Sending a Message? No!

As an ADHD-adult, my actions, non-actions or words are often misinterpreted, much to my chagrin.  I am beginning to believe that relationship problems stemming from ADHD are actually just a huge set of repeated misunderstandings.  I have realized that frequently, someone I love or care about, or maybe even someone I just met, will INTERPRET something I do or say (or don't do or say), thinking that I was "sending a message" of some kind.  Then, if they happen to verbalize it to me so that I know what they are thinking, I am shocked and horrified to find out that they have attached a meaning to it that was not intended in any way!  And, usually, their translation involves something to the effect that I do not care about them or something important to them, or that I do not love them, or something equally awful.  When actually, whatever I did or didn't do, or whatever I said or didn't say, was in reality EITHER just a mindless behavior by some immature part of my brain that had no intent (or even thought) to it at all, OR it was done/said in response to some other ADHD symptom, again without any of the intent that *SEEMS* obvious.

For example, if I fail to follow through on something I told my husband I would do--due to procrastination (not being able to start), hyperfocus on something ELSE (and not being able to stop), a fear of failure, feeling paralyzed/overwhelmed, and/or a total lack of ability to track time accurately--he might very easily interpret my non-action as me not caring about something that is really important to him.  When, my behavior may actually mean the OPPOSITE - the more important something is to him, the more pressure I tend to put on myself to get it "right" or do it well, causing even more fear and overwhelm than if it was NOT very important to him!

When he reacts with natural anger or disappointment, I react to that defensively.  Especially if I am already mad at myself for failing yet AGAIN.  But since any truthful explanation sounds utterly ridiculous (IF I even understand it or myself at that point), then I usually resort to completely irrational responses or finding blame with HIM somehow: his request was unreasonable, he did not take into consideration all of the other things I had to do also (how insensitive!).  Or I will start to wallow in self-flagellation, such that he has to pull me out of it and comfort ME.  Or I will morph it into a totally different subject and we run down another path entirely: he is always "mean" when he talks to me, whatever he was asking me to do really ought to be his responsibility anyway!, or why didn't he change the light bulbs I asked him to change yesterday?  No wonder my DH and I have had so many confusing arguments!  And because he is such a good man, he usually ends up BELIEVING my blame of him and then proceeds to take responsibility for the (non-existent) "problem" or he feels terrible that I am so upset with myself and thinks to himself that he must be some kind of jerk to make his wife cry over something like this.  And that is only if I am lucky enough that he verbalizes what he was thinking to begin with!  Due to years of the cycle described here and the consequences of such conversations, he has become "gun-shy" to even bring things up sometimes (and who could blame him?!).  So in those cases, I guess he just silently broods or resents me and I don't even know why so I can't fix the misunderstanding.

I am not sure yet how this revelation is going to help me, but it seems like a big thing to understand for the first time!  Obviously, I will never be able to convince the rest of the world that intent should not be attributed to my actions or non-actions--it is just human nature for people to assume that grown adults know and think about what they are doing!  My husband, on the other hand, might be able to understand this better (I hope)?

But, if nothing else, at least maybe it will help me to be more aware of the possibility that someone may have totally misinterpreted something I did or said (or did NOT do or say), so that I do not then react in a way that exacerbates the situation.  Maybe I can more easily recognize a misunderstanding for what it is, and try to diffuse it rather than becoming defensive or angry.  Although I can see that one obstacle is going to be getting someone else to believe that I truly did NOT intend whatever meaning they interpreted; and in fact, that I may not have had ANY intent at all!  Without a basic understanding of ADHD, that would not make any sense.  I will have to ponder this a bit.  Let me know what YOU think!?

sending a message

ADHD wife:  My personal feeling is that you being able to recognize the issue is huge.  If my guy could get to the point you have articulated I would open the door to him again.  I think I already understood how his mind was working but felt powerless because he isn't at the place you are yet and I simply don't know how to help him to that point.

Cudos to you!!!!

Yay for you! :-) We all have

Yay for you! :-) We all have these moments where we finally just 'get' something...ADHD or not. Recognizing our issues are such a big part of being able to do things 'differently'.

It is really strange that you bring this up because it is something I had an 'ah ha' moment about this (from the flip side) this weekend and I'm struggling with how I help my husband see that his 'lack of follow through' causes hurt feelings and disappointment. I posted about this (I am 95% sure, directly to you) in another thread somewhere...but I think with him he has a tendency to say exactly what he thinks I want to hear in any given situation, including saying he'll do something or  making a promise, and then it is as if, when the time comes, he never said a word.

I won't repeat each circumstance, hopefully you can find the thread (my post was titled "INVALUABLE"), but one was his promise to me that on Mother's Day we would do anything I wanted. He said this Saturday. His words included "even watch a movie if you want". He includes this because he knows I love watching movies with him...and getting him to watch a movie with me is like wrestling a greased pig...coincidently, he sits in the den and watches TV for hours on end. The last time we tried to watch a movie, he couldn't even stop messing with his phone long enough for me to feel like he wasn't just dying to be anywhere.else.but.there.with.me. Long story short, we went to church and then had a picnic in the park. On the way home I told him twice I would like to watch a movie when we got home. First time he brought it up and I said "yes, I would like that." Second time I said "I did say I would like to watch a movie, by the way" because I didn't think he heard me the first time. When we got home, he went to the den while I fed our son and then he came up to "watch TV" with specific instructions that he did not want to watch a movie. We didn't watch TV, he wanted sex, and got it and went back to the den for the rest of the evening.

I wrote about it in our journal and left it for him to read. I asked that he please try and be more aware of the 'promises' he was making and not just blurt out everything he thought would make him seem like prince charming in that exact moment, because often he didn't follow through and it left me feeling disappointed and hurt. I also asked that if he did make promises, that he try and be aware of what he had said and follow through with it, even if when the time came to do so, he didn't want to. I used it as an example to him of how his ADHD  has control of him, and not the other way around. I explained that I understood it was ADHD related, but that didn't mean it wasn't something he couldn't address and work on. He denies that he needs help to treat/control his ADHD.

So, my question to you...how does one go about addressing this and working on the ability to follow through with things when a promise is made to do them? I'm hoping Melissa covers this in her book...I am currently reading it and hoping it will be something he's open to doing as well.

Good Luck!! Sherri

Not Sure

Yes, I remember your other post (on the Mother's Day thread).  

I honestly don't have an answer to your question because I am not sure.  I am currently seeking an ADHD coach to help me work on such issues as following through.  My dh has been irritated with me for two days.  Mostly bc I have spent so much time ON THIS SITE and therefore have not gotten much of anything else done!  Although he doesn't have any idea what I've been doing (I think knowing that I have spent hours on the computer would make it much worse!).  He just knows how many hours are in a day and how much I have (not) done around the house and it doesn't "compute."  This drives him crazy.  And I totally understand it.  I haven't promised him I would do any particular thing (he did ask me to register us for a college reunion today and I did do that), but he still has expectations like that I would have unpacked from our weekend at the lake by now (my bag is still full), to say the least.  So while I have been spouting off all kinds of helpful and meaningful advice here to total strangers, I have disappointed my husband, AGAIN.  Ugh!

I find some comfort in the fact that I am not in denial like some of the ADHD spouses that so many of the non-ADHD spouses on this site describe.  I KNOW I need help.  Today I talked to two different psychiatrists' offices about coaching.  I will post a separate message about this...

Sorry I can't give you any answers this time.  I need an answer to that one for myself too!

DF's picture

Welcome to our happy home of fail ;)

Ah, yes.... I should be working during the day and school work at night, but I too am here.  I am with you on the whole ADD(HD) denial thing as I too am actively working to address it.  I like to think I'm winning, but it's hard to tell when you get very little to no feedback and it's tough trying to decipher if it's meant to be positive feedback.

Something I've learned over the course of almost a full year now is that I'm having a hard time not being so hung up on failing.  It seems to me that because I 'expect' to fail my wife, I just can't figure out if she's being positive.  An example would be the rare talk we had 2 weeks back.  She told me she didn't feel like she knew me any more.  I see nothing but negative in that and that my efforts to fix me are hurting me at the same time.  Some of you may see differently, but that's a judgement based on not knowing what was said before or after that.  Heck I don't even remember what she said before or after that.

What I struggle with the most.  The heavyweight battle I'm fighting, is that I have a non-ADD(HD) spouse that's in denial.  How on earth can I hope that she would ever understand?  If she would just look and see what this curse is, maybe she could find it in her to help me realize when I'm doing something wrong.  The constant negativity, frustration..... I know she doesn't hate me, but my inability to decipher her overall language is an exercise in futility.

I believe in my deepest core that if I knew she was investigating ADD(HD) I would know that she cares about 'us'.  The few times we're home as a family and not busy, I feel like I'm being tested - "What now DF?".  In the past few weeks she's only once not shot down one of my ideas.  She just wants to be away from me.  This is so frustrating because I read about all these spouses with spouses who have ADD(HD) and how they appear to treat their wives or husbands and it drives me insane.  I would love a hint of understanding, support, sex......... well, that seems a ton to ask these days so - a hug?

I'm trying to rebuild her trust and her faith in me.  Giving her a 3 hour massage is wonderful, but I feel like I'm begging for the privledge of doing that instead of the honor of doing something nice.  Granted, she's declined me enough in the past few months ( 2-3 times ) to where I just don't ask anymore.........

I'm searching for hope people cuz I'm losing it!

Stay Strong

Hang in there, DF!  I hope you saw my post to you yesterday (I will not repeat it all here).  But I wonder if your wife (and maybe my husband too) is afraid to learn about ADHD because she thinks that

1) It might take away her ability to blame you (leaving her frustrated with no object/target for her frustration)

2) You will use it as an excuse not to change troublesome behavior (you know this is not true, but she doesn't yet)

3) Once she learns about it, that she will then somehow be responsible for "managing" it for you or "fixing" you or at the very least, putting a lot of effort into the process when she is already WEARY (but ignorance is bliss and the status quo is so much easier!)

4) She has no idea what to expect or hope for, and for most people the "known" is usually easier to face than the "unknown"

Maybe there is even some co-dependence going on where she fears that if you make improvements and get healthier, you will not "need" her "help" (or criticism, correction, instructios, etc.) anymore?  I have no idea, but I can imagine that living with an ADD spouse (like me) can give our spouses a sense of superiority (completely unintentional by them) so that contemplating us as anything close to equal partners may be a little scary, and it does totally change the dynamic of the relationship. ???  But I am just thinking "out loud" here, so that could be way off base for your marriage or for mine.

Blogging like this is really helping me sort through the rush of thoughts swirling in my own mind.  I hope I am not boring everyone or driving you crazy.  You can just tell me to shut up when you are tired of hearing from me! :)  

But I think you should hang in there and KEEP TRYING until there really is no chance of a future for your relationship.  Hopefully that day will NEVER COME and instead, you will start to discover a way to travel this journey TOGETHER.  That is my sincere prayer for myself and what I am clinging to right now...that there IS a better way to do this that will help us to BOTH be happier. We certainly owe it to our kids not to give up!  

In the meantime, ALL we can really do is to work on ourselves and get healthier (see my post to you yesterday).  You and I (and others) need to think about what we would be doing to work on managing our ADHD symptoms even if we were not in a relationship at all, and start there.  As we get healthier, we become more stable and attractive--to our spouse, to our kids, to our friends (or potential new friends!).  We must stop the "failure" talk and get on with doing something DIFFERENT that we've never tried before (all the books say "don't try harder, try differently!").  Choose just one of your troubling symptoms and start working on it today!  You (and I) CAN DO IT!

right on, sister!

<<You and I (and others) need to think about what we would be doing to work on managing our ADHD symptoms even if we were not in a relationship at all, and start there. As we get healthier, we become more stable and attractive--to our spouse, to our kids, to our friends (or potential new friends!). >>

This is sound advice... 

I've been frustrated lately due to just not getting it right and slipping up in spite of my best efforts (and addition of a second dose of Adderall in the afternoon).  It seems i'm always behind, except now I can see it coming but there's no way to stop it!!!  aaaaack!

well - gotta run.  my 10 minutes for this site are up.  (I set a timer!)