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  #1  
Old 03-29-14, 06:54 PM
VeryTired VeryTired is offline
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Active listening, listening, not listening

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

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

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

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

Can anyone offer suggestions about making listening more a part of a relationship in which ADHD seems to impede or prevent listening often? Thanks--
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Old 03-29-14, 07:14 PM
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Re: Active listening, listening, not listening

Yes. It's called the three word game. I kid you not... Each partner has three words... to which the other partner/person must reply with three words before the other can continue...

Try it!

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

Good luck!
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Old 03-29-14, 09:22 PM
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Re: Active listening, listening, not listening

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

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

So that is my situation, what I have tried, the results I have had, and my decision.
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Old 03-29-14, 09:28 PM
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Re: Active listening, listening, not listening

i don't think any suggestions would help, he doesn't seem interested

i really don't think adhd is preventing him from listening, based off your story it sounds like he is preventing himself from listening to you
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Old 03-29-14, 09:43 PM
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Re: Active listening, listening, not listening

Not wanting to listen and not being able to listen are not opposites; they can easily feed off of each other over the course of a person's life.

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

This is not to say it can't be changed, just to say that blame is not justified as often as one might think.
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  #6  
Old 03-29-14, 09:53 PM
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Re: Active listening, listening, not listening

Some people don't like it when I use dog analogies about people - to them, I apologize in advance.

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

The same thing is quite a bit more difficult when applied to humans, especially humans of whom we have un-met expectations. But making an extra effort to greet any hint of a listening attempt with positive emotion might make a difference. Fear can be hard to overcome; it can also probably feel wrong or silly to think that this kind of touchy-feely could matter to a man, but I think it often does matter a lot.
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Old 03-30-14, 12:18 AM
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Re: Active listening, listening, not listening

Hmmm, first of all, thank for sharing, this almost seemed as if it left you disappointed, especially when you chose not to work on a sill that you knew would have benefited your relationship greatly and not left you feeling so lonely

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

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

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

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

okay, not sure any of that helped... BUT you're not alone I think DVD has a point though...just because it's difficult doesn't mean it can't be done ---- it's a skill... that he didn't want to practice :P
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Old 03-30-14, 12:24 AM
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Re: Active listening, listening, not listening

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Originally Posted by TLCisaQT View Post
it's a skill... that he didn't want to practice :P
I have been in the position of wanting to practice but being too scared to do so.
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Old 03-30-14, 12:34 AM
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Re: Active listening, listening, not listening

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Originally Posted by dvdnvwls View Post
I have been in the position of wanting to practice but being too scared to do so.
What was the fear from? failing? succeeding?
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Old 03-30-14, 12:49 AM
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Re: Active listening, listening, not listening

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What was the fear from? failing? succeeding?
No.

As outlined above, from being criticized for not listening, and also for listening well and then taking inappropriate action. It's not an issue of success or failure, it's an issue of the hostile reactions of those around me. Framing it as success or failure misses the point.
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Old 03-30-14, 02:33 AM
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Re: Active listening, listening, not listening

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

Or, to put it another way, don't talk like this unless you're intending to drive your ADHDer away from you, or if you're itching for a fight.
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Old 03-30-14, 03:14 AM
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Re: Active listening, listening, not listening

i think he was telling this kind if as an anecdote, then when he saw that you felt bad, completely shut down (I'm not saying he is right!).
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Old 03-30-14, 04:21 AM
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Re: Active listening, listening, not listening

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

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

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

Last edited by think.pink; 03-30-14 at 04:22 AM.. Reason: missed a word
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Old 03-30-14, 04:25 AM
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Re: Active listening, listening, not listening

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i think he was telling this kind if as an anecdote, then when he saw that you felt bad, completely shut down (I'm not saying he is right!).
This I could understand also, but the question remains, why did he refuse to do the exercise with the individual in the class?
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Old 03-30-14, 07:39 AM
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Re: Active listening, listening, not listening

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

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

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