Helpful insight

Hi. I'm new here, but I'm totally in.  I've been married to a woman with undiagnosed ADHD for 13 years now with 6 kids.  My wife just got officially diagnosed a few weeks ago, after I had basically given up on "my plight" as a man condemned to live in "trash can".  This is how I often felt.  That feeling of giving in was good in a way, but anger and resentment always seems to creep back at some point.  

Anyway, after my wife's diagnosis we began to talk about getting an ADHD coach in addition to her taking medication. Our conversation started off as 99 percent of our conversations do.  She gives her reasons, I repeat them and point out where I disagree and she tells me I don't understand or am not listening, or don't want to listen, and then changes the language of what she said in order to re-explain.  I then tell her that that's what I thought she said and that my response was still valid.  She then again tells me, I don't get it, and this can go on, ad nauseam.  Here is a short synopsis of this argument about getting an ADHD coach (omitting the anger, screaming and crying):  

I start off by mentioning, "the psychiatrist recommended that we get an ADHD coach along with the medication".  

My wife responds, "I know, but I can't just yet, I won't have some organized person coming into my house and start bossing me around in a controlling and demeaning manner, I can have my mother to do that".

 I tell her, "It's not supposed to be a bossy organized person, an ADHD coach is a trained professional that has experience with people with ADHD and knows how to be sensitive to your issues about feeling attacked".

She says, "I don't feel attacked, you don't get it.  I'm not ready to have someone come in here and tell me what to do, I know what to do, let me try the medication first."

I respond, "They are not just going to tell you what to do"

"I need to work out my own system not go by someone else's system"

I say, "but you've tried that for years and haven't been successful, they don't just give you a system. If we find a good with with recommendations, she will be a well trained professional that will understand your strengths and weaknesses and will work with you. She will listen to what you say and make suggestions based on what you want to accomplish".

Now we've reached tears and yelling "you just don't get it, you don't listen to me.  I cannot have someone trying to control my life."

I follow up again, "I understand what you are saying, and I'm telling you that they will not come in and try to control you'

She says, "That's not what I said. I didn't say I don't want someone controlling me"

I say, "Fine, it doesn't matter what you said.  The language doesn't matter.  OK. let's say hypothetically it was possible that there was a person that would allow you to do whatever you want and only listen to you and just help you implement whatever you chose to do in terms of getting organized. All they will do is observe and assist.  No bossing"

"There is no such person like that."

"Let's just pretend. Totally hypothetical"

"I still wouldn't do it. I would still feel like they are bossing me around"

"Even if they didn't even say anything to you, but just observed?"


It finally dawned on me what was going on here.  She was describing how it would feel for her, not what would actually be taking place.  I was focused on the reality of what would take place, and she was focused on the feeling that that reality would cause her and describing it as the actual reality.  This has been going on for 13 years!  I've been pulling my hair out for 13 years, agonizing about how there was no rationality in the world, there was never any logic to her responses. It turns out that many of these miscommunications may have been because she is really describing how she would feel using the language of describing what would actually be taking place.  I pointed this out to her and she hesitantly agreed.  "yeah", she said, "I guess that is what I'm doing." She is communicating her perception of a situation, not the situation itself.  I don't think she realized there was a difference, and I was so attuned to the difference that I took it for granted that she would also take this difference into consideration when communicating.  I have a feeling that this was an important step in improving our communication, especially since I will be on the lookout for this perception vs reality dichotomy in the future.