I decided to make this its own topic since I found a response by Aspen in a response to a post by Hoping4More about the unacceptability of eye rolling, sighing, huffing, and storming as a response to a disagreement.
My husband and I have been making some progress -- usually two steps forward and one back, but progress -- with the help of Melissa on a number of fronts. Most of our areas of conflict are pretty typical of a couple with small children, but exacerbated by ADD symptoms: how to discipline children, division of childcare/housework, spending time together v. alone, etc. I find that generally, our disagreements on these points are probably, with the ADD awareness and Melissa's suggestions and strategies, not that bad and we have been able to come up with mutually-agreeable solutions on many of them.
HOWEVER, I find that getting to the point where we can finally have a discussion to talk about solutions involves such a crisis, escalation, and production that I am absolutely worn down by the time we get there. One major factor I can pin this down on is that ANY TIME I have a point of disagreement, and no matter how nicely or calmly or politely I bring it up, I am met with huffing, sighing, eye-rolling, shaking of the head and a number of other verbal and nonverbal communications that signal, to me, that my views are unwelcome, not deserving of dignity and respect, and worthless.
As you can imagine, having this as a starting point makes it considerably harder to come to a place of partnership where we are working things out together. It's like moving one step back before you even get started.
I have tried to explain to my husband the destructive effects of this behavior on our communication and our relationship, but he does not want to take responsibility for it -- even though he does eventually take responsibility in some of the substantive areas (e.g., agreeing to do a chore, etc.). He has told me that these reactions are a part of his ADD and involuntary, like when he is engrossed in something and he has to change his attention to something else. He said that in such cases, his exasperation is not personal, it's just his own frustration with having to cut himself off from what he's doing.
Fine. I am trying to ignore this behavior when it happens when I ask him to do a chore or help me out, etc. This explanation doesn't seem to fit, however, when we're in the middle of a conversation and I'm trying to tell him that something is bothering me, or to give him my opinion on a discipline issue. In that context, it just seems arrogant and dismissive.
I read a book by John Gottman called "The Seven Principles of Making Marriage Work." He claims to be able to tell within five minutes of watching a couple fight whether they will ultimately get divorced. The key predictors, he says, are criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. Contempt, Gottman says, is the worst, because it signifies an utter lack of respect for your partner. The eye-rolling routine is really tearing me down, and I can't deal with it any more. I feel like even if we are able too negotiate compromises on the other substantive issues, I will not ever be able to feel truly valued and close to my husband if this is how we continue to fight.
I know that ideally, I would ignore this and continue to behave calmly, but this is a real trigger for me and it may end up being a dealbreaker in this marriage. Does anyone have any thoughts or advice?