Sometimes It Has Got to Be About Me

I have been posting a lot the last couple of days, it seems, and I must say, I feel like my ADDwife and I (non-ADD) have been making some progress.  Granted, it's in fits and starts, but it's progress nonetheless.  And progress is GOOD!!

I'm still having problems, though, in figuring out where *I* am in all this.  My wife often says "You are making everything be about the ADD."  To a degree she is probably right.  But I realized this morning (and in reading some of the replies to my recent posts) that my wife is *also* making it all about the ADD, or at least she seems to be making it all about *her*.

This morning's example might help illustrate what I mean.

My wife has not slept in our bed for the last three nights.  This isn't because we haven't been getting along.  It seems to be related to her ADD.  But I'm not *entirely* certain of that.

The first night, we had gone up to bed together.  Then, after some small talk and cuddling, we said "Good night."  My wife was tossing and turning, which was keeping me awake.  So I said "You're having trouble falling asleep, aren't you."  She said yes.  I said, (not in an aggravated tone, but just a simple statement, and I think she took it as such) "You're keeping me awake."  She said "I'm gonna get up and do such and such."

Now, such and such was a 10 minute task.  And I knew from experience, that if she got up, she'd likely be up all night.  So I said, lightheartedly, "OK.  See you in the morning."  She said "Oh, no.  I'll definitely be back up." 

The next morning, when she was still on the couch, I greeted her with "Good morning, honey.  Were you able to get any sleep?"  She said she wasn't, and told me a little about how she had tried to get some sleep, but couldn't.  I said "I'm sorry you didn't get any sleep honey."

That night, when I was ready to go to bed, I said "I'm ready to go to bed honey.  Are you coming?"  She said "Yep."  I said, "OK, I'll see you up there."

The next morning, when she came to bed 10 minutes before my alarm clock goes off, she said "Oops, I fell asleep on the couch."  I don't think I made any response to that.  But what I *felt* was: I wish she had come upstairs to bed instead of falling asleep on the couch. 

Last night, when I was ready to go to bed, I said "I'm going up to bed honey.  Are you coming?"  She said "Yep."  I said, "OK, I'll see you upstairs,"  fully expecting her to come up right behind me.  She did not.

I woke up in the middle of the night and when she wasn't in bed, I started thinking "Hmmm.  I wonder what's going on?  Is she intentionally not coming up to bed?  Probably not . . .  but . . . . did I do something wrong?  I hope not.  I wish she wouldn't stay downstairs all night."

And then she came up just before my alarm went off.  While I was in the shower, I was thinking, "Does she think I don't care if she's not in bed?  Does she think it doesn't matter to me, and is that making her feel bad?  Probably not, because I have told her on several occasions in the past when she hasn't come to bed that I miss her when she is not in bed.  That I feel 'safe and secure' when I wake up in the night when she is there.  That I sleep better when she is there.  etc.  Still . . . maybe she's in a place where she thinks she doesn't matter to me because I haven't said anything about her NOT being in bed."

So I asked her "Honey - do you think it doesn't matter to me if you are not in bed?"  She said "no."

I said "So then you know it bothers me that you haven't been in bed the last three nights, especially since you told me the last two nights that you would be right up?"  She said "yes."

I wanted to say "Then why haven't you come up to bed???"

Instead, I said, "When you don't come up to bed for three nights in a row, it's hard for me not to take it personally.  I know you probably don't mean to make me feel bad, but I can't help it, I still do."  I had a hard time getting the words out, because I started crying as I said "it's hard for me not to take it personally."

I waited . . . . . no answer.  I waited some more . . . . no answer.  I waited a little more  . . . . .  no answer.  So I said "Are you thinking about what to say?"

She said "I don't know *what* to say."

I said "Can you tell me what you heard *me* say?"

She said (after a couple of false starts where I had to stop her and ask her again what she heard me say): "I heard you say that when I didn't come up to bed for three days in a row, especially when I told you I was coming up, it made you feel really bad."  And then she said "I'm sorry."

Which sounds great, right?  Sounds like she get's it, right?

The thing is - that's not how if *felt* to me.  She said the words, but what it *felt* like she was really saying was "I hear that something I did made you feel bad and that makes *ME* feel really bad."  or "I hear you saying that you think I am a terrible person for messing up again."  Or something of the sort.  Her body language and her tone made it clear that she was feeling like she had just been reprimanded for doing something bad and that *she* felt guilty/bad for what she had done.

Now, I have heard on here that is a typical reaction from someone with ADD.  That when we nonADD spouses point out something they did that made us feel bad, that they feel just *awful* that they messed up *again* and disappointed us *again*.  I get that.

But here's the problem.  What I *needed* was to hear her tell me she understood what *I* was feeling.  Instead, what I got was what *she* was feeling.

And so, it felt like it became all about *her.*  Which meant it felt like it was NOT about me.  And my whole reason for bringing it up was for her to understand how *I* felt as a result of her actions.  Which is why I entitled this post "Sometimes it's got to be about me."

This is a frequent dynamic we have.  I try to tell her how I feel.  She hears what she did made *me* feel bad.  She feels *terrible* about that and she feels like a *total failure* as a wife.  And then it becomes all about *her* - without my feelings getting acknowledged or addressed.

I know she doesn't do this on purpose.  But I need to have *my* feelings validated, and I don't know how to do that.

In fact, after she said what she said, I followed up with something like "I know the words you just said sounded like you heard what I said.  But it doesn't *feel* to me like you really *heard* it.  It felt more like you were saying 'I heard you say I did something bad.  You are right.  I am sorry for what I did.'  I didn't hear you say 'Wow - that must have felt terrible.  You must have felt sad, or lonely, or neglected, or *something*.'  And so I don't feel like I have any closure." 

She didn't seem to get that.  She started to get defensive, etc.  So I role played *her* and said  "here is what it sounded like to me when you said those words."  And I proceeded to repeat her words in a very flat monotone.

I think she got it.  Because she laughed.  But then I started crying again.  And she gave me a hug.

So the interaction ended OK, sort of.

But this not being heard is really taking a toll on me.