Shuts down when I try to engage/brainstorm

I need help. My husband has ADHD, and does not want medication.  So I suggested other options.  I am trying to brainstorm solutions for some of our home and life issues. We can get past the chore issue, but when it comes to his coaching and work he clams up.  He is so busy with coaching and work there is no time for me or himself.  Its created a huge health issue for him (eats fast food everyday, gained a tremendous amount of weight it hurts to walk and gets hardly more than 5hrs of sleep a night).  But when I want to understand why it takes so much time and brainstorm ways to make things easier he clams up and gets defensive. It doesn't take much.  He says that he has triggers and that he knows I am not aware of them but he won't tell me what they are.  In this case, I managed to find out he's worried I will judge him and think some aspects of his job that he spends his time on is not worthwhile/ important.  If I tell him I won't judge or suggest he brainstorm with his other head coach ( if not with me), he gets really angry and clams up. I am trying to follow the guidelines in the back of the book but I must be doing something wrong. Help.  I am losing hope.

He's not been formally diagnosed. He is just starting to realize he has it.  I have ADD too.  But I was in college when I found out and have been in treatment since.  I don't claim to have all the answers... just have had more time to figure out what works for me.  So I am super sensitive to his feelings.   But having ADD myself means its takes a ton of effort to keep things together and I can't keep going in this way (i identify with the nom-ADD spouse ).  So I am desperate to connect/ brainstorm and work on things together.  Any advice on how to break through the wall?

The silent stare into space

Dh and I will be talking and he will stop talking and stare into space - sometimes without completing a sentence of his own.  I will be waiting for a comment or answer to the topic that is in the air  (in his court, so to speak) and there is no response from him at all except the stare. He does this multiple times during each of our conversations. Even though I am mindful to let 10 - 30 seconds of silence go between sentences, he gets offensive/defensive when I respond before he has enough time (silent pauses) to think through things before responding.  Sometimes I wait for over 60 seconds while the silence cuts through the air and is painful for me to have that much patience.  Sometimes, in the middle of a talk,  when I say "So, what do you think?"  He will say, "About what?" His thoughts are gone from the conversation entirely. Then he is angry with me if I bring the conversation back to where it was or if I explain "what".  But he is also angry with me if I keep a conversation going back and forth like a normal conversation.  I must monitor my volume, timing, tone, length of my contributions to any talking we do. This is how a therapist or parent of a learning-disabled child must work and try to communicate.  I used to be spontaneous and I loved and trusted life and my self.  Trying to have a marriage with Dh, I find myself manipulated and confused. We don't talk much because of this and I do most of the work relationship-wise and financial-wise and house-wise. I had become so accustomed to the silent staring off into space that I had forgotten this is even odd.  Trying to understand HIM and working around him and trying to work with him is exhausting to me 24/7 for 40 years.

The only verbal connection he will allow is jokes.  That is all he can handle from me. No talking about planning, agreeing, no executive-type, committee-type talk is allowed to him or he will get angry with me and turn things around to vocally attack my character.  And then, there it is, I am enabling him to not do what I believe is his share.  He must believe that if he doesn't talk, he won't be expected to DO ANYTHING.  

Sometimes it is hard to know the difference of when the ADD-distraction is at work and when i am being gaslighted.  I really think the gaslighting and lying are forms of surviving and coping with the ADD.  He had not learned ways to better cope and stay at task so he verbally manipulates people around him and verbally attacks me so that HE is ok in his mind.

My husband does this, too.

My husband does this, too.  Even more disconcerting is his habit of closing his eyes while we're having a conversation at the table.  

Resigned2B's picture

My husband does this, too.

How it pains me to read these posts.  

When my husband closes his eyes I call it his way of saying F. You and I call him on it and walk out.  One time I grabbed my iPad and took his picture.  It is HORRIBLE to see it in living color. A "Kodak Moment" to be sure. It was my only way to show him what he is doing when I am pouring my 'obviously' unimportant heart out to him...

He's trying to get better but thirty years of this is a lot of forgiving to do on my part!


Hi jennalemon,

My bf also uses verbal manipulation to make himself appear right in every scenario. We both had places to be on Sunday, and we said we would plan when he would come back, but he went to his parents' house and didn't coordinate with me, and I needed help carrying things in. My fault for not "asking" for help even though he had already left, and he can't be expected to "anticipate my every need." He also puts his feelings into my mouth to try to justify his blaming me for them. He has "problems he will never solve" so I should just accept it. 

And somehow everything is always my fault. My expectations are wrong, my feelings are wrong, I talk about my feelings for too long, I didn't ask for help, I didn't contact him first, I don't accept his limitations, I expect him to be perfect, etc. Meanwhile all that I said he did was not contact me, and these miscommunications happen often!

Gaslighting makes someone question their own perceptions. I read that people who are being gaslighted often make excuses for their partner's behavior, constantly second-guess themselves, and feel like they can't do anything right. My bf said he is accepting of his limitations, but he is so far in denial that he has to undermine my perception of reality to keep his story straight. I have made a lot of excuses to myself for him, but I don't think I can do that anymore. He doesn't understand that it's not that I need him to "fix" his problems with time management/communication, it's that I need him to stop debating my feelings. 

And KL,

My bf takes any suggestions or advice as criticism. Instead of realizing that I want to try to make his life easier, he thinks I am saying that he isn't doing something right. I wish I had more to suggest, but I think that it is hard to help someone who doesn't want to hear it, no matter how good your intentions may be.