[Author’s Note: Melissa Orlov describes an ADHD symptom/response/response dynamic that can work to disrupt marriages. I give the following story as a possible illustration. We knew nothing about ADHD until one of my sons and then my wife were diagnosed three years ago.]
Twenty-six years ago while living together in a Northeast City, my fiancé and I decided it would be wonderfully fun and romantic to have a small Caribbean Destination wedding. I invited twelve family and friends from all around the country while my wife invited a similar number based in her Midwestern City. All my family and friends quickly accepted (and I guess the prospect of flying to the Caribbean for the weekend beat flying to Midwestern City in the very late Fall.) My fiancé’s family was quite different. They had expected the ceremony to be in their Midwestern City as had all previous family weddings. When each of our families’ youngest sibling could not come up with the airfare we agreed to pay for their tickets (we were already paying for all lodging at rented villas.) Then within my fiancé’s family extensive squabbling began among the sisters that the youngest got to go for free while the others had to pay. (I’d hear about this after my wife had spoken with one of the sisters or her Mom.) During one of those conversations my fiancé told one of the sisters ‘in confidence’ that my fiancé thought her family might be ‘dysfunctional’ (remember that ‘90’s buzzword?). Thereafter sister X told sister Y what my fiancé had said and sister Y immediately called their Mom and repeated same. Huge kerfuffle occurred. My wife was enraged that sister X had ‘betrayed her confidence’ and now wanted none of them to be at the wedding. So my fiancé demanded that I uninvite my family and friends and cancel the reservation on the villas. Since she was to be my wife and I wanted ‘to make her happy’ I did as she requested. We got married at a resort in the Caribbean without any of our family or friends present.
My ‘takeaway’ from this was anger at her sisters for using their ‘gossip machine’ to undermine our wedding. They achieved their seeming primary goal of not having to pay for tickets to the Caribbean but did not get their secondary goal of moving the ceremony to Midwestern City. My now wife’s family wanted to host a reception for us in a very nice location in Midwestern City. I agreed to add a Midwestern City leg to our return journey and to attend the reception ‘to make my wife happy’ even though I was angry the family had disrupted our wedding plan.
Upon return from the wedding and settling in Northeast City I resolved that the ‘gossip machine’ was evil and must be avoided at all costs. I was stunned to learn that my wife immediately reinstated participation in the ‘gossip machine’ with her family. Despite my requests to my wife to keep our marital conversations confidential seemingly anything I told my wife would almost immediately be interpreted and transmitted into the ‘gossip machine’ regardless of how personal the information. As a relatively private guy I was mortified even private ‘hopes and dreams’ would be so published. In response, for the length of our marriage I would always gauge the possible catastrophic RSD feedback loop (see fiancé’s reaction to ‘dysfunction’ comment) and couch any response to ‘how do you feel about…’ questions.
My wife always resented how ‘uncommunicative’ I am but almost any comment I make is interpreted as an ‘attack’ and a RSD ‘launch sequence’ begins.