to communications styles. And I am pretty sure my partner is a texter. Of course this often drives me crazy, since (no surprises here, right?) I am almost always happier with a lengthy, elaborated, full sentence e-mail, or a fully dialogic, face to face (of phone) conversation. In addition to preferring texting, my partner uses it in what I think are somewhat unusual ways. The cumulative effect of his texting is often to make me feel slightly bullied, since I often can't get the responses I want from him via text, and he seems to be firing off these terse, incomplete little messages when he wants, as he wants, without much recognition of how they will seem to the recipient.

I think my partner loves to text me because in that medium, he controls what is being said--I can't quickly or easily raise other issues, or make connections, or respond at length. Feelings are less likely to be discussed in texts. Also, he will text me and then turn off his phone, so I can't raise questions or objections. He will text me with little bulletins about whatever he wants to say, but usually leaving out info that I feel I need to respond or deal with what he's said. For instance, he'll text me asking to meet him at the pool at a certain time, bringing his towels and bathing suit, but he won't say where he is, so I can't estimate whether it's really easier for me to go pick up his stuff than for him to do so himself. He won't tell me why he wants me to do that, and there is no mention or consideration of where I am or what I am doing. To me, the efficient way to handle this would be with a phone call to check in, and to figure out together how best to get both of us and our stuff to the pool.

He will also send texts that are reports on his day when big things are happening, but then not indicate how he feels about those experiences, whether he needs support, if I am supposed to respond in a particular way. He also tends not to respond to texts that I send him, since he doesn't keep his phone on unless he wants to send a text himself. It often feels to me like the opposite of communication--since I would define communication as a two-way street. He seems to feel a need to prevent or limit that two-wayness as much as he can.

So these are texting difficulties for us--but I have a feeling that he would like your idea of text exchange as a positive thing, if we could somehow get on the same page about expectations for texting. I am wondering if text is other people's preferred method also?
There's a possibility of a "using the right tool for the job at hand" kind of attitude. Each different medium has its own advantages and disadvantages. Discussing difficult things in a "sterile" un-emotional medium can be less threatening sometimes for some people. I'm a cuddly person, but sometimes the intensity of being together can make it difficult for me to stay rational and discuss things. And being able to see and control the words, and having a delete key, instead of the less-controlled medium of speech, can make a big difference in my comfort level. This will be different for different people; for some, intense negotiations while holding hands and looking into each other's eyes might be just the thing, but my emotions can get so intense that way that I more or less lose my mind.

The shutting off the phone sounds like a specific problem to me, one with which I'm familiar... and that is feeling overwhelmed and therefore not being able to handle any input, OR fear of that happening and preventing it. Turning off the phone, for me, is something I've only done in one situation, a desperate last-ditch attempt to protect myself - a signal of "stop trying to get through to me, because the way you're communicating is hurting me" - OR "...because I'm afraid it will hurt me, since it has before". In my situation, it came from

- feeling massive stress in general and just needing to shut out everything

- being insistently or regularly asked questions to which I didn't know how to respond (or a built-up expectation that that might happen)

- being probed for information that I wasn't prepared to give (or a built-up expectation that that might happen)

- if I was expecting that "sore point" topics would be discussed and I wasn't ready to discuss them (or a built-up expectation that that might happen)

- if I was feeling that I was being manipulated, or being "railroaded" into doing something

It doesn't have to be any or all of those things - just laying out one possible scenario.

VeryTired
04-02-14, 09:02 PM
Thanks so much dvdnvwls--I always appreciate the level of detail you bring to this sort of analysis. I definitely get it about the idea of the right tool for the job. And I really see what you are saying here about feeling overwhelmed, and I think sometimes it's similar for my partner. But he actually is this way with his phone all the time, not just in difficult circumstances, and not just with me. Though maybe that just means his level of stress with all the incoming stimuli is normally very high ….

RedHairedWitch
04-02-14, 09:16 PM
I don't turn my phone off. I just leave it in another room.

Why?

Because I don't feel like communicating right now. Remember the days before cell phones? Remember answering machines? You got back to people when you damn well felt like it. I miss those days.


"What I miss most about not being married is that I have nobody to talk to in the morning while I'm trying to read the paper." - Random quote

ADDinWA2014
06-27-14, 02:19 AM
Thanks tons Tired. :grouphug:

I didn't read all the other posts so I'm sure that there's lots of repetition and whenever I post I'm worried about either misunderstanding the situation, going off topic or stating what is super obvious anyway. I'm glad if you've found it helpful.

PART 2:

Whatever the reason is that he isn't listening (or can't) the fact remains that you are not getting your need fulfilled of being listened to. In a relationship that's quite an essential need and I can imagine that good communication might be a corner stone of every lasting and happy relationship.

I wish I had a solution. It does sound to me like something needs to change here. I don't really have any answers; I'm just brain storming.

Some (non exclusive) possibilities:

1. He doesn't realise that you really need him to listen to you every once in a while
2. He doesn't realise that he rarely does listen
3. He does realise both points above but is unable to get himself to listen
4. He does realise both points above but doesn't want to listen and doesn't want to change that

1. Again, I'm assuming you've spoken about this. What does he say? Does he say anything at all?

2. As above

3. Does medication help at all? Is he a better listener when he's medicated?

4. I can't imagine that 4 is valid but if it is, it might be time to leave :(

Some things that help me with listening:

1. Keep it short and to the point.
( 1a. However don't leave out any details that I need to know)
2. Don't start with accusations, blame or anything emotional really.
3. Start by telling me that it's important for me to listen (or important for you to talk about something).
3a. Maybe ask first if this is a good time for me to listen (and if not..ask me when a good time would be)
3b. If I'm not in a position to listen (and sometimes I know this) please don't get angry but let's reschedule for another time
3c. It's quite encouraging when I'm requested to listen because someone needs my input, advice or help
4. Don't expect me to listen when I'm in the middle of doing something else (especially not without point 3).
5. If I'm fidgeting, fiddling with something, doodling, frowning, looking away, making strange faces, etc. please just ignore it (my husband finds these antics very annoying, but they all actually help me to focus and if he calls me out on them I get distracted)
6. Don't hold monologues but after a few sentences pause and see if I have any questions (and don't get annoyed if my questions sound as if I don't understand)
7. Tell me what you need from me (i.e. are you just venting/sharing and need me to listen quietly, do you need input/suggestions/advice/comfort, etc...I often get this wrong)
8. Don't expect me to remember anything from previous conversations (or ask gently if I do without getting angry if I don't).
9. Don't get angry if I go off on a tangent (it might be related in my mind). If it's not relevant, just acknowledge it and get back to YOUR point.
10. Under no circumstances expect me to read your mind no matter how obvious something may seem to you or to normal people
11. Try not to go off on tangents yourself ;)


The points above usually make me it easier for me to listen but they all assume that your partner really does want to listen. Maybe they wouldn't work for him but in that case could you just ask him what would work for him?

(And I do see how difficult any of this is if he really just doesn't listen at all. You are totally right. You need active listening pretty much all the time).

Thank you so much for this - I think I will offer this to my BF :-)