View Full Version : Actively NOT listening


VeryTired
04-08-14, 04:30 PM
Hi, friends--it's me again. So, the other day, I made a thread about my partner telling me about not wishing to participate in an active listening exercise at his adults with ADHD group meeting. There was a great discussion here (thanks again!) and I learned a lot and got some new ideas. And I formed the resolve that I had to talk to my partner about what happened as soon as I could.

So, we had a talk. First, I learned that he remembered none of what had happened between us several days before when he walked away in the middle of a conversation about this because he didn't want to find out why I was upset. Well, no surprises there--this is what happens often. He loses lots of conversations after they happen, and if my emotions are uncomfortably engaged he is particularly apt to wipe them from memory.

So I reminded him of what we'd both said, and I explained how I felt when he rejected the idea of practicing active listening. He explained to me that indeed it had not been fear or anxiety that stopped him. Instead, it's a matter of conviction. He believes that "active listening" is evil bull**** foisted upon him by people too careless to do their own work of making themselves understood.

It was quite a diatribe. He said it's unfair and irresponsible for anyone to expect others to try to reflect back what one says. It's OK to give quizzes to check comprehension, but not to ask both participants to engage fully in dialogue, response and reflection. I was startled by this--it seemed a bit extreme. He also said that if other people would manage to be interesting and articulate he would find it easier to attend to what they say.

I asked if he usually found me interesting and articulate, and he said yes of course. But when I asked why it was unreasonable for me sometimes to want him to do active listening, he just got angry and started to say contradictory things. I know from long experience that once he stops making sense, there's no more point talking--he's actually a very logical person usually. The contradiction is the warning sign before the anger, outbursts and accusations, like a rattlesnake's warning before it strikes.

To me it seems as though indeed his emotions and anxieties are very much tangled up with this topic, but he insists that they are not. He sees it as a kind of politics: the oppression of people with ADHD by unfair ferocious demanders of active listening. Whereas I saw it more as a conversation about my feelings and needs--something which we virtually never manage to talk about in ways that help me at all. We never got to the end of this conversation, though, because he became extremely angry and started accusing me of having no understanding of ADHD and no empathy for his difficulties. He also insisted, possibly correctly, that the kind of relationship I need to be in is not one he can take part in.

I don't think it's true that I don't have any understanding or empathy, but if he's right, I probably wouldn't recognize it. So maybe that's true. And how he feels matters, even if his feeling isn't strictly accurate as regards my understanding and empathy. But how I feel matters, too, I think, and I feel unlistened to and harshly rejected for daring to say I needed to have confirmation of being heard sometimes.

So, that's how the quest for active listening at our house ran into a minefield and left everyone feeling bruised. I have a feeling we both caused stress in that tough conversation, and that there are enough problems here to go around for everyone. So it's not about distributing blame. Anyway, I'd appreciate any insight or feedback anyone can offer based on this report ...

dvdnvwls
04-08-14, 05:13 PM
You have obvious understanding and empathy.

I found this very difficult; I used different words to describe it, but my feelings were essentially the same as his. To me it was like being made to play a rigged game while the person I love would watch me lose and ridicule me for my ineptness. I couldn't imagine that someone who supposedly loved me would want to put me through that experience.

Let's say for the sake of argument that I believe "active listening" is a coercive method for getting me to agree with what you're saying, that I believe if one of us wants to say something then we should simply say it, and (perhaps most importantly from the ADHDer's point of view) that I believe being able to disagree "in the moment" is essential to good communication, because I will forget almost immediately what was just said - that I rely for my conversational survival on split-second immediate responses. Where do we go from there?

I'm not your partner, but in my situation I am already saturated with the other person's emotional states; I am sort of an "emotion sponge" soaking up everything around me.

There also seems to be a built-in accusation that I never listen unless I'm forced, which is the farthest possible thing from the truth.

BellaVita
04-08-14, 05:25 PM
I'm not your partner, but in my situation I am already saturated with the other person's emotional states; I am sort of an "emotion sponge" soaking up everything around me.

Quoting this part because it's important and so true.

dvdnvwls
04-08-14, 05:27 PM
My above message is in the spirit of adopting an extreme position in order to have "somewhere to pin the discussion". When I was in a failing relationship, those were some of my thoughts. I don't feel that way so much anymore.

BellaVita
04-08-14, 05:30 PM
Hey VeryTired -

Whenever my boyfriend asks me to do this, I get very tense and anxious. Due to the anxiety, I may mess up and then it looks like I wasn't listening when really I was.

It can be a very difficult and emotional thing for us.

And then, when we fail, we're left with embarrassment, shame, guilt, and so on.

If not careful, being asked to do the active listening could eventually cause him to form some resentment.

dvdnvwls
04-08-14, 05:35 PM
Speaking for myself, and speaking from the context of what was at that time some years ago a probably-already-failed relationship, I formed massive resentment and anger at being accused and cornered and blamed.

VeryTired
04-08-14, 09:15 PM
dvdnvws--

As ever, you bring a wealth of insight to what was hard for me to understand. So thanks so much for one more of these. I'm interested by the idea of the need for the splt-second responses. That's something for me to keep thinking about. And I've never stopped thinking about a little parable you posted a long time ago about someone criticizing their dog ... before realizing that actually it was a perfectly satisfactory cat. A lot of relationship problems boil down to that ...

Bella, thanks so much. It helps to hear this from you. Any tips about what best reduces that anxiety for you in those situations?

BellaVita
04-08-14, 10:17 PM
VeryTired - Let me think about it and I'll get back to you on that.

:)

BellaVita
04-08-14, 10:22 PM
Something that helps me -
When my boyfriend is speaking to me, it helps for me when he speaks in "chunks."

Like, he'll begin discussing what he needs to talk about - some topic. He won't go "all at once" - he knows I may get overwhelmed quickly.

Instead, he'll speak for a bit - then pause for a few seconds looking me directly in the eye and listens to see if I have any "split seconds responses" (as dvdnvwls put it)

So he can see by my responses if I'm listening or not.

And then, he continues on with his chosen topic. Then stops again to let me respond. (sometimes I don't, but am still listening.)

Basically, we need more breaks in the conversation then NTs do as we get easily overwhelmed and anxious when presented with copious amounts of information.

Another thing -
During those "chunk" breaks of time where he listens to see if I respond, I've learned that saying "I'm listening" to let the person know I actually am listening helps heaps.

I've made this a habit now and it has positively impacted the outcomes of my conversations and has given me better communication skills.

sarahsweets
04-09-14, 03:29 AM
Im curious. What would happen if you followed him when he walks away and calmly stated what you were upset about regardless of his anger? Would his anger get so bad that it would get destructive or does it reach some sort of peak?

sarek
04-09-14, 03:51 AM
I can't for the life of me remember what i said last week, or even yesterday. Not in conversations, not even in chat.

I am not doing that on purpose. I just simply can't catch on to the words to store them. They're just no longer there. So when pressed, i lose myself in contradictions.

And what is the most painful attack on the heart of my persona is that people then accuse me of not being interested. That is when, after the contradictions, the anger surfaces. An anger born out of being totally not understood, born out of despair that things will never get better than this.
And perhaps also anger if the conversation isnt even about the subject at hand any longer, but about who wins the battle.

Fuzzy12
04-09-14, 04:01 AM
I doubt I have met many people (both online and offline) with your level of empathy and understanding and more importantly your commitment to try to understand even things that are extremely hard to understand and to see everything from all sides.

I've got a bit of a stupid question. What exactly is "active listening"? From your description it sounds something like:

Person A: "xyz"

Person B: "You said x1y1z1. [..] ugh."

Person A: "You said u1g1h1. [..] .."

etc.

Does it mean repeating or paraphrasing at regular intervals what the other person has said to demonstrate (or verify) that you have understood them correctly?

Forgive me for being so blunt but that sounds extremely boring to me and like a hell lot of effort. I do it naturally (when I really want to understand and I'm not sure if I do) but if someone asked me to do this as an exercise I'd be quite reluctant. I'd also worry about getting it wrong.

I do think that in a relationship you need to do at times things that are boring or unpleasant purely for the sake of the other person but if your partner is anything like me, boredom is a huge price to pay.

Another problem for me would be that I'd get so involved in the exercise itself that I'd miss out on the content of what you are saying. I sometimes do this when people accuse me of not listening. If I can recall their last sentence (even when my mind was far away) I just parrot it as proof that I'm listening but that doesn't meant that I'm understanding anything they are saying.

I also sometimes repeat people's sentences in my head to help me focus but I've found that the process of doing that distracts me from understanding the content. I'm just taking in meaningless strings of word that I can memorise but not understand.

So that would be my side) but then from your side of course the problem remains that you are not being listened to (I imagine actively or in any other way).

What is his solution? I'm assuming that he claims that he wants to listen and know about your feelings and needs. In what way does he want you to convey your feelings and needs? And in what way can he show you that he has heard you?

There are certain things that ADHDers find difficult but that's not a 'get out of jail' card to completely not do something. He might not be able to do it in a particular way but if that's the case I don't see why he can't at least try to find out in what way he could do it.

stef
04-09-14, 04:11 AM
It's a huge defense mechanism for him I think;

Imagine, all your life as long as you can remember (like kindergarten) : "Now listen carefully.." "Are you listening to me? " You aren't listening!" "What did I just tell you???!!!!"

once again, not saying he is right but it is his automatic reaction. He can't seperate "listening to what really may be not even interesting" (like some crummy assembly in school or useless work meeting) , and listening to things that are urgent, important, or mean a lot to you. And even when he really WANTS to, it's difficult and he probably misses bits of anything anyone says.

maybe you could just stop using this vocabulary altogether?
what else could you say? "Hey!" (friendly). "Oh guess what?!!" If you start out by saying "Listen, I have something really important to tell you..." you may have already lost him here.

Fuzzy12
04-09-14, 04:19 AM
It's a huge defense mechanism for him I think;

Imagine, all your life as long as you can remember (like kindergarten) : "Now listen carefully.." "Are you listening to me? " You aren't listening!" "What did I just tell you???!!!!"

once again, not saying he is right but it is his automatic reaction. He can't seperate "listening to what really may be not even interesting" (like some crummy assembly in school or useless work meeting) , and listening to things that are urgent, important, or mean a lot to you. And even when he really WANTS to, it's difficult and he probably misses bits of anything anyone says.

maybe you could just stop using this vocabulary altogether?
what else could you say? "Hey!" (friendly). "Oh guess what?!!" If you start out by saying "Listen, I have something really important to tell you..." you may have already lost him here.

Good point!!!

kilted_scotsman
04-09-14, 07:47 AM
I suspect he's got a bit mixed up abut what "active listening" is about...

Firt'y it's not about "agreeing" with someone..... it's simply reflecting back particular bits of what they say.

It is difficult to do at the beginning and feels REALLY dumb.... but after a while it gets easier.

What it is doing is moving people out of the normal "conversational" mode, which can be or become adversarial or based in "I'm right".

It's also about taking the TIME to listen WITHOUT judgement to what the other person says and not responding with ones own views/thoughts... but simply with the essence of what the other person says even if it is complete rubbish.

My suggestion would be to get the ADD group to do active listening when the speaker talks complete random gibberish... so that the listener who is having trouble with the concept is responding to stuff which has no emotional payload for them.

The key is to break the impulsive response cycle.... so it's best if the incoming speech has ZERO connection to the current situation..... that comes WAAAY down the line.

Having done active listening .. I can say that it seemed complete rubbish to me at the beginning.... and was REALLY hard but after a while it got easier and I was able to see the point of it.....

Remember it is just a basic technique upon which other more obviously relevant communications can be built.....

kilted

TygerSan
04-09-14, 09:32 AM
I think active listening, when practiced correctly, is sort of the mindfulness meditation of conversation.

I have a feeling that practicing it once in a rather chaotic environment like the support group may not have painted the concept in the best light. And who knows how good the facilitators were at communicating the concept.

As Kilted says, it is supposed to take people out of their knee-jerk responses and actually listen to/ reflect upon what the other person is saying. Both parties have to buy in, however. It sounds like the concept is a little too raw for your husband right now, sadly. Maybe reframing the concept would help, or maybe it's just not something he's in a place to work on right now.

As for this:

Im curious. What would happen if you followed him when he walks away and calmly stated what you were upset about regardless of his anger? Would his anger get so bad that it would get destructive or does it reach some sort of peak?
I don't know how your husband is, but if it were me, by the time I'm walking away, you do not want to approach me. I'm walking away so that I don't say or do something I'll regret, and so I can untangle the ball of emotions and frustration into something I can begin to process without shutting down completely.

Talking to me before I'm done calming down (something that my parents did unintentionally quite often when I was younger) just means it takes me longer to calm down and process.

VeryTired
04-09-14, 10:10 AM
TygerSan, thanks--I agree about the walking away moments. I figure if someone wants to be away, give them space, it's probably important. And since my partner has a lot of trouble giving me that space when I need it, I want to be consistent and clear in my behavior as regards this point so as not to confuse the issue when I make demands for space.

And yes, Sarah, I think my partner's anger would be volatile in that situation. But maybe I can figure out the time frame necessary to give him space, but get back to him to talk before the matter is forgotten …? Maybe too tricky, maybe possible. I don't know.

Bella--Thanks so much for the chunk idea. I think that would help us … except of course that that approach would make me lose the thread, so we need to find a balance where everyone's strengths and weaknesses come into play. I'm not sure exactly how to broker that agreement, but at least you gave me a great idea of where I'd like to end up with this.

Sarek--Thanks for reminding me that the pain caused by the not-remembering is felt by both parties. So important.

Fuzzy: Big thanks for the support. I constantly feel that I am on the verge of becoming a totally unempathetic person through cumulative frustration, so it's helpful to be encouraged. As for active listening, I don't really know what that was about at my partner's group--nor does he, since he was blocking it out. For me, I hate formulaic communications as promoted by self-help books, etc. so I don't need him to mirror exactly what I say. But on a give day, the amount he takes in that I tell him seems to range between about 50% and 10%, so why I really want is some sense of what he is hearing and when. I don't need him to say "Oh, I just heard you say X,Y, Z and I think you may have also mentioned A,b,c--do I have that right?" after every sentence I speak. But I would like a shift in emphasis from his speaking at me and then walking away to something involving more back and forth, and I had hoped (fantasized?) that active listening might be a technique he could practice that would get us closer to my hoped-for state.

And Fuzzy--what you said about the parroting? We stopped going to couples counseling when I realized that that was exactly what was happening there. Week after week, he gave a brilliant performance of someone listening and responding, but before we left the office, he'd lost/forgotten everything we discussed. This really scared and upset me at the time--now, in context of what you said, I guess I can begin to see it differently. My partner's proposed solution is pretty much that we never do what I need. If I insist that my need is a need and not just a wish, and thus that it requires some resolution, he yells at me, says hurtful things that I know he doesn't mean, and does whatever is required to end the discussion and make me go away to lick my wounds rather than ask him for things he finds difficult or impossible. It's not good, at all, for either of us when this happens.

Kilted--thanks so much. I really agree with what you are saying, but I have no idea how to present these ideas to my partner. And of course what they do at his group is in another sphere, where I am (rightfully) not in any way involved. But I am going to think about what you said more and see what I can do with it.

And Stef--such wisdom here. Thanks! Of course vocabulary matters. I don't even know what the right vocab would be, but I can start trying to figure that out, I guess. I realize that the past we have always with us. This is hard for me--I often feel as though my partner is holding me responsible for what his ex-wives, former bosses, and the nuns at his grade school said and did to him. I want to say "That wasn't me!". But I do understand that for him, that is a detail that hardly matters--what you hear all your life is like the ringing in your ears after a loud explosion. It continues after the initial stimulus is gone, and it colors any new sound you try to hear through it.

Thanks everyone--I really appreciate all your thoughts.

Fuzzy12
04-09-14, 10:24 AM
My partner's proposed solution is pretty much that we never do what I need. If I insist that my need is a need and not just a wish, and thus that it requires some resolution, he yells at me, says hurtful things that I know he doesn't mean, and does whatever is required to end the discussion and make me go away to lick my wounds rather than ask him for things he finds difficult or impossible. It's not good, at all, for either of us when this happens.




No, it's not good. It's heart breaking.

I don't mean to be nasty (and I'm sorry if I am :( ) and I can relate a lot to what you tell us about your partner, his behaviour and some of the possible feelings we have been attributing to him to explain his behaviour. I'm not really sure how to put this in a nicer way but does he want to change at all? Does he want to contribute to your relationship? Does he ever try to do anything to accommodate your needs? Does he at least have that intention if not the ability? Does he want for you to be happy? Maybe he can't make you happy but does your happiness factor in his wish list?

VeryTired
04-09-14, 11:01 AM
Fuzzy--

I was about to write a whole long emotional account of what I think about my partner's point of view. But then I thought the truth is, I just don't know. I think I will try to find a time to ask him all the questions you just raised. I have no idea how to do that safely, but I think it it needs to happen somehow.

He used to want to work things out with me more than anything. But for the last year or two, his goals have instead been about finishing a graduate degree and finding work. I have supported and encouraged that. I know he needs to do it for himself, and also I am desperate to stop spending my now-scarce savings for retirement in continuing to support him. If he can become economically independent, and have the benefit of a new job, an autonomous life, a re-made identity as a symbol of having put his life back together, then surely things will be better and probably different for us both.

But lately, he keeps talking about how expectations upon him from me or from the world are unfair. He attributes frustrations I feel with him to my lack of accommodation of his ADHD. He tells me that it is simply impossible for him to have conversations with me in which we both contribute and respond equally to each other. So in that regard, he clearly doesn't want to change because he is convinced it's impossible. He says he wants me to be happy, but he is often angry at me for not already being so in response to those efforts he can and does make on my behalf.

And I think maybe he fears that I will eventually leave him, and so he doesn't want to work hard to make things better for me now. But alternatively, it may be that I am unreasonable in my expectations, and have become selfish as a result of too many hard times previously. When he starts brutal fights as a way of shutting down discussions about my needs, however, part of me thinks "It's not ever OK for anyone to behave this way, I shouldn't accept it, this is a deal-breaker, and it's got to stop. I need to leave." And part of me thinks "Really? Are you really someone who can even consider leaving a person who has no job, no money, and no other home?" It's a stalemate.

Oh. I guess I did write the long post after all. Sorry.

Nicksgonefishin
04-09-14, 11:14 AM
VT- You have empathy(stop the negative self talk on this subject).

Your parter is frustrated because he was asked to do something that he "believes" he can't do. He doesn't understand active listening because he is taking pre-concieved notions of it from years and years of BS from others and not listening at the meetings. (not actively listening at a meeting about activelistening...). I would gently remind him to be open minded and try the exercise again. Perhaps after a meditation to focus the mind and sooth the soul first.

Something else that has helped me self sooth is my "happy place" I go there to self sooth so I can refocus. This helped me so much yesterday at the dentist. Though it takes me out of the moment it takes me away from anxiety so that mindfulness can refocus me.

So much of this is attitude... He has to want and believe he can.

VeryTired
04-09-14, 12:14 PM
Thanks, Nick. Great points!

dvdnvwls
04-09-14, 01:05 PM
I suspect he's got a bit mixed up abut what "active listening" is about...

Firt'y it's not about "agreeing" with someone..... it's simply reflecting back particular bits of what they say.

It is difficult to do at the beginning and feels REALLY dumb.... but after a while it gets easier.

What it is doing is moving people out of the normal "conversational" mode, which can be or become adversarial or based in "I'm right".

It's also about taking the TIME to listen WITHOUT judgement to what the other person says and not responding with ones own views/thoughts... but simply with the essence of what the other person says even if it is complete rubbish.

My suggestion would be to get the ADD group to do active listening when the speaker talks complete random gibberish... so that the listener who is having trouble with the concept is responding to stuff which has no emotional payload for them.

The key is to break the impulsive response cycle.... so it's best if the incoming speech has ZERO connection to the current situation..... that comes WAAAY down the line.

Having done active listening .. I can say that it seemed complete rubbish to me at the beginning.... and was REALLY hard but after a while it got easier and I was able to see the point of it.....

Remember it is just a basic technique upon which other more obviously relevant communications can be built.....

kilted
I like and respect you, and intellectually I know that what you're saying is true. But being blithely told "Oh, you've got it all wrong, it's not what you're thinking, it's something else" is simply not convincing. There's something in this situation for me that needs resolving, and a simple assertion doesn't cover it.

I'm aware that my thinking must be flawed, but I'd like to know where and how. It has to do with the sense that this technique can easily be appropriated as a sort of conversational weapon.

Stevuke79
04-09-14, 01:49 PM
VeryT, you give an impression of being very thoughtful and fair in your thinking. I also get the sense that you're careful and try to depict your partner in the best light possible. I think you definitely mention some flaws, but your language suggests you're being as nice as you can while still "telling the truth" so to speak. And telling the truth where it's a criticism is hard, so I give you a lot of credit. You also criticize yourself which is hard to do and says a lot.

I think there are some great ideas here on how to help him; I'm inclined to suggest that you consider the possibility of doing none of it. I may be crossing a line here, and if so I apologize. I really do. But I've thought of addressing this thread in different ways, and this is the only one that makes sense to me.

There is a "first step" in addressing any problem in life, and I think that for the two of you the first step is badly incomplete; correct me if I'm wrong but you guys haven't yet:

1. Both acknowledged there is an issue and you're both not as happy as you'd like to be and you both feel you can do things to improve
2. Both of you are committed to doing specific things to improve the situation 3. Both of you have followed through on your commitments

I also suspect that you've pretty much done 1 -3 (1-3= the first step); there may be more to do, but you've done each with some consistency, and he has yet to consistently do #3 and possibly has never done #2. I think for you to do anymore has two major problems:
1. It validates his current approach of putting it all on you
2. It wears you out, shortens your fuse and will eventually push you to your limit

You need to sit down, talk with him and let him know that you need for the both of you to do this, you need him to do this, and .. I'm trying to avoid the language of an ultimatum,.. and for better or worse I know something about giving ultimatums in marriage. They're not fun but sometimes they're necessary. I was in a situation once where I basically said no more until you come to the table. We're both very happy I did. So I'm saying, he'll thank you one day.

VeryTired
04-09-14, 02:16 PM
Dr. Steve--

Wow. I think you should be charging me by the 50-minute hour here. I wonder if you take my insurance?! Your comment is amazingly insightful, and despite my silly little joke, it's actually much better than the what the therapists we've seen have said because you went straight to the point and expressed a clear, strong opinion, as they tend not to do. Thank you, thank you.

It is so often easier to try to find solutions I can do all by myself, because I can usually count on my own full cooperation. But there just aren't many relationship issues that can be resolved unilaterally. I think that's why the ultimatums that are valid in relationships are the ones intended to bring both parties to the table, not the ones about getting one's own way on this or that issue. Anyway, I think you have deeply understood the situation I was originally posting about, and I also think you're right that my partner and I haven't completed the first step you described.

You are very wise!

Stevuke79
04-09-14, 02:33 PM
Thank you.. so, now tell me about your mother...

It's funny, you made me think of my daughter and making her clean her mess. I remember thinking my parents were just too lazy so they were making poor little old me do it. Of course as adults we realize doing it yourself is easiest.

SirSchmidt
04-10-14, 12:24 PM
VeryTired, I really feel for you because I experienced quite a lot of this. When I suggested that certain reactions were uncalled for or that I wasn't the only one who needed to make changes, I was met with extreme, violent opposition. It didn't matter how gently or lovingly I presented these issues.

Hang in there and keep up the posts. You're doing all the right things and from your words I can tell that you're a reasonable person. Take care.

VeryTired
04-10-14, 01:42 PM
SirSchmidt--

Thanks so much for the kind words!

dvdnvwls
04-10-14, 02:41 PM
Looking back over what I've said on this thread so far, I want to add this:

I know that this listening process is good and important and right. I'm wrestling with my own fear and misunderstanding. I'm convinced that my misunderstanding is reasonable and not an irrational reaction. I'm wondering whether there are some resources I can study, to find out where my confusion comes from and how I can remedy it.

Something just "came up inside me" as I was typing, memories of the past. Just being in so much pain emotionally that the active listening process felt extremely intrusive. The only example I can give to try to make sense of it, for someone who hasn't felt it, is: imagine watching a beloved child die, and two minutes later having a news microphone thrust in your face - and being required to mirror the reporter's thoughts and feelings back to him!

I'm aware that when I'm overwhelmed it's my business to solve that, but once I really am overwhelmed, that responsibility isn't manageable.

On the other hand, protesting "I'm overwhelmed" is a handy cop-out for a dishonest or manipulative person to use, and would be especially effective against someone who's compassionate by nature.

I don't know where to go with all this.

VeryTired
04-10-14, 03:52 PM
Hey, dvd--
Good thoughts, as ever. I don't know where to go with it, either, but I'm sure these are realities, truths that we need to take with us whenever we figure out where we are going. You are always such a great voice for the otherwise unspoken, and you describe so well these powerful emotions. I'm not sure that problems like the ones you describe have to be or can be solved by one person alone, though. I think it might take at least two, to make the safe space in which the pain can be released. What I don't know is whether the other person can be someone in one's own immediate life, or if it should be a therapist, or a kindly stranger, or a discussion board community. And I have no idea what resources are out there for study, but a lot of the stuff like this we've been discussing seems to me to be related more to questions of PTSD than standard couples-counseling material. I do know that humans often live in unfathomable oceans of pain, and yet survive. It's not a happy thought, but it is an impressive one--people can be so strong, against all odds. Like you, I mean.

dvdnvwls
04-10-14, 04:11 PM
Thank you VeryTired for such a thoughtful response.

I think I'm looking for "Active Listening 101, What It Is, What It Isn't". Because I've only encountered it during crisis situations and had it explained to me quickly. ADHD means I forgot what the therapist said about it.

kilted_scotsman
04-10-14, 05:08 PM
Active listening is most definitely NOT to be used between two people in a crisis situation without considerable prior practice and experience.

As dvdnvwls indicates.... it can be used as a conversational weapon or avoidance strategy and I have experienced this amongst "alternative" groups where the power dynamics are cloaked behind a facade of "caring and openness". In such situations it can become a form of gaslighting.

Initially it is highly artificial.... and feels that way for BOTH parties.... only with experience can the "listener" give appropriately varied and nuanced reflections so that the "speaker" doesn't notice that the interaction is not a conversation.

This is also where "speakers" can feel manipulated..... because active listening has been used in a way that gets them to say more than they would otherwise do.... this can happen where the "ground rules" of the interaction are not clear beforehand.

This is particularly problematic in work scenarios where HR personnel use it to build empathy and supposed trust to get an employee to provide information that will potentially be used against them or their interests.

As i indicated earlier, it's best approached initially as an academic exercise, where there is zero baggage involved... trying to use it between two inexperienced people who are in a charged emotional relationship is likely to fail.

dvdnvwls
04-10-14, 05:45 PM
Thanks kilted_scotsman... Is there a publication I can refer to for more information?

VeryTired
04-10-14, 09:49 PM
google took me here--maybe it's a start?

http://www.mindtools.com/CommSkll/ActiveListening.htm

Stevuke79
04-10-14, 10:49 PM
Google is usually a great place to start. mind tools looks very corporate... I don't know .. It looks inherently overwhelming. I'm not saying for sure whether it's a good idea, but it probably not an icebreaker.

I think there's nothing like a good old fashioned conversation.

And I had an old colleague who had the funniest line that was so true :
"Ya know what's the craziest thing about the truth? It works!"

And it's so true. It works.. Which is totally crazy. I've also noticed that telling hard truths gets easier and easier and easier... Because you get a lot of positive reinforcement. Of course do it with tact. Tact does not mean sugar coating or being indirect; it just means respect. One more small suggestion, if you're at all worried about your ability to discuss the truth with tact (I've noticed no reason for you to be worried, but this is heavy stuff) consider reading dale Carnegie "how to make friends and influence people".

I'm sure I just made you crack up. And yes what I said was funny bc dale Carnegie is a bit of a "cliche"; but I'm 100% serious and dale Carnegie is incredibly effective and "pure" in it's honest to goodness approach. Might help here. It helped me a lot it's kind of ideal for "difficult" truths.

kilted_scotsman
04-12-14, 05:41 PM
Thanks kilted_scotsman... Is there a publication I can refer to for more information?

I'm not sure if active listening is something you can get from a book or publication..... you might find a "Person Centred Counselling for Dummies" type of thing.....

I think a short course is probably the way to go.... active listening forms a part of Non-Violent/Compassionate Communication (NVC).... and I know there are day and weekend courses in NVC..... I went to a good one in Portland Ma. a few years ago. Unfortunately I forget the name of the tutor.... she worked in prisons so she was definitely working at the sharp end of the scale.

In my view it's not something you can learn from a book.... you need people to practice on..... and it also helps to observe others doing it.... which is why it's usually taught in "triads" of speaker, listener and observer.

kilted

dvdnvwls
04-12-14, 06:37 PM
Active listening... can be used as a conversational weapon or avoidance strategy and I have experienced this amongst "alternative" groups where the power dynamics are cloaked behind a facade of "caring and openness". In such situations it can become a form of gaslighting.
Ugh. In that single last word you've encapsulated my unfortunate first experience of the process. Thank you for your clarity and understanding.

RedHairedWitch
04-13-14, 01:21 PM
We did a little active listening class in hairdressing school. I was terrible at it. Later I worked on listening skills during CBT, I wouldn't have done so if not for the fact it was required to do my job well.

My therapist said active listening is pretty much made for torturing ADHDers. As it requires using so may of skills and parts of the brain that are impaired when you have ADHD:

* Paying attention
* Appearing that you are paying attention (avoiding restlessness, making eye contact etc)
* Communication skills
* Absorbing information and processing it quickly
* Working memory
* Controlling emotional response
* Articulation (Repeating back to the speaker in your own words)
* Modulating tone of voice and using proper social skills while speaking
* Patience

There's few exercises that are less frustrating and humiliating and difficult. So I am not surprised your husband would rather pick a fight than have this style of conversation.

He CAN learn. It took me quite some time and many tears but I listen "properly", or at least fake it convincingly, the majority of the time now.

... but really, what needs do you have that require a sit down conversation complete with special listening skills? Is this one of those, listen to me talk about my feelings for half an hour, then I'll list everything you do wrong for half an hour, then I'm going to make broad general requests for 15 minutes, then we are going to talk about my feelings again for another half an hour, type conversations? Seriously, as a bi-sexual woman I will never partner up with another woman, simply to avoid these conversations.

As a duo ADHD household, you can imagine that these "Let's talk about our relationship/my needs/your needs/our feelings" conversations do not happen as they do in the NT world. The whole "This is what I'd like you to do in future" type requests are almost impossible ********. We live in the here and now. Here is how we get out needs met:

"Hun, I'm making a nice dinner to eat while we watch Game of Thrones. So you're gonna make room on the (cluttered) coffee table for our plates. Please and thank you."

"How about before you hop in the shower, you give me a BJ?"

"Alright, it's time to deal with the trash, You do garbage and I'll do recycling." ... "Yes, now. Your video game will still be there in 10 minutes."

(while driving home) "Don't tease me like that in front my friends again. It hurts."

"I require a hug! Come and give me one!"

"Come here, it is time for cuddles."

"It's my birthday next week. Here is a list of things I want. Pick a couple of items. Buy me presents!"

"I paid for pizza last time. If you want pizza today, you're paying."

"The kitty litter needs changing. I did the dishes, so no excuses."

"I am going out with my friends on Friday. Will text you on my way home."

"I miss you, we have both been busy all week. Sunday is our day."


... and so forth. These are real things we say to each other. If you want or needs something, you go and get it at the time. Easy peesey. Of course it helps that we make a point of compiling with our partners demands. And don't tolerate non-compliance lol
Immediacy, short, to the point, no passive aggressiveness. Simple, straight forward requests/demands. Given in a slightly teasing but loving voice. At the point of performance.

TLCisaQT
04-14-14, 12:57 AM
And I formed the resolve that I had to talk to my partner about what happened as soon as I could.

So I reminded him of what we'd both said, and I explained how I felt when he rejected the idea of practicing active listening. He explained to me that indeed it had not been fear or anxiety that stopped him. Instead, it's a matter of conviction. He believes that "active listening" is evil bull**** foisted upon him by people too careless to do their own work of making themselves understood.

He said it's unfair and irresponsible for anyone to expect others to try to reflect back what one says. It's OK to give quizzes to check comprehension, but not to ask both participants to engage fully in dialogue, response and reflection.

But when I asked why it was unreasonable for me sometimes to want him to do active listening, he just got angry and started to say contradictory things. I know from long experience that once he stops making sense, there's no more point talking

To me it seems as though indeed his emotions and anxieties are very much tangled up with this topic, but he insists that they are not. He sees it as a kind of politics: the oppression of people with ADHD by unfair ferocious demanders of active listening. Whereas I saw it more as a conversation about my feelings and needs--something which we virtually never manage to talk about in ways that help me at all. We never got to the end of this conversation, though, because he became extremely angry and started accusing me of having no understanding of ADHD and no empathy for his difficulties. He also insisted, possibly correctly, that the kind of relationship I need to be in is not one he can take part in.

I don't think it's true that I don't have any understanding or empathy, but if he's right, I probably wouldn't recognize it. So maybe that's true. And how he feels matters, even if his feeling isn't strictly accurate as regards my understanding and empathy. But how I feel matters, too, I think, and I feel unlistened to and harshly rejected for daring to say I needed to have confirmation of being heard sometimes.

So, that's how the quest for active listening at our house ran into a minefield and left everyone feeling bruised. Anyway, I'd appreciate any insight or feedback anyone can offer based on this report ...

Well, I am not sure I even know how to respond or what to say. I say kudos for attempting to go and talk it out and to try and communicate your needs and to get some insight on the matter. I wish it had gone better for you both.

However, this pattern seems all too familiar to me in my home, and I'm not sure if/when or how, some of us in these relationships will learn how to communicate effectively, active listening OR not.

See, you tried in a GOOD time to address the issue, not in crisis, not during stress, etc, and yet, when stress increased, or you didn't see things as he intended and vice versa, then the accusations started...and if it is as you described (and you said you weren't perfect), a lot from him towards you.

This happened a lot with me and my husband (and does still from time to time) and usually ends the same way as you described. I usually back off or it escalates further and gets more volatile. Because as you said, not much gets accomplished past this point.

I actually tell my husband often that we should get help to learn to better communicate. He does not really buy into that "psycho babble crap" either. He tells me I am confusing. I tell him communication is a two-way thing and it's okay if he asks me questions if I'm confusing him. He tells me, he shouldn't have to work harder than me to communicate, and if I spoke properly to begin with, he wouldn't have to. He also says that if I only knew how much he had to hold back saying already and how much effort he already puts in...he's already exhausted.

I actually believe that this "normal" communication thing is exhausting to them as there is nothing normal or natural to them about it in a sense. Just like anybody not being able to do something well after trying over and over again, sometimes it just seems easier to just get upset and give up from feeling overwhelmed and then feel a little annoyed at even feeling like one has to. But I am a firm believer that people have a choice, to become informed and choose to step out of their comfort zone if the reward or consequence is worth it to them...or to NOT do it', no matter how difficult it seems.

Do you lack empathy? No way... how do I know? Because I've been accused of it many times, and I'm just not that type of person. And unless you are the world's best deceiver...I'm thinking the same goes for you. Clearly, we may lack absolute understanding...but that is not needed for empathy.

Now...are you in a relationship where what you need is something he cannot take part in?..... well.... I guess how long the relationship will last will depend on whether you can get that need met in another appropriate way, and if not, and he can't, then how long you are willing to live that way. whether he chooses to try and be a part of meeting that need or not is UP TO HIM!

Honestly, some days I grow tired of my husband going on and on about things that matter to him, and his frustrations, but when it comes to me needing to talk or wanting to be heard, he couldn't be bothered because he's not interested and then his mind wanders and it's because of his ADHD??? or if he asks a questions and I don't get to the point FIRST before adding story details, I am met with anger and disdain.

Where's the kindness and respect that they have asked for? or was that demanded? because sometimes that is what it seems like in this communication thing....one sided - and I do say this with all sincerity.

However, just looking at the title again... I do believe that through this all, ACTIVELY NOT listening is never their intent...

VeryTired
04-14-14, 11:43 AM
RHW--

Many thanks for taking the time to lay this out in specific detail. I find that extremely helpful. I want to check with you whether something I think I am getting from this is correct. You said a bunch of different things, but what strikes me most is the idea of TIME. I think I am hearing you say that for you, as someone with ADHD, conversations about needs are easiest to work with productively when the discussion is about a concrete specific need RIGHT NOW, not about a general condition, or principle, or program for future endeavors.

Does that sound as though I am correctly understanding (part of) what you said? I hope so, because I feel as if I just heard an enormously valuable, clear-cut, specific chunk of insight which I may be able to use.

thanks!

VeryTired
04-14-14, 12:01 PM
TLC--

Thanks for your thoughts. I often get the sense from what you post that you and I have some very similar experiences. Of course, I often learn from what you say, but in addition to that, it can just be comforting and sustaining to know that strange or difficult experiences aren't happening only at my house, but also elsewhere in the world.

I am struck by how what you say about the difficulty for ADHD-ers of "normal" conversation chimes with what RedHairedWitch said in the previous post about the difficulty she experiences with active listening. I am completely willing and able to recognize that severe difficulty is involved here. I believe it! I see it right in front of my nose! But the fact that it is difficult for my partner and not natural for him to do doesn't change the fact that sometimes it is essential to me. I don't think it's inherently terrible or impossible that I need something that he finds it difficult to give. He certainly needs plenty from me that comes at great cost to me, but I try hard to do what I can and don't assume he shouldn't need what he needs.

It seems as though this doesn't have to be a lose-lose proposition. If I can accept that my need costs a great deal from him in energy and other resources, and he can accept that my need really is real, we ought to be able to find the point of balance between what he can give (because it is that important to me) and what it costs him emotionally to do so. I wish there were some kind of emotional Richter scale on which we could measure and log the emotional upheaval of different stresses in the home. If we both knew that for him, my needing some active listening is a reliable 7.8 on the Richter scale and his interrupting me when I talk about something important to me and his walking away before I finish clocks in at a roughly similar Richter number, then we could better assess how the give and take is going on any given day, and try to accommodate each other more.

It seems to me that when he tells me about it, I can usually see and respect and accommodate his stress. It also seems to me that he doesn't seem to do the same for me naturally. But I haven't yet seen or heard a reason why it would be impossible for him to try that, if we could get more clarity about what's going on. Maybe none of this makes sense, but right now, it is seeming like a hint of possibility to me ...

dvdnvwls
04-14-14, 12:36 PM
VeryTired:

I'm not either of the people you're addressing, but your latest two posts sound spot-on to me.

kilted_scotsman
04-14-14, 01:17 PM
RHW is pointing out the need for open, clear and well defined requests.

It is important that these are structured as requests, not demands... though at the beginning it is REALLY difficult for an ADDer to understand the difference... so again it's best to make that explicit. As ADDers we have had a lifetime of nagging from authority figures and an expectation of failure to fulfil the demands made of us.

The pain associated with this past means we may subconsciously avoid engagement with what are perceived as demands.... so that we deflect, ignore, discount or just plain don't hear what carries so much past pain for us. This may be another reason why ADDers talk of hearing difficulties.... it's partly the "filtering/executive processing thing and partly a method of avoiding psychic pain.

THere's also the issue that it's difficult for us to carry more than one task in our head at a time..... so the further in the future the more likely it is that we will fail.... and the more pain such a request may carry.

This is why a routine, frequent open discussion and the use of whiteboards helps..... the whiteboard acts as a continual reminder.... which carries less "nag potential" than repeated personal reminders from authority figures.

It's also important that the ADDer gets comfortable with the idea of saying no to requests, stating their current feelings also making their own requests for support, without the expectation of the request being fulfilled.

This kind of stuff takes a while to get to grips with.... because it means being open about the pain associated with culturally "normal" and minor requests.

I don't know what it's like for other ADDers.... for me the stimulus of an incoming request can quickly lead to overwhelm if I'm already fully occupied "in my head". The first thing to go is my ability to put the request in context this then messes up my ability to process anything, completely screwing my ability to act like an adult and communicate effectively.

My partner is excellent at seeing this and getting me to interrupting this process. from there I can push my brain "reset" button and begin again.

Thinking about it.... the way my partner has helped me find the reset button may have been the single biggest difference between this relationship and the many that have gone before!

RedHairedWitch
04-14-14, 05:11 PM
Timing is very important.

Addressing something at the point of performace, or close to it, helps to make the connection. While it's always best to talk about something during a calm period, talking about something that happened weeks ago, or will happens weeks in the future is harder for the time-befuddled ADHD brain.

Asking for long term change of behavior is also a lose-lose proposition. Certainly discussing that there is an area where an adjustment being made can be helpful, everyone likes to have an heads up. The mistake is having that single discussion and then expecting the change to simply happen and be consistent. I get and give much better results at the point of performance. Example:

My partner and I may discuss that the dishes need to be done more often and agree that he will work on it. But the best way to actually see the dishes get done is at the point of performance. About half an hour before I am going to make dinner, I simply state that I will be making dinner shortly and will he please load the dishwasher before hand so I'm not working around a stack of dishes.

Yes, this means asking him to do the dishes every couple of days. But the dishes get done. And isn't that the goal?

My asking makes no mention of his failure to do the dishes before I need them done. There is no moralizing, no expression of disappointment or frustration. It is nothing more than a simple, loving, neutral request.

"Hey babe. I'm going to start dinner in about half an hour, can you tackle the dishes for me first?"

Eventually it has gotten to the point where I will simply state that I am going to do X (such as check my emails) and then start dinner afterwards. And he will just go and do the dishes. He has gotten into the routine that dinner soon = clear the dishes. At least, half of the time.

If I was consistent with my timing of dinner, if I didn't work odd shifts, then he might eventually get to the point of realizing that I start dinner around the same time every night, and so the dishes should be done around the same time every night. At least, half the time.

Asking me to bring home cat food in the morning is likely to be forgotten by the time I am getting off work. Sending me a text message close to the end of my work day, dramatically increases the likelihood that I will get cat food. As I check my phone right after work and therefore it will be on my mind as I get into my car drive off, happily, there is a pet store on the same block as my work.

The other timing issue is the length of discussions and conversations. Processing a long discussion is difficult. Especially when it involves unpacking feelings. Processing a short and simple, neutral request is easy.

And as kilted points out: clear, simple, well defined requests are key.

"I need you to do more around the house." could mean anything.
"I know it's your day off today, but could you do something about the mess in the dinning room?" is very clear. And also lacks any moralizing or emotions. Its a clear, neutral request.

Last night, right before bed, our little dog got a hold of a toy cow and split it open. Turns out it was full of beans. He pointed to it and asked if I could clean up the spill as I was off today. No problem. Not only did I clean up the beans in one area of the living room, but since I had the vacuum out anyways, I did the whole carpet.

He came home, said "hey you did the whole carpet, awesome!" and then saw the vacuum sitting there in the living room (I didn't put it away) He simply looked at, looked at me, raised an eyebrow and went upstairs to have a nap. The vacuum will be put away before he gets up.

RedHairedWitch
04-14-14, 06:51 PM
... as for meeting emotional needs, the same applies. Asking someone to be more loving or supportive could mean anything. And leaves you guessing as to what to do and when.

Asking at the time of the need for something specific, or as specific as you can be, is much less confusing. And help the other person to learn what is needed and when.

"I had a really bad day. Can we sit on the couch and snuggle while I vent?"

When one of us is having a bad day at work, we will send the other a text message saying exactly that.

"I am having a lousy day! Please send encouragement asap."

Which is usually responded to with a "you can do it. HUGS. Almost time to go home" kind of message and a hug waiting when you get home.

"So and so was a real jerk today." *holds arms out for hug*

Also we both have learned the simple gestures that make the other feel special or appreciated. Little things like bringing home an energy drink, or keeping the dogs quiet while the other takes a nap. Or saying thank you after doing a chore. But we didn't just start doing these things magically. They are the result of being asked enough times to simply start doing them. Or having had a couple of quick conversations about them.

"What things make you feel awesome and loved?"
"Hugs, little surprises like bringing home an energy drink, watching me play video games."
"Okay. Done. I like it when you listen to me talk about the garden, take me out for dinner and how you mow the lawn without being asked."
"Easy! I can do that."

Then one has to remember to say thank you.

It's such a small thing that he cuts the lawn a little shorter in the area around my garden and makes a "path" of shorter grass to the garden from the door. But I make a point of thanking him every time.

It's so easy to take for granted the fact that I bring home an energy drink and leave it in the fridge a couple of times a week. But he makes a point of doing a happy dance every time he finds one in the fridge.

Clear, short, simple communication of a need.
At the time that it is needed.
Neutral requests that lack moralizing.
Positive reinforcement.
Leads to learning what is wanted and when it is wanted.
Leads to creating routines and triggers.
Leads to the things being done without having to ask as often.

VeryTired
04-14-14, 08:05 PM
RHW--

I am so grateful for this degree of specificity, and the clarity of what you are explaining here. It is super helpful to have it presented as examples--it's almost like seeing a little movie of your life. And what a nice movie--you depict a very comfortable and (I'm assuming) very satisfying relationship. The happy dance upon finding the drink! the encouraging text messages! the dishes cleared before dinner! I like hearing about the happiness you two have shaped somewhere in the "wilds of Canada".

And because you have taken the trouble to be so clear, I definitely understand what you are saying about good ways to time requests and to ask for what's needed. Big thanks!

Nicksgonefishin
04-14-14, 08:13 PM
It really isn't much different from potty training a puppy.

RedHairedWitch
04-14-14, 09:21 PM
It really isn't much different from potty training a puppy.


Do you have to go outside?
Outside? Outside? Good boy asking to go outside!
Harness on! Wait, harness on! Good boy!
No, we sit and wait at the door. Sit! Good boy!
Okay, lets go outside!
Go potty! Go potty!
Good boy, go potty! Good boy!
:giggle:

TLCisaQT
04-14-14, 10:27 PM
TLC--

But the fact that it is difficult for my partner and not natural for him to do doesn't change the fact that sometimes it is essential to me. I don't think it's inherently terrible or impossible that I need something that he finds it difficult to give. He certainly needs plenty from me that comes at great cost to me, but I try hard to do what I can and don't assume he shouldn't need what he needs.

It seems as though this doesn't have to be a lose-lose proposition. If I can accept that my need costs a great deal from him in energy and other resources, and he can accept that my need really is real, we ought to be able to find the point of balance between what he can give (because it is that important to me) and what it costs him emotionally to do so. ...

Exactly... for instance... sexual intimacy... what if that occurred only when I really wanted it or it was convenient or I wasn't tired, etc ? I'm sure there would be some hard feelings about that, like we have towards not being listened to LOL... heaven forbid, we get up and walk away before they were done hehe.

I go out of my way to be intimate way more than I feel "in the mood" because I know that is something that he needs and wants more than I "naturally" do. Not in a bad way, but in enjoying time together in doing any other activity that for me is not as often as he would enjoy hehe.

someothertime
04-15-14, 07:51 AM
An investment is made on his part that is based on an emotion that is based on a conclusion.

This negates/taints listening.

If he can speak outloud and test his conclusions... whilst keeping emotional investment at bay, he'll be better able to stay engaged.

ToneTone
04-15-14, 09:50 PM
What a great community of people here! Absolutely fantastic and insightful posts from everyone on here.

VeryTired, you are wonderfully open minded and empathetic. And here's my thing to you: don't try to work any harder! You're already working so hard. Whatever the next step is for you, forget about working harder. Working smarter sure … getting better at some things, sure. But hard work, no. My fear is you're already working too hard.

What jumped out at me--SCREAMED at me-- as I read through your previous posts in this thread was your statement about going into the retirement account to support your husband and his project of changing fields (i presume). "… I am desperate to stop spending my now-scarce savings for retirement in continuing to support him. If he can become economically independent, and have the benefit of a new job, an autonomous life, a re-made identity as a symbol of having put his life back together, then surely things will be better and probably different for us both."

I'm 52. I check my retirement balance almost every week, sometimes every day. From where I stand, dipping into a retirement fund to help someone else is just one step below donating a leg. Seriously, it would be less scary for me to donate a kidney than it would be to deplete my retirement fund (which is fairly modest, btw).

You made what was most likely a painful, nerve-racking, utterly terrifying sacrifice for him and I wonder if you feel he has failed to honor and acknowledge your sacrifice. What I sense is that you feel that if you can dip into a retirement fund (assuming you're not rich), then THE LEAST HE CAN DO is learn how to listen better to you. Knowing how hard you work and how kind you seem, I'm betting you didn't call attention to how scared you were when you decided to go into the retirement account.

Judging from times I've made huge sacrifices for others, one, my nerves became shot, as they say. I became nervous, scared, preoccupied with money and my decision. Very nerve-racking. Now, sometimes we do this in life--we give our all to help someone we love. I'm not saying you shouldn't have touched your funds. What I am saying is that I sense that you have to be carrying a lot of fear, anxiety and doubt about your financial situation … And frankly, given your husband's ADHD, and given this scary economy where people go from six figures to begging to work at the coffee shop in the blink of an eye, you can't be all that confident that your sacrifice will pay off for him and for you.

No wonder you need him to listen to you and to work hard at doing so!

If I were in you situation, I would be on full pins and needles. So don't be too hard on yourself. I have learned so much from you on this board. So much! And the risk may indeed pay off, but you've got to keep your sanity between now and then or there will be no "then."

Tone

VeryTired
04-15-14, 10:33 PM
Hey, Tone--

Thanks a million. You just made my day here! This whole thread is wall to wall with helpful insights and wise counsel, not to mention plain old kindness. But you really win the prize for telling me exactly what it is most reassuring to hear right now. Especially since my whole thing these days is feeling NOT LISTENED TO, to know that someone out there is ADDForums-land is hearing me and getting it, is unbelievably validating.

It's not like money is all that important to me in itself, but security for the future is huge. And the additional strain of being the one to try to figure out how to pinch pennies, while my partner unhesitatingly thinks of ways to spend them, although he isn't earning at all and the inability to give presents to my nieces and nephew because we are on such a tight budget now and on and on. It's all very fraught. Your intuition is very keen--initially I didn't explain in any detail how terrifying it was to me to go into savings, and by the time I was trying hard to explain this, my partner was in I-can't-hear-you mode because there was too much tension involved.

Anyway, reading your kind and empathetic post feels better than getting a medal. It is so, so great to know that someone else understands how all this feels. And thanks too for the advice not to work harder--you are so right about that. When the going gets tough,I usually try working harder and harder and harder and beyond a certain point, harder work doesn't help, it just makes me veryverytired. So I'm going to try hard to take your excellent advice and just work on trying to stay sane.

Big appreciation to you!

ToneTone
04-16-14, 12:40 PM
VeryTired,

I'm happy to hear that my post was helpful to you. Makes me feel really good I want to share some tips with you on what moves you can make now but first a simple or maybe complex question:

What exactly do you want him to listen to? What do you want to tell him in those moments when he doesn't actively listen?

Is it how your day is going and your own struggles and challenges?

Is it something about the relationship?

Do you want to talk for broader reasons--like you want to experience a sense of connection by talking to him or have the experience/feeling that that you matter to him?

Do you want to feel acknowledged and appreciated?

Say more about what you want from these sessions

One thought occurs to me: I have been in relationships where people listened to me my ex listened well to me in some sense But that didn't carry over to any responsive action on her part Conversely, people might not sit and listen quietly to me and still be in tune with what I want and need. The stories RedHairedWitch has shared in this thread, in my mind, show that she and her husband are definitely in tune with each other even though the conversations between them have lots of leaps, shifts and abrupt changes. (Keep rocking and rolling RedHairedWitch!)

So say more about what you think would happen if he "listened" to you intently.

I understand some people have problems with the word "need." I'm using it to mean "deep desire" "want" "requirement"--I'm using it in multiple ways here. It's not important in my mind whether this is a real "need." What's key is that you think the missing element is important!

I'm re-reading this post for tone (no pun intended!) and I want to make clear this is not sarcastic and I'm not implying that you identify and expectation that is "unreasonable." No, these questions are an attempt to identify what you really want and need and thus to see if there is another way you can get these needs met.

Tone

VeryTired
04-16-14, 04:21 PM
Tone--

What excellent questions, thanks so much! And I like your characterization of RHW's marriage as she described it. Yes! Your questions really make me stop and think in new ways, which is one of the best things questions can do, of course.

Occasionally I do have big, high-stakes relationship issues to discuss with my partner, and the slightest hint of anything like that tends to throw him into a tizzy. I think he has relationship-talk-PTSD, some from previous encounters with me, but much more from his exs, who--as I understand it--were pretty brutal in this regard. I have sympathy there, but there's less than zero I can do about his pre-me past, so it's hard to work with that.

Mostly, I think what I want is just what you mentioned: the sense that someone else cares about how my days and their struggles or triumphs go, which in turn is a form of being acknowledged and appreciated ... and which, if it happened, would definitely give me a sense of connection to my partner. But it doesn't, so I feel lonely and remote. I know that I matter a lot to him, but I seldom feel that as a result of what he says and does--it remains a theoretical construct.

Sometimes I am just trying to have practical talk about what's for dinner and when we'll clean the house, and what's up with the cat, and if we are going to invite guests over any time soon ... and this sort of (to me routine) back and forth oddly seems to be one of the hardest things for us to do together.

He talks a lot about himself, and expects me to listen and respond and be engaged. He talks a ton about topics of interest to him (and often not to me), and there he seems happy just to fill airtime without much response from me ... which makes me crazy. I feel I am being talked AT not TO, and I don't like it. In general, I have come to feel as though I am invisible in my own home. I hate this. I never want to be the center of attention, and am strongly an introvert, but for me a big part of partnership is dialogue, acknowledgment, recognition, being seen and known--attended to. There's that word: attention. Oh no.

Alas, whereas our relationship began in a blaze of thrilling hyperfocus on me, we are now in a to-me unimaginably different place. I had no idea that the hyperfocus had an invisible expiration date stamped on it. I thought that's just how my parter is, how we are, and that it was what we would build a relationship upon. This is a big part of our problem, I think. It's no one's fault, but it cases me intense pain whereas to my partner it's normal and almost unnoticeable. This makes it hard to address.

I don't know what my partner listening better to me would be like. In moments of fierce conflict, I have sometimes weirdly found myself imploring him "I want you to say sentences in which I am the subject of the sentence, not you." If he would initiate discussion of my concerns occasionally, remember what I have previously told him about y stuff, or respond in a constructive way when I say that I need something (as opposed to getting mad and talking about himself)--any of those things would help a lot.

I really appreciate your tact in saying that you're not implying that my expectations are "unreasonable"--I think what I want and need is not all that unusual, and thus probably technically within the ballpark of the 'reasonable" but I have begun to think it's nonetheless out of the question in this relationship. If true, that's also no one's fault ... but it is my responsibility to do something about it. It's not healthy to live with major needs unfulfilled for too long.

The real question is the one you raised--is it possible to find other ways to get the needs met ... maybe someone here has some more experiences to share about that kind of workaround ...?

anonymouslyadd
04-16-14, 04:26 PM
So, we had a talk. First, I learned that he remembered none of what had happened between us several days before when he walked away in the middle of a conversation about this because he didn't want to find out why I was upset. Well, no surprises there--this is what happens often. He loses lots of conversations after they happen, and if my emotions are uncomfortably engaged he is particularly apt to wipe them from memory.
He's like someone with Alzheimer's Disease. Poor working memory. Difficulty sustaining attention.

dvdnvwls
04-16-14, 05:25 PM
Occasionally I do have big, high-stakes relationship issues to discuss with my partner, and the slightest hint of anything like that tends to throw him into a tizzy. I think he has relationship-talk-PTSD, some from previous encounters with me, but much more from his exs, who--as I understand it--were pretty brutal in this regard. I have sympathy there, but there's less than zero I can do about his pre-me past, so it's hard to work with that.There has to be a way to talk about those things, obviously, or the relationship can't flourish. I wonder whether saying "PTSD" is just a convenient shorthand, or whether there's real truth to it. I wouldn't dismiss it lightly.

Mostly, I think what I want is just what you mentioned: the sense that someone else cares about how my days and their struggles or triumphs go, which in turn is a form of being acknowledged and appreciated ... and which, if it happened, would definitely give me a sense of connection to my partner. But it doesn't, so I feel lonely and remote. I know that I matter a lot to him, but I seldom feel that as a result of what he says and does--it remains a theoretical construct.:grouphug: I think I've been there, meaning I believe I did that to my ex on a regular basis. I think this paragraph relates very directly and specifically with the one above, about PTSD or fear. Like, "If I start a conversation, she'll probably take the opening I've provided and re-direct into some topic that will re-ignite the fear and anxiety."

Sometimes I am just trying to have practical talk about what's for dinner and when we'll clean the house, and what's up with the cat, and if we are going to invite guests over any time soon ... and this sort of (to me routine) back and forth oddly seems to be one of the hardest things for us to do together.YES! I need some time to figure out/remember why the routine back-and-forth was often so difficult. My first reaction (maybe incomplete or inappropriate... I just happen to have been thinking about this topic) is the executive-function thing again. The idea that as soon as you're talking about plans, then I'm trying to use my weak or missing functions. That when, half-way through the planning conversation, you get the feeling "I might as well be talking to the wall", I'm saying "Yes, it's true - you really might as well be talking to the wall! I know that, but I can't fix my brain. Could we please try to find another way, where we don't have conversations about plans?" I know that the initial response can easily be "Come on, this is simple stuff!" - but that's what I've already been saying to myself, over and over, for years. I know it's simple stuff, and that makes it even more embarrassing and painful to not be able to manage it.

I think the word "conversations" is to be taken very literally. In writing, I have a much better chance, with some time and space to work around my deficits. Maybe text or email or hand-written notes could alleviate this. My ex wouldn't try, so I don't know if it helps.

He talks a lot about himself, and expects me to listen and respond and be engaged. He talks a ton about topics of interest to him (and often not to me), and there he seems happy just to fill airtime without much response from me ... which makes me crazy. I feel I am being talked AT not TO, and I don't like it. In general, I have come to feel as though I am invisible in my own home. I hate this. I never want to be the center of attention, and am strongly an introvert, but for me a big part of partnership is dialogue, acknowledgment, recognition, being seen and known--attended to. There's that word: attention. Oh no.I don't feel as if it's an attention problem, at the root. I think he's in constant crisis mode, and that his distress and fear are causing him to believe that resolving his crisis is paramount, in terms of chances for marriage repair. (I expect he might think it's today's particular crisis that's to blame, but in reality, him getting off the "constant crisis merry-go-round" is probably more like what's needed - and I'd consider it a good possibility that that IS the major factor blocking marriage repair, or at least would benefit from being treated as if it was.)

Now that I'm myself and not in crisis mode, I easily and happily pay attention to others.

Alas, whereas our relationship began in a blaze of thrilling hyperfocus on me, we are now in a to-me unimaginably different place. I had no idea that the hyperfocus had an invisible expiration date stamped on it. I thought that's just how my parter is, how we are, and that it was what we would build a relationship upon. This is a big part of our problem, I think. It's no one's fault, but it cases me intense pain whereas to my partner it's normal and almost unnoticeable. This makes it hard to address.I'm betting that you're partly right about hyperfocus, but that the "crisis mode" mentioned above is also draining all his mental resources and preventing him from even trying.

I don't know what my partner listening better to me would be like. In moments of fierce conflict, I have sometimes weirdly found myself imploring him "I want you to say sentences in which I am the subject of the sentence, not you." If he would initiate discussion of my concerns occasionally, remember what I have previously told him about y stuff, or respond in a constructive way when I say that I need something (as opposed to getting mad and talking about himself)--any of those things would help a lot.Terrible-sounding question, but somehow relevant: Why, under the circumstances as he views them, would he do that?I really appreciate your tact in saying that you're not implying that my expectations are "unreasonable"--I think what I want and need is not all that unusual, and thus probably technically within the ballpark of the 'reasonable" but I have begun to think it's nonetheless out of the question in this relationship. If true, that's also no one's fault ... but it is my responsibility to do something about it. It's not healthy to live with major needs unfulfilled for too long. Absolutely true. And not simple to find a solution for.The real question is the one you raised--is it possible to find other ways to get the needs met ... maybe someone here has some more experiences to share about that kind of workaround ...?First it's important for you to know what the needs are, in terms that are clear and definite to him. You don't have to say them here, but "I need to be the subject of the sentence sometimes" is certainly something that points toward any of several well-known needs, such as care, recognition, respect.

There's a potential list here (it's not the only one there is, but it's available and helpful): http://www.baynvc.org/materials/UNIVERSAL_HUMAN_NEEDS.pdf

Dopes1
04-16-14, 07:43 PM
He talks a lot about himself, and expects me to listen and respond and be engaged.

...but for me a big part of partnership is dialogue, acknowledgment, recognition, being seen and known--attended to.


God forbid.

ToneTone
04-17-14, 12:00 AM
Great post dvdnvwls--very honest and probing and insightful.

VeryTired, in my soap-opera of a relationship life, I've been in your position and in your husband's position. Both positions were extremely painful. Some ideas … take and discard as necessary … starting from the simple to going deeper …

1. Please give yourself credit for working as hard as you do on your marriage and partnership … and credit yourself for coming here and trying to get ideas. Please acknowledge that … deeply … slowly … over a period of days … forget about your mistakes or how imperfect you are, let's acknowledge how hard you work on being with your husband ….

2. What activity might you be able to add to your life right now that would bring you pleasure or deep satisfaction or relief? Forget about him on this. Reading? Going out to movies? Exercising? Hanging with some women friends … Find an activity and do it. If he goes out for fun or with friends, surely you have the right to do the same.

3. I wonder if you and the hubby can experiment with ways he can take in your words. Can you possibly ask him how you can package your talk in a way that makes it easy for him to hear you? Think wild and crazy here. Does he need you to write down bull points on a piece of paper … An Outline … a quick text message outline or email outline of what you want to say? is he better listening in mornings vs evenings?

4. Going deeper, for a more profound shift, it may be time to engage in some strategic, nonviolent confrontation. An earlier poster suggested that you consider what would happen if you did not back off when he gets angry and walks out of the room. Some people here said walking out with him would not be a good idea … But I see a big problem with your backing off. If all he needs to do to get you to back off is to raise his voice, and throw a tantrum, then he will keep raising his voice and throwing tantrums. It is that simple.

Slightly awkward: I'm assuming, of course, that your husband isn't violent. If you are afraid that he will get violent, then don't continue to talk to him when he gets angry. I don't mean to linger on violence, but I needed to go there because absent violence or the threat of violence, I don't think it's your job to back off just because he's angry. That's not fair to you or effective in any way. I would say otherwise if he were in the habit of coming back to you later and saying, "sorry I got so angry. Now what was it you wanted to talk about?" If he does that, then sure, back off. If he doesn't do that, then backing off is just giving in to him. Or am I missing something?

5. The trick here is to not escalate or scream or raise your voice when you persist in asking for what you want … take a page from MLK/Gandhi playbook. You want to remain verbally, emotionally (and physically) nonviolent. Speak slowly and calmly and stay focused on repeating yourself. Speak as flatly or lovingly as you can … Look for ways to praise him and reassure him.… Hug him if you need to .. and repeat our request. HE SCREAMS! … You respond, "Dear, I need to talk to you about …." … HE YELLS!… I understand this is scary, and I don't want to hurt you. I deeply love you and admire you for X and y … and I need to talk about ... I'm betting that you have this capacity. What can happen here (not guaranteeing it will) is that he will learn that 1) you are not backing off and so he might as well figure out what's going on or else your approach isn't going to stop … and 2) he might hear that you aren't trying to hurt him …

Now this will be tough, because by backing down so far, you have essentially taught him that all he has to do is get angry and he'll win … So he may continue to get angry for days … But your job is to stay calm and loving all the way through … and there's a chance something will shift.

6. Perhaps as a small step before #5, it's probably time to stop listening to him when you don't want to listen. If that drives you crazy, it's time to start speaking up. "I"m sorry dear, but I will listen to you only if you agree also to listen to me … if not, I'm going in the other room." Again, the real trick here is to not say this in anger …

At some point you may want to face the possibility that he won't change … and ask yourself what then? That's a frightening question, but it's helped me many times. Something about that question allows for amazing clarity.

Tone

VeryTired
04-18-14, 11:12 PM
Dvd—

Thanks for the long post. It took me a little while to digest all that you said, and I’m still mulling. It’s so helpful to me when you reach back into memory and share with me things you experienced with your ex-wife, but I feel kind of guilty bringing up topics that make you return to what must be very unhappy memories for you.

The huge thing that I am taking away from what you wrote is that you feel that back in the difficult days of your marriage, you often experienced things that seem similar to what I report that my partner seems to be experiencing … and yet today, now that you and your ex have separated, and the emergency is over, you are (or have become) a person of deep insight into self and others, great calm, and remarkable sensitivity to others. It seems like a great argument in favor of divorce, or at any rate of being on one’s own.

Anyway, I think you’re right that my partner has been living in crisis mode for a long time now, and many things are filtered through that experience. There's a lot there for me to think more about.

That list of universal human needs is a strange and fascinating thing. Maybe I will try pointing it out and asking my partner to make for me which of those needs are being met for him now and which are not. Maybe if we both do that and compare, it will give us a starting point to talk about some of these things.

thank you, thank you--

VeryTired
04-18-14, 11:14 PM
Tone—

It’s taken me a while to reply to your latest long and thoughtful post also. I really appreciate your good counsel about doing things just for me, and your comment that I do seem to be trying hard to work on this relationship.

I have in the past tried to find out what’s the best way, from my partner’s point of view, to initiate discussions with him. I pick times when his medication is working, and I make a point of not taking him unawares. Sometimes we use e-mail. It doesn’t seem to make much difference, though—he just cannot do dialogue. He doesn’t respond to or comment upon what I say. He waits for me to finish, then resumes talking as if I had not spoken. Same thing in writing.

You’re definitely right that over time, he has in effect pressured me into not raising things by shouting, getting angry, or attacking (verbally). I am conflict-averse, and he is a fighter by temperament. But I am also stubborn, so if I feel too ignored or bullied, I ultimately push back. And when things go too far, and he is yelling at me, I have certainly lost control and also raised my voice as well on too many occasions. So I am fascinated by your idea of my staying calm for the long haul. If I could expand my zone of calm and good will considerably, and stick to it, this might really be a transformative experience.

And it’s probably definitely a good idea for me to cultivate the calm and goodwill it would take to tell him gently and lovingly that I will not listen to him unless he listens to me. This will take some doing, but it’s a goal that I feel positive about, so maybe I can do it.

As for facing the possibility that he won’t change—I’ve been right there for some time now. Which makes me wonder if possibly he would find himself able to learn/imagine/understand if we were no longer together and he had calm space and time to consider these matters, like dvdnvwls, who said “Now that I'm myself and not in crisis mode, I easily and happily pay attention to others.”

Anyway, there’s lots for me to think about in what you wrote. Thanks so much.

dvdnvwls
04-18-14, 11:22 PM
About my trouble with conversations about plans: Barkley's Taking Charge of Adult ADHD, chapters 16 through 23 (what can I say - it's an ADHD book - the chapters are really short! :) ) contain eight concrete suggestions for ADHDers to get ourselves through that kind of thing better. In truth it's "his job" to read it, but even if you read it yourself, you would then know more about what he's up against.

dvdnvwls
04-18-14, 11:59 PM
Dvd—

Thanks for the long post. It took me a little while to digest all that you said, and I’m still mulling. It’s so helpful to me when you reach back into memory and share with me things you experienced with your ex-wife, but I feel kind of guilty bringing up topics that make you return to what must be very unhappy memories for you.

The huge thing that I am taking away from what you wrote is that you feel that back in the difficult days of your marriage, you often experienced things that seem similar to what I report that my partner seems to be experiencing … and yet today, now that you and your ex have separated, and the emergency is over, you are (or have become) a person of deep insight into self and others, great calm, and remarkable sensitivity to others. It seems like a great argument in favor of divorce, or at any rate of being on one’s own.

Anyway, I think you’re right that my partner has been living in crisis mode for a long time now, and many things are filtered through that experience. There's a lot there for me to think more about.

That list of universal human needs is a strange and fascinating thing. Maybe I will try pointing it out and asking my partner to make for me which of those needs are being met for him now and which are not. Maybe if we both do that and compare, it will give us a starting point to talk about some of these things.

thank you, thank you--
When I was introduced to a similar list of needs, nearing the end of our relationship, I had a moment of blazing recognition, followed by extended uncontrollable sobbing over what I had been missing, followed by renewed anger and frustration. Sorry. :(

What efforts has he been making to get out of crisis mode? You can't just "be the relationship" on your own.

There's no need to feel guilty about bringing up these topics. Talking about these things, for me, is almost like sifting through the memories of someone else. I feel now as if back then I had become so emotionally twisted out of shape that I can hardly recognize that character as me. I do essentially as an actor does, to go back and "be" the other me for a moment, to find some of this information.

There was, I think, a fundamental disagreement between my ex and me about expectations for a relationship. We both had needs that were not being met, and I believe we both decided we wouldn't budge on helping with the other's needs until our own needs were met first - perhaps because we had each ended up unintentionally neglecting the deepest most vulnerable parts of the other person, whether by not knowing what those were or by not knowing what to do about them. I think I dimly perceived this whole structure at the time and didn't know what to do; I think she may have done the same, though "in the moment" I believed she was wilfully or even spitefully denying that my needs counted for anything.

To bring this to a more "raw" level, I think we were both (always metaphorically and often literally) shouting "Can't you see you're hurting me? Why? Please stop hurting me!". And the response from each side, "I'm not trying to hurt you, I just can't meet your needs because my own needs are very painful."

Further complication: She had a lot of anxiety about financial security and plans for the future, inherited from her experiences back home. (She didn't know I had ADHD when we got together, though she could obviously see there was something wrong.)

A word to the wise: If your "core issues" include making lots of money, having a comfortable retirement fund, and knowing the future clearly, then think very carefully before getting involved with an ADHDer. :(

dvdnvwls
04-19-14, 12:27 AM
I don't know what my partner listening better to me would be like. In moments of fierce conflict, I have sometimes weirdly found myself imploring him "I want you to say sentences in which I am the subject of the sentence, not you." If he would initiate discussion of my concerns occasionally, remember what I have previously told him about y stuff, or respond in a constructive way when I say that I need something (as opposed to getting mad and talking about himself)--any of those things would help a lot.
I just re-read this and saw three ADHD traps staring me in the face.

Asking a normal person to do these things is relatively straightforward. For an ADHDer, to do these particular things under massive stress and in a strained relationship would be a superhuman feat.

I think, more and more, that his constant crisis is undermining both his and your efforts to fix anything.