Feeling despondent concerning communication patterns

Today, I took a calculated risk and told my husband that I felt the need to talk about a subject that is very painful for him, his failure to look for a job since he was fired three years ago.    He has said in the past that this topic always makes him feel inadequate and guilty and so on and so forth, and so I have grudgingly avoided talking about for several months.  But I was thinking today once again that it just isn't fair to take a major issue off the table because of one person's discomfort.  So, anyway, I talked, I didn't cry, I didn't yell, I just expressed my concern about the taboo nature of this topic and about how frustrating it was to me that whenever I talk about it, it always turns into a discussion of how inadequate and guilty my husband feels and how he feels as though i'm dumping on him and that really, I just want him to take responsibility and deal with his fears of looking for a job.

I talked, husband listened, I felt a sense of relief, no resolution was reached but one didn't seem necessary.

Later, I sent my husband an email thanking him for letting me talk without him responding in the usual way ("wife, this is making me feel really bad about myself").  Well, the email caused my husband to bring up how bad he feels about himself when I talk about this topic.

I feel so sad.  I feel as though in my husband's world, it always has to be my fault.



This SCREAMS "cop out" to

This SCREAMS "cop out" to me. I don't get it. So what if it makes him feel bad? He SHOULD feel bad. My husband said to me the other day "you make me feel like shit about myself." He was having a 'going to say whatever I can think of to be hurtful and deflect this conversation from me and what I have done' moments. I had asked him "are you going to tell me that your ADHD has never caused you to do anything you regret" (knowing full well that I mean his infidelities). I disagree...to a certain extent. It isn't me trying to get him to hold himself accountable (he typically does, but was having a very defensive moment...and I knew it...and just ended the conversation) that makes him feel like shit, it is HIS BEHAVIORS that make him feel that way. How could I possibly make him feel bad about himself if he hadn't done it in the first place? I don't throw it up to him, but I am certainly not going to let him act as if his ADHD simply involves him 'thinking differently' than me...hardly.

I'm sorry, but adults (married ones, especially) ARE accountable to others...like their spouses and families. If he isn't getting a job, he SHOULD feel bad. No need in saying "you're a piece of crap for not getting a job" but I would most definitely let him know that being unemployed wasn't acceptable...and let him know that my expectations were that he will be employed very soon. If he gets pissed off or feels bad, then I would just calmly point out that you're sorry he feels badly about himself, but the quickest way to resolve that is to get a job...and him not feeling bad about himself isn't your issue to resolve for him nor is him finding himself a job. He hasn't worked in 3 years...but it is somehow your fault is you mention it? Um..NO. Hold your head high, tell him to find a job, and stop enabling him by going for a ride on his guilt trip. 


This is a cop out.  My DH acts the exact same way when we deal with sensitive subjects, regardless of my approach...deflection.  So, I've come to the conclusion as in accordance with what he has said, that I can't do anything right whether it's being upset, celebrating, communicating, my job, my family, my friends.  He always has some type of criticism, even for the TV shows I'm watching while he's in another room.  The consummate peanut gallery.  And of course, he denies that too.

I totally understand the level of frustration and other feelings associated here.

In Agreement too

Can relate here- any “uncomfortable” topic that I try to calmly talk about  with DH that  is perceived as too upsetting/confrontational/too close to the truth results in me being accused of “attacking his character” or trying to “start something.” WHAT??? I try to understand and ask him to explain how what I said translated into an attack on his character…he just repeats himself over and over that I am attacking him.  l fail to understand the disconnect from what I said to what he hears.  Maybe it’s just part and parcel of ADD.  Or he literally runs to bed to avoid talking.  I ask myself if this is typical ADD and/or bipolar behavior (have the 2-for-1 at our house) or just generic jerky behavior.
I realize low self-esteem  can be a result of ADD and try to unnecessarily discuss things  that may upset him, but that can sometimes be pretty much anything except discussing the weather.  It’s wearying walking on eggshells all the time and not being able to have normal discussions with out accusations, blame and temper tantrums, etc.  Occasionally that happens and it gives me hope. Just wish it were more often!

from the ADHD perspective on this...

Awwww.... I am sorry you are feeling so frustrated... that sucks. It's so tough when you get into a rut of communicating a certain way and can't seem to break out of it. 

Having said that- I don't think you should diminish the progress here! :) 

Rather than fly off the handle and get all defensive while you were expressing yourself, he let you talk and he listened. Later- when you emailed him, perhaps he thought he had listened and that he was in the clear to express himself. He may not have realized that it would wipe out the progress he'd made by listening. the other option is that maybe the email was a little too much. It was hard enough to bite his tongue and just listen to something that makes him feel bad about his failures... and then to have an email kind of reiterating the point just was too much for one day... Email tone is so hard to read- maybe he missed the conciliatory tone in the email and the sincerity about how much the interaction had meant to you. These are possible explanations- not excuses! You are not in the wrong and did nothing wrong here- so I'm not suggesting this- but just trying to shed light on some other options.

I agree with other commenters that him feeling bad  about not seeking employment does no absolve him or mean that he shouldn't have to address it or solve it... that would be a cop out...

But he likely was just being honest when he said that talking about it causes him to feel self-loathing. That's not the same thing as saying it's your fault... maybe he thought that since you'd been fully heard on your point and were lauding the open communication, that he could communicate openly and explain to you that the reason he previously/usually reacts terribly to you initiating that kind of conversation, is because it hits a hot button of insecurity and disappointment in himself (which is all about him and nothing to do with you).

Anyway- hang in there Rosered! I do think there was progress, in that you were able to have the initial conversation peacefully... Now he needs to go look for a job!

I am sorry for the frustration and sadness you are experiencing. I know my husband and I have some interactions like this. Mostly when he wants to teach me something I have no interest in learning. I don't understand why he gets so mad that I don't care about AppleTV or all the features in the car console... It's not like I lean on him to do these things... I just don't use them. Period. He takes it really personally that I take no interest in this stuff and tend to tune out when he's explaining them. What he doesn't understand is that I am INCAPABLE of listening to him talk about that stuff without my mind wandering. Especially now- unmedicated and pregnant... I truly listen to his feelings and stuff about our household and our son and to important stuff- but technology is just an utter bore to me. I don't expect him to listen to me drone on about fiction and my hobbies that he finds boring... I don't start yelling at him and trying to force that on him, as he does to me...  My take is that he wants me to do everything his way and thinks he is always right. His take is that I am stubborn and refuse to make my life easier. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. We had a huge fight the other day because I was paying our property taxes and I prefer to do it by writing a cheque. He was just livid with me because I wouldn't let him sit me down at the computer to teach me how to pay it online... (which I know how to do, by the way- but couldn't get myself together enough to explain- because I got so enraged that he was trying to force the issue at all)- I had already written the physical cheque and addressed and stamped the envelope and didn't see why I had to do it his way. He'd say, "because it's the best way! It's instant! It's costless! It's fast!". My point, "my way works too! It's already set to go. I just pop it in the work mailbox! The envelope and cheque can't be reused now- so there's no saving money by doing it your way! I have a record of all the cheques I've written..." Grrr....  sorry- totally off topic there... again- blame the unmedicated ADHD and preggo hormones.

Hang in there girl! You are doing a great job in trying times. :)

Thank you, smiling again.

Thank you, smiling again.  You're right about the effect of the email, I think.

The part about it being my fault comes from discussions we've had in the past in which  my husband has explained that when I talk about painful subjects, he feels attacked; his brain shuts down; and then he can't do anything.  So, in his universe, my talking leads to his total ineffectualness.  (BTW, when I mentioned yesterday that I tried to avoid talking about painful subjects for exactly this reason, because i know how the process makes him feel, he accused me of throwing his comments back at him.  Huh?!)

This sounds familiar...

No problem!

I also get defensive... It's definitely an ADHD thing. I feel attacked by my husband when he insists there is no attack there... I can theorize about why... making so many mistakes when you are trying your best, growing up with labels like lazy, careless, spazzy, immature, dramatic... when you actually are trying SO HARD... but at the end of the day- that doesn't make the defensivenes any less annoying for our spouses. 

With my spouse, in some cases I think there is actually an attack, and in others, I do realize later (sometimes mere seconds after I snap), that I was being unreasonably defensive. And then there are just some topics that have gotten so loaded that they can't even be touched without an explosion.

Before my diagnosis and reading about ADHD, I didn't realize I was ever defensive. I used to tell my husband that it was "the way he was saying something", and he would call B.S. on me and say that he has tried a million different ways to broach something, but I would always react crazily except for the very rare exception... I have come to realize that he is probably right. He can't be perfect and say everything to me in a perfect tone. He is human too. And there truly is no good tone for some things that I don't want to hear. What I try now to do is to take a second after he says something that sets me off to think in my head, "should I be taking this personally"? I sometimes physically remind myself to wipe the sour expression off my face and make my words neutral... "I'm pretty sure I did turn off the oven. I'll check, just a second." instead of "did you turn it off? Why are you asking me?Of course I turned it off. Why do you always assume it's me?".

 It's very hard for me to take a second to think before talking. I am a person who talks and then sorts through the wreckage later... but I am working on this.

(BTW, when I mentioned yesterday that I tried to avoid talking about painful subjects for exactly this reason, because i know how the process makes him feel, he accused me of throwing his comments back at him.  Huh?!)

- I don't know enough about how this happened, but my gut response was that it probably embarrassed him to remember that he actually admitted this. That, or he felt trapped out of his usual response route- since you pointed it out to him...  so instead of shutting down or getting defensive, he went on the offensive (fight or flight- and your words pre-empted the flight). The final option is that maybe he felt belittled and betrayed by the context in which you brought it up... read your subtext as you saying ' Ugh. Of course I have gotten used to handling you with kid gloves... you can't even take talking like an adult... even you admitted this!' 

Anyway Rosered... your husband sounds like he is making improvements, but could use some therapy or a coach to help him with some cognitive behavioural stuff...

You are a lovely lady- so hang in there!


Pbartender's picture

Would you let your teenager say that?

Something I've found helpful for myself, recently...

Whenever I begin to feel defensive and that snarky reply starts forming in my brain (and oh! it happens so fast that it's tricky to catch).  I stop for just a moment, and think to myself...  "Would I let my 12 year old or or my 14 year old son get away with saying this?"  The answer is usually a resounding, "No."  That pretty much heads off the worst of it for me in most instances, and gives me the time I need to rethink what I was going to say into something more...  appropriate.



I like that! I don't have

I like that! I don't have teenagers (yet)... but I often think- how would I respond if this was said to me? And if the answer is that I would flip the eff out, I try to button my tongue... I am getting better at this...

By the way- random thought I want to share (YAY!): I think everyone- ADHD or not- reserves their worse behavior for their closest relatives... Nobody can say that under times of extreme duress they haven't inadvertently vented on their spouse ever. I think it's universal.- due to level of familiarity, trust and of course proximity... BUT... It's particularly bad for us ADHD-ers, because our hyperactivity, impulsivity and emotional disregulation make it harder for us to control ourselves so our outbursts are probably more frequent and severe.  It requires a constant full-blown effort from me to control my emotions and emotional reactions. Ugh.

Thanks again, smilingagain.

Thanks again, smilingagain.  Your perspective and suggestions are very thought provoking and I appreciate you taking the time to respond at length.

My husband claims to not be defensive.  And I think that's true, in the traditional meaning of the word "defensive."  And yet, he is remarkably effective at protecting himself. The term you used, "deflecting," is apt.  

I can see how the subtext of my comment could be seen as "ugh.  kid gloves... can't take talking like an adult...."  I didn't intend the comment to be taken that way.  My husband is big on niceness.  Whenever we talk about serious personal topics, he reminds me that he never criticizes me, that he never expresses the resentment that he feels toward me, that he's never mean.  I.e., he is the nice guy, and I'm the bitch.  My comment to him was just an attempt to express that I have taken to heart his pointing out how certain of my behaviors make him feel and thus I try to avoid them.  I want to be nice, too!

I know you weren't attacking

I know you weren't attacking your husband and you didn't mean for him to feel betrayed or vulnerable... this isn't your fault. I was just explaining to you how he might be thinking... Again- an explanation, but not a defense.

Your husband sounds like my dad. My dad has undiagnosed ADHD (almost certainly) and my mum has always said that she cannot get him to fight with her- even when a fight is required... He avoids conflict like the plague... which of course only ratchets up her level of frustration. She talks about laying furious with him in bed and him sleeping soundly like a baby next to her, oblivious that she is seething... She said she eventually realized it was pointless to get mad at him... She picks her batt;es very carefully because it takes more energy out of her than him and he usually won't participate without enormous effort and escalation on her part... which then makes her feel like she's the bitch who overblew everything.

Have you ever tried broaching the job topic this way: "The whole issue of you not looking for work doesn't make me angry so much as it makes me feel vulnerable... like it's all on me. What if I lose my job? I would love it if we were teammates and we were both contributing. And I don't mind that you can't find something right away or that it's not $100,000 a year. But to have you not even looking or trying after 3 years makes me feel insecure- like maybe it doesn't matter to you that this concerns me." Sometimes flashing vulnerability, instead of anger, is what will really open his heart to see what you are feeling. the anger gives him something to play against... but if it's just sadness and fear from you- maybe he'll really get it.  kknowing you- even a little from these forums... I'm betting you HAVE tried this- but thought I would mention it...

As for the job hunting itself, is he amenable to getting your help? Some men are too proud... but if not, maybe you could say something like,  "I get that it must be completely overwhelming after 3 years out of the workforce to try to step in... I get it. You must feel scared that you won't find something or won't be able to keep a job. But I'll help you. Let's make a list of your best skills and your interests and think about what might be a good fit for you. I'll help you get this resume together and a cover letter and we'll send it to three places a week and just start that way!". I don't know if that feels too parental... but I try that crap with my husband all the time... he is unhappy in his job, but afraid to quit... so it's a little different... I am trying to bolster his confidence to leave a high-paying job that is killing him slowly... he is too proud and risk averse to do it. so I have learned to back off and the topic of his job is a hot topic in our household as well.


I have tried just about

I have tried just about everything.  My husband has been receiving assistance, from the state department of vocational rehabilitation.  The state finally stopped paying for his DVR counselor and she said that she could keep seeing him for free.  Results?  Nada.


Nothing really else to say here.

Just big hugs to you. That must be really difficult.

It is difficult.  The bright

It is difficult.  The bright side?  I've become much stronger.  I know that I can support myself and my children.  I know that I'm willing to make extraordinary effort to save my family and my marriage.  I've also learned that there are many things I can't control, and that is certainly a good, although sometimes painful, life lesson.