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!?