Does anyone else feel like their ADHD partner really just doesn't fundamentally understand the emotional impact of their actions and behaviors on others? Like there's almost some kind of real, mental barrier that actually prevents the connections from being made?
My partner is very well-managed and fully acknowledges his ADHD in terms of its impact on his personal, organizational, and work life. He has outstanding systems in place and functions honestly more highly than I do in terms of overall productivity. He does not, however, seem willing at all to acknowledge that ADHD impacts our relationship, communication, and indeed even his ability to understand or empathize with my feelings.
We deal with a LOT of semantic, splitting-hairs type of discussions. Counseling has helped somewhat, but we keep returning to different iterations of the same pattern:
Behavior X on his part. (Lately it is immediately changing demeanor and affect when I have to get out of bed in the morning before he wants me to. Sweetness one minute, sullen and withdrawn the next second).
Feeling Y from me. (Lately, hurt and frustrated that he is treating me completely differently from one minute to the next)
Me: "This behavior is causing me to feel hurt."
Him: "Well, that's not what I'm doing. I wouldn't do that to you."
Me: "I know that you would not intentionally cause me to feel hurt. But regardless of your intention, this behavior is causing me to feel hurt."
Him: "Well I've explained that I am not doing that."
Me: "OK. How would you feel in my place?"
Him: "I would understand that once you've told me you're not intending this, I need to stop feeling that way."
How can I explain and help him see that taking out your feelings on your partner in this way is emotional manipulation? My counselor calls him an emotional abuser, because of this clear pattern of expectation-disappointment-punishment. But he denies that it IS punishment. And I think he really beleves that. To him, it's just him and his feelings. No concept of how they impact me. They just shouldn't because he doesn't "mean" for them to.
And...he wouldn't "stop feeling that way". He doesn't actually have the emotional control to do so. And I think that he knows this deep down, but it's an area where ADHD is defeating him, so he can't admit or address it.
He thinks that he behaves rationally, that he exercises empathy and puts himself in my place, etc. But he doesn't see himself and his actions through the same lens I do. He focuses only on his perception of himself. If I question this perception, or even insinuate that maybe his behavior needs to change (nevermind that his behavior might be either related to ADHD, or the cause of a conflict), then he becomes defensive and combative, and tells me that it's my REACTIONS to his behavior, and the way I INTERPRET things that needs to change. Not the initial behavior itself. Quote: "how can you expect me to let you feel hurt over something when I can prove that it doesn't make sense?" He feels that he has no choice about his behavior, because when his feelings change, his behavior changes.
How can you explain to someone that they are being emotionally immature and self-involved? That other people also experience frustration and disappointment, but don't take it out on their partners? That all compromise can't come from the other side? That just because you're feeling something doesn't mean you change your entire demeanor towards your partner? And that your partner has a right to say "this hurts me" and have that accepted at face value, not be argued with and told that they're just misinterpreting and their feeling is wrong?