I’m sorry this is so long.
I finally managed to have a real conversation with my wife yesterday—only after I expressed frustration that no one in the family wants to listen to me. We got our 9-year-old daughter to play in the back yard—with some interruptions. Our 15-year-old son was out of the house.
Context—our daughter is diagnosed with ADHD and has strong OCD symptoms. Our son exhibits lots of signs. I used to think my wife probably had high-functioning Borderline Personality Disorder, but now I think it is likely that she has ADHD. I see this as positive and hopeful because ADHD can be treated much more effectively than BPD. She has been diagnosed as Bipolar II, and takes HALF of the medication prescribed—though she has had a gap in medication recently that she blames for her poor mood. (Seeing her psychiatrist had slipped her mind.)
I started by explaining how my father had not listened to me. He would ask the same questions, over and over, and act like it was the first time. I would tell him things over and over and he would not remember them. I also mentioned that he invalidated it when I told him that I was being beaten up by bullies at school. My wife jumped in that she was still mad at him for that—completely missing that I was comparing not being heard as a child to how she and our two kids don’t listen to me.
I brought up something that happened the night before. We went to a food and wine fundraiser for the schools. She was standing at the only table with the whiskey and I joined her. The woman behind the table remembered me and asked if I had tried one of them. I said that I had and she poured a sample of the other one. So my wife knew I was there—though she tried to claim otherwise during the conversation yesterday. My wife has a pattern of being very interested in strangers and not paying attention to me. This is what happened on Saturday. At one point, my wife told the woman that we prefer beer to wine. I tried to jump into the conversation with an analogy—whiskey is to beer as brandy is to wine. But I could not get a word. I told my wife the analogy after we left that table, but by then it was no longer really relevant.
I brought up the subject of sex. I explained how much it hurts me when she says she wants to have sex and then does not follow through. I also expressed how frustrating and ego-shredding it is when we are having sex and she stops to start talking about something completely unrelated. It makes me feel like I am the most boring sexual partner in the world. She said she understood why the talking was a problem. She said she was doing better about keeping her promises about having sex. I told her that I had thought that she would have taken me up more often on my offer of oral sex, given that she has been talking about it for years. She told me that the oral sex feels good but that she is “not used to it.” She also said that she enjoys sex when we are doing it BUT does not think about it at other times. (My wife does, however, make comments right in front of me about how hot Robert Downey, Jr. is--in front of our kids and other people. I don't mind her telling her girlfriend that a celbrity is hot. I mind her telling the girlfriend and her husband that Robert Downey, jr. is hot right in front of me, demonstrating to her friends that she doesn't have to think of my feelings.)
She said that her lack of interest in sex was probably do to aging and menopause. I suggested she ask her gynecologist or therapist about this. She became defensive and started telling me that maybe it was a biological problem. I pointed out that, yes, that is why I suggested you speak to a medical professional about it. Eventually she conceded that it was a good idea. Keep in mind that I am on hormone replace therapy and I use Cialis. (She had been very set against me using Cialis to address a medical problem and said that she thought taking the pill meant that I was no longer attracted to her.)
I told her that I felt taken for granted. It feels like she thinks that I am so unattractive/uninteresting that I wouldn’t be able to find anyone else so she doesn’t have to take my feelings into consideration to get me to stay.
I also pointed out that the lack of sex started long before menopause—years ago, for example, she would promise sex and then stay up chatting with a friend on the phone while I waited in bed naked--and waited and waited. I eventually put on my pajamas and went to sleep feeling like an idiot for believing her.
(I did not say this, but it occurs to me that sometimes it makes me feel like she wanted the sex in order to have kids. Now that we have kids, why would she need to have sex with me?)
She has also been bringing up Disney again—she wants to go in August. One of our daughter’s symptoms is that she is terrified of animatronics and some statues. She will scream and run away without considerations for her own safety. I pointed out that even if we have the money for a trip to Disney, it would not be a good idea with our daughter. She first responded that we are trying to get help for our daughter. I pointed out that it was unrealistic to expect her to improve that much by August and that my wife has a pattern of thinking things will progress more quickly and smoother than they do and then gets frustrated and angry. She then changed her argument to invalidating our daughter—she is faking the panic attacks to get attention. I pointed out that that line of reason is incredibly counterproductive. She then changed it to our daughter “exaggerates” her fear in order to get attention.
Later that night, she got into a big fight with our son. (She had been expressing to me how positive she felt about his grades. I warned her not to get too excited. Sure enough, he was failing science and she became very angry.) They were both yelling very loudly. Sometimes she would address me and say that she did not think she was yelling. She also yelled to our son while she was right next to me. I told her this is traumatic for me. She was invalidating at first—how could a little yelling be “traumatic.”
He was cursing at her, which is one of her triggers. She demands that no one curse around her because an abusive ex-boyfriend used to cursed at her. I asked how long she went out with him. She said one year. I pointed out that I had had to deal with my father, grandmother and sister yelling like that until my grandmother died when I was 18. I had to put up with my father and sister screaming until I moved out at 22. So, yes, that kind of yelling is traumatic for me. (I did not point out last night that some of this yelling from my father and grandmother was connected to physical abuse, but I have previously told her that my grandmother beat me with a belt or a hairbrush and that one time my father even hit me with a tv rabbit ear antenna I had broken.)
A few weeks ago, I suggested that my wife look into the possibility that she may have ADHD and that addressing it could help not only communication between us but also better communicating (and better parenting) with our kids. She immediately complained that she has no time to see another specialist. I suggested she talk to her therapist or her psychiatrist. She accused me of “dictating” what she should discuss with her therapist. I responded out that I was only trying to be helpful by suggesting someone she is already seeing who may be able to help. She seems a bit more accepting of the possibility that ADHD may be a problem, but not enough to actually do anything about it so far.