My DH and I started out arguing last night, but ended up with a new understanding. I wish we did not have to fight to get to the gold nugget, but alas, that is just the way it works sometimes. I have been working really hard in the last week or so (well okay, with a few setbacks along the way). But my DH has not mentioned noticing anything. I was beginning to think that if I am working as hard as I can and he doesn't even notice, am I EVER going to make any progress (with him)?! I know that one week does not make a new lifestyle, especially with my ADD (two weeks is usually my max on any "new program"), but it's still all I have to offer. I can't go back and change the past; all I can do is change today. And I was really NEEDING some encouragement! I started a conversation with him about this last night. At first, he was very defensive and I was surprised at the anger I heard in his voice--he is generally a very even-tempered kind of man. Once we got past some of that, I broke down a little bit and explained that I was being totally vulnerable with him and giving everything I have to give. I wondered aloud if he had even noticed and whether it would ever be enough? I told him that I didn't think he could possibly understand how hard this is for me and that I KNOW we're in a really "bad place" (he keeps saying that) but I'm doing everything I know how to do to try to fix it. Will it be enough?
What he was thinking is interesting...
He sort of admitted that he had been holding back on commenting about the good things he had noticed in the past week (then he proceeded to list all of them...a long list--he really IS paying attention!). So why was he withholding the encouragement that I crave? Because he was afraid that by acknowledging my improvements, I would hear a "back-side" criticism instead of encouragement...that I would think he was pointing out all the things that NEED improvement and it would hurt me. Well, dang! I had to convince him that hello, I HAVE ACKNOWLEDGED how bad things are. I KNOW things need to improve. I am begging for help FROM A PSYCHIATRIST, for goodness' sake (I was literally filling out the questionnaire for my ADHD official evaluation as we were talking)!! I am not in denial here! He conceded that I have been very vulnerable, open and non-defensive about the whole thing, which is not typical for me. But he is totally confused about what he is supposed to be doing and how to help. I get that. I really do. Because I don't really know what he should be doing either. That is why I want a coach or counseling for us from someone who has a clue. Because we obviously don't. But what I DO know (and told him) was that I need to start getting some encouragement or at the very least, for him to express that he is NOTICING what I am doing, or it is going to be very difficult for me to stay motivated to work so hard. I don't mean that it's his job to be my cheerleader, and even if he DOESN'T do those things, I still have to keep working--I know that. But I really NEED to feel his support if at all possible; it will make this so much easier and probably much more successful for both of us. I think he is beginning to get that now, so hopefully that will help.
About 2 years ago when I first started seeing a counselor (for myself), I had VERY low self-esteem due to 40 years of untreated ADD, and I could not figure out how in the world this man could possibly love me. I asked him why he loves me? It took a LONG time for him to answer...many months, in fact. Finally, an answer came...he said it's because I LOVE HIM. Well, now that is a REALLY sweet answer, I know. But it was not really what I was looking for at all. What I needed was an acknowledgement of some sort of gift(s) of mine that he appreciates, in spite of all my many shortcomings. But I never told him that--it would have hurt his feelings after he tried to give me such a thoughtful answer. The sermon at church yesterday was on family life, and how family members' personalities are often like oil and water. And how we often try to shake up the oil and water (change the other person), but how much continued force it takes to keep those mixed together (if left alone, they will just separate again!). The point was that we need to see the value in each other the same way God sees value in each human being. This brought back to my mind the question of what VALUE do I really bring to my marriage or my DH? So I asked him (almost the same question as "Why do you love me?"). This time he gave me another very sweet answer...because I make him a better person. I soften his rough edges and force him to consider others' feelings and to deal with not always getting his way. However, this is still not in any way about my personal gifts or value--except that putting up with me makes him more tolerant. But when I pointed that out, he got angry and said that is exactly the kind of interpretation he was expecting to begin with--that I would hear the "back side" of a compliment and take it as a criticism.
Then after some more anger and defensiveness from him and a bunch of tears from me, he FINALLY got what I was saying...that I need to know what he loves ABOUT me. He thinks that is a totally different question than WHY he loves me--to me they are one and the same, but I guess I can see that there might be a difference? Then it finally dawned on him that it makes total sense that I would need that, and that our kids need that, and that everyone he has a relationship with needs that. And so he promised that I WILL know. He needed some time to process everything, which is fine with me. He "processes" things internally and very logically and deliberately before acting or speaking, while I "process" things by talking and rambling out loud in circles. I have totally accepted over the years that we are different in this way. So I don't mind waiting for him to think through it. I was just so glad that he finally understands what I was saying and asking (I hope)! And I think he genuinely believes that I am working really hard, even if he cannot quite understand it yet.
So while the discussion itself was not very pleasant, I do consider this to be PROGRESS we are making, so I posted it under this forum.