Couples Where Both Partners Have ADHD
Spouse doesn't notice social cues - how to help?
Sorry for the very long post, but I’ve been storing this up for a while.
My husband has ADHD, while I have the inattentive type. I’ve tried to become more aware of my habits in social situations, like interrupting, talking too loudly, and going off on rabbit trails. I think some of it has to do with anxiety as much as ADD. Even though I’m an introvert, certain situations bring out these behaviors.
My husband seems clueless about his own socially awkward habits. They seem to get worse around men; he has no real male friends. For instance, at parties or dinners out with work friends he’ll pull out his phone and start showing funny pictures or videos to the point that it’s interfering with conversation, and it’s obvious to me that no one is interested and they’re just trying to be polite. He doesn’t seem to get that people want to interact with each other and not stare at a screen.
Another thing he does is laugh at inappropriate times, at things that aren’t funny, usually after something he says. It’s like a nervous tic, as if to cushion what he is saying or as if his laughing will make the other person laugh. Instead you are in the position to laugh with him in a fake way to avoid awkwardness, or stay straight-faced and feel awkward. Sometimes when I try this, he asks me what’s wrong. I want to say, “You didn’t say anything funny. Why should I laugh?” It’s exhausting at times.
He also gets into a kind of one-upsmanship with other men. He might tell a story, and when the conversation moves on to another person’s related story, instead of responding politely and showing interest, he’ll keep dragging the conversation back to his own story to add details or exaggerate some point he made, as if his experience was funnier/weirder/better. If the other person pauses for a split second to take a breath, he interrupts. He does this to me sometimes, and it’s really annoying because I often lose my train of thought entirely, so I tend to call him on it. But in social situations I don’t want to embarrass him. I always feel on edge trying to tell a story or listen to someone else tell one because I’m afraid he’ll interrupt before they (or I) can finish. He seems to have a hard time listening to other people, participating in a conversation, and just going with the flow. He also seems to get wrapped up in impressing people with anecdotes or knowledge and getting a big reaction, so there’s no room to just listen, relax, and BE. I can relate to the social anxiety but over the years I have learned how to show interest and listen, and he says I’m really good at that.
Sometimes this behavior is so embarrassing that I’ve had to leave the room. I don’t want to embarrass him in front of others by saying something then and there, and I don’t know how to approach it later without shaming him because he can be sensitive and defensive. He also completely forgets what he said or did and will argue about it, so bringing it up later can be pointless. (I also have difficulty with confrontation.)
He has told me that he does have some anxiety in social situations, like at parties, and he’s always ready to leave before I am. In some situations he will hardly say two words (like with my family).
I’m sure a lot of this has to do with anxiety and not being able to just relax and let people get to know him for him. I love him and he has lots of wonderful ideas and qualities, and if he could overcome some of this I think he could make friends more easily. As it is we have very few friends, and I’ve seen him get pushed to the margins of social groups many times. He had no friends at his last job - acquaintances who were friendly, but not friends. Meanwhile everyone else was going out together, going camping, etc. He felt very excluded.
He has encouraged me to talk about anything that bothers me and has helped me a lot in overcoming my fear of confrontation. But I don’t know how to talk to him about this. If he could work on these things it would help both of us. The lack of socializing on his part is making me crazy. I feel claustrophobic when he has no one else to hang out with but me, and bad for him. We need our own social lives.
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