Empathy

Hello...

I'm relatively new to this whole thing.... I'm non-ADD, spouse is ADD since a young age.... I'm just finding out about it.   We have been together 6 years, married 3.  Been in marriage counseling as well as separate counseling.  I'm on my way to being medicated for depression, SO is on way to talk to a ADHD specialist.  All very positive things. 

We bicker about household chores, but have seemed to come to a nice solution - hiring a house cleaner definitely helped with a lot of that.  There is no adultery, no addiction, no abuse - we are working very hard on being open and honest about our feelings, and are finding ways to mend hurt feelings and move forward.  My SO can be very defensive about the ADD and the symptoms that plague our relationship, but also willing to stay in the conversation and talk them out, and it's getting better.  I try my best to "own" my contributions/problems in the marriage.  I'm finding out that I often fall short in showing the SO support and appreciation.  I'm also reading books and talking to my therapist about how to get past my anger so that I can offer my SO the things he needs from me. 

One thing that keeps coming up for me is empathy - and an inability to show empathy when I'm having a hard time.  I know SO is  trying really hard,  and WANTS to show empathy, but  falls short and it ends up really hurting my feelings and I become resentful.   Thing is, this ADD is new to me... it's not something I have had to "deal" with, it's not something I thought would be in my life, or our children's lives... and I am really having a hard time wrapping my brain around all of the things that will have to be adjusted in our life to make it better for us.  It's like I'm grieving the loss of the life I had envisioned for us (and I know that sounds silly).  I WANT to make things easier for us, I'm willing to adjust my expectations and things that have been engrained in me for 30 years.  But the lack of empathy from SO towards how this is effecting MY life is killing me. 

As much as I would love my SO to have empathy, or "get" empathy, I am understanding that it might just not happen.  How do I get past it?  How do I adjust my expectations when it's something that all of us inherently need?  How do I explain it to SO in a way that doesn't cause defensiveness and frustration (or another "I never do anything right" moment)?   How do you explain what you need in that moment?  Suggestions?

 

 

 

 

This is a tough one, that

This is a tough one, that comes up often.

After reading your post it seems that the empathy you're wanting from him is right now...you want him to admit and acknowledge that his ADD is causing you pain. I will respond to you based on that assumption, so forgive me if I'm wrong. This is so common...I can't even tell you. The ADDers here who 'get it' and can say "Man, my ADD caused me to do some stupid sh!t, but I'm moving forward and trying things differently from here on out" are RARE. My husband will admit, on very rare occasions, that he knows he has hurt me. If he will only admit it once a year, at least I know he is aware of it. It'll do. There is typically a very deep dark negative "I can never do anything right" side of people with ADD and it prevents them from admitting to things they do wrong because it makes them extremely defensive...as a means of survival? They prefer to just 'move on' and 'stop living in the past' because facing the realities of what they have done is too painful. It isn't that they aren't aware. It isn't that they don't feel bad. It isn't even that they don't care. It is just too painful to say it and face it. Another fairly common issue is that when anything involving "when you do _____ it hurts me" (i.e. EMOTIONS) causes them to shut down, retreat into 'ADD happy land', and the defenses go up and they start deflecting blame and projecting all of the issues in the marriage onto the spouse. "you're too needy!" "you're too sensitive" "I wouldn't do ____ if you weren't such a nag/b!tch/control freak" etc. Yes, it might be a reality that you'll have to let go of the fairytale of having your feelings validated...at least verbally. In fact, sometimes, it just simply isn't going to be something he can help. He will not always be in a place to be 'there' for you when you're going through hard times. If he's dealing with his ADD head on right now, I suspect he's probably just as overwhelmed as you are facing your depression, only overwhelmed for an ADDer is 1000 x worse than for non's. (as they describe it). Continue to work on YOU and work on being strong for yourself so that you will be emotionally capable of facing future challenges.

One thing worth mentioning...it isn't that you should never tell him that something hurts your feelings or makes you unhappy. However, if you're expecting a sit down, rational conversation..him to 'get it' and say "I am so sorry" and then the issue be resolved, it just simply isn't going to happen. Best way I've managed to come up with to help deal with his avoidance of 'my feelings' is to handle hurtful situations as they happen, look at him and say "it is really hurtful when you ____" and then walk away. He has NOTHING to focus on except that one comment. If I say 5 sentences, he's most likely only going to hear one...and it will be the worst one...and the entire point will be lost. Walk away. Give him time to digest it, but most importantly just let it go. Staying angry only justifies, in their minds, their behaviors. Being kind and open gives them more of a sense of security and makes saying "I'm sorry" easier because..well, it is easier to say in an atmosphere of love and acceptance than it is in one of anger and hostility. It is ok to be upset by something our spouses do, it is not ok to carry around the anger for weeks and months on end as if we are justified in being that way. Confront it, say 'it hurts' and then move on. You might be surprised at how empathetic he can learn to be when he learns to trust that you're not going to berate and hate him every time he makes a mistake. This is why letting go of your anger is so important.

This can change...I'm sure he feels the pain you're feeling...but it is just too overwhelming for him right now and he simply cannot give you what you need until he is stronger and healthier himself. I dealt with this reality head on this past spring when my husband came unglued and withdrew from the family. I had SOOOO much going on with the kids, dealing with his withdraw, my college stuff, etc that I literally was livid with him for what he had done. When he came around, about mid-June, I decided 'screw it' and just completely shut down and probably technically went into a depression. I'm trying to crawl out the other side right now...but it has taken me a while. I'm trying to practice what I preach and forgive him and really accept that he did the best he could...no matter how badly it hurt. I think where I'm having a hard time moving forward is because he feels he can control his own ADHD and doesn't feel it is something he needs professional help for. He sees a shrink who prescribes his meds...and that's about it.

Sherri = Genius

That Damn unknown ADD whispering in my ear all the way through year 43 caused me to do too many stupid things to list, even if I could remember them all :-) Sherri says "There is typically a very deep dark negative "I can never do anything right" side of people with ADD and it prevents them from admitting to things they do wrong because it makes them extremely defensive..." - Guitly... I almost pride myself on my inner Darth Vader.

This is also a very good way to deal with me... "Best way I've managed to come up with to help deal with his avoidance of 'my feelings' is to handle hurtful situations as they happen, look at him and say "it is really hurtful when you ____" and then walk away. He has NOTHING to focus on except that one comment" One thing to remember is that an untreated ADDer can be pretty oblivious to your unhappiness. So an angry outburst (Justified most of the time) first of all is shocking to us and in my case I would immediately realize my shortcoming, but be unprepared for how to deal with it. Sherri's suggestion gives the ADDer time to sort through what has happened and hopefully come up with a way to improve the situation. I did not deal well with things in real-time, because I had no preparation for the discussion. Imagine feeling attacked and having a thousand thoughts going through head, but not being able to grab the right one. History had taught me it was better to go stone cold, rather than say something to make it worse.  These are terrible coping mechanisms. Usually the big blow ups happen at night too, which is the Worst time for an ADDer because our brains spin so fast all day and we are mentally exhausted by the end of the day and during stress I used to struggle to stay awake. My shut downs were That bad.

Meds, knowledge, therapy and sorting through my thoughts on this site with Sherri, DF, Aspen, Lululove, Ellemenno, Pjloops, ADDmomof3 and many others have help me so much. I had ups and downs and still do, but I'm better and still working on getting better. I want to improve my family life and if some of my ramblings help a few others, that's even better.

YYZ

 

 

Sherri=perceptive and BTDT

Been there done that could be this site's motto! My big dilemma has been when leaving my DH with that one thought, which clearly has made an impression on him; is that nothing seems to be resolved by him ultimately, he just has not been overtly able to deal with this. Yyz writes: "Sherri's suggestion gives the ADDer time to sort through what has happened and hopefully come up with a way to improve the situation": but too often, my DH just gives up in that self blame, everybody especially YOU are yelling at me, why try to fix an unfixable situation with you.... let me go drink ina pub where there is NO blame, only "peace". Hmmm really, I am struggling with how I can assist him in moving past that point but have only come up with one conclusion as of late. I can't. But I will continue on with life, not be afraid to talk to him or express my feelings - no eggshells, no direct (when I can help it) rollercoaster rides, mORE stability for me and kids, and try my damndest to keep from being an enabler/codependent (which is, in truth, MY ISSUE not HIS). I get mad and frustrated often, no lie. I get terribly lonely, for sure. But like my DH, I want peace. And I will not, at the same time, be afraid to look at a future with DH- but with the expectation of peace and happiness with HIM.

BTDT

BTDT had me stumped :) If we all can learn from the past things will get better. I am sure hoping so... In my limited experience pubs don't really offer much, other than taking your money, making the ADD thoughts worse by simplifying the problem down to "Not Me", or worse things because of your dumbed-down brain being in self-destruct mode. I like a drink in a social place as much as anyone, but drinking just to feel better has always been a fear of mine. You are right in continuing on, because you can't fix him and express your feelings and don't get baited into an argument. That was my mistake leading to my "Groundhog Post". It seemed like that fight flipped a switch in both of us and things began easing up, slowly afterwards. Slow and steady towards the future I hope...

YYZ

YYZ....

one of the BIGGEST challenges for me has been the anger... and the outbursts.  When I met my husband 6 years ago, I had no idea that I had an "anger problem" - which was something he brought to my attention.  As I'm learning, I could have had the smallest outburst, and he would have labeled it as an anger issue.  It's something he's most sensitive to. 

While I don't think I had an anger management issue per se - the fact that it bothered him that much, and that HE thought I had an issue I knew I had to change something.  I sought counseling and over the past 5 years, I have learned to take deep breaths when I feel like I'm going to burst, I think through my sentences before I say them, and I never ever ever call him bad names.  That is strictly forbidden in our marriage.

I think it's hard for me to imagine feeling attacked, when I know in my heart I'm not "attacking" - I'm not yelling, screaming, attacking etc.  I choose my words wisely and I almost never raise my voice or yell (but I admit I have, and probably will in the future at some point).  That is probably something that he and I will always "agree to disagree on" - I'm learning that the smallest amount of anger causes him to shut down, but I can't always quell my feelings because I don't think it's always healthy for me to do that.   But we CAN agree that we can have hurt feelings and try to mend them later. 

"Usually the big blow ups happen at night too, which is the Worst time for an ADDer because our brains spin so fast all day and we are mentally exhausted by the end of the day and during stress I used to struggle to stay awake. My shut downs were That bad" - THANK YOU for bringing this up - I wasn't aware of this but it makes perfect sense - and nearly all of our arguments happen at night, after a 13+ hour day.... I will put this piece of info in my back pocket and work on other ways to tackle our issues, hopefully at different times.

 

Thank you

Sherri for you're response...  

I think mostly, I am looking for him to acknowledge that this is effecting "us" - and I realize that it might not happen, now or ever.  It's just a really big let down and I'm struggling getting past it.   Right now, his response is usually... "i'm sorry you feel that way, but... "  and then I see red and can't have a normal conversation.  He's very focused on telling me how he DOES contribute and support me in our life, and not too keen to realize how he doesn't.  I think he's wanting to try and change that, but it's hard for me to be patient (something I fiercely lack). 

I LOVE your idea to "handle hurtful situations as they happen, look at him and say "it is really hurtful when you ____" and then walk away."   I'm going to try this for sure. 

"If I say 5 sentences, he's most likely only going to hear one...and it will be the worst one...and the entire point will be lost. Walk away".   - I should know better than to overwhelm him with information - I can see it in his face when it happens, but often times I don't stop myself.  That's something I know I need to be better at.   When I don't walk away, our conversation turns into a nasty circle that takes all different tones, and then he'll look at me and ask me what it is we are actually talking about because he's lost.  I can feel it happening, but I don't always stop it.  I need to learn how to  just walk away - it's on my "list" of things that I'm going to be adjusting, which I'm fine with.

After our last therapy session, I was overwhelmed and angry, but trying to stuff those feelings down so I wouldn't yell.  Instead, I slept on it, then wrote him and email and told him to read it when he had time.  So far, no conversation about it so I'm hoping that he's taking it all in and digesting it.  That tends to work best for him. 

Letting go of the anger has probably been the hardest part for me - I'm very open about it with him and my therapist which actually seems to be helping me a little.  I'm starting "The Dance of Anger" and also think that Melissa's book has some very good points as well.  One of the biggest things for me in "letting go" is that I'm worried I'm doing it for the wrong reasons (i.e. just do it, decide and move on) and that I'll be resentful again later.  It's such a hard balance, but I'm hopeful.... 

Thanks again - I really appreciate your thoughts.